This page brings together a number of sources of information concerned with the distinctive Cobles, many of which were designed to be launched off the gently sloping but often stormy beaches of the East and North East Coasts. We hope that the page will be of interest to those looking for more information about the boats themselves, and also to model makers. We welcome more information at TradBoat which we will be happy to add to this page - please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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An introduction to the Yorkshire Coble.
Filey Cobles. The fleet in the fifties and sixties
At that time the Coble Landing was home to perhaps twenty cobles, each with the distinctive deep forefoot, running off to sledge like lines aft and a transom stern on which was mounted a deep slim rudder. With the deep forefoot, this helped to hold the boat to sea. These two hazy black and white photographs were taken in the early 50s, of the Coble Landing at Filey on the Yorkshire coast.
On the Coble Landing, Filey From the bow
Originally under sail only, (usually a standing lug) many of the boats still had sailing gear aboard, but by this period (1950s) many were motorised; the shaft and propeller running in a tunnel protected by twin bilge keels (or drafts). The fishery was a busy one, long lining and crabbing, supplemented in summer by trips around the bay and fishing for visitors.
Holiday makers going afloat off Filey beach.
Note the holiday wear of the time!
The standing lug sails are typical. 1954 (R Jay Series)
Launch and Recovery
The boats are all kept ashore on lorry-wheeled launching trolleys or cradles. Originally horses had been used for launch and recovery, both for the cobles and the Filey Life Boat, but by the fifties were tractor hauled, leaving distinctive skid trails on the smooth sandy beach. The same system operates today.
Bringing a coble ashore on Filey beach. (2003). The bows are swung to the incoming surf and the boat is hauled out backwards. The tide was down and the surf was small on this day, recovery a straightforward job of dropping the boat on to its cradle, where is sits securely on its drafts (runners). In contrast to the wide stretches of beach seen when the tide is down, here below is a beautifully evocative photograph by Tony Green showing a coble is coming ashore right at the foot of the landing on a cold November day.
Click on any small photograph for a larger version
The Filey Cobles 2003
The following series of photographs is of Filey boats, stored ashore and designed to be launched from the flat sands into sometimes considerable head seas. In the main, the sailing gar had been removed which has made way for a forward wheelhouse. They retain the typical deep forefoot, pronounced sheer and considerable tumblehome of the type. Twin bilge runners (drafts) run right aft. These photographs also show the flat, heavily raked, transom and the attachment points at the end of the drafts to which towing slings are hooked . Click on any photograph below for a larger version.
Click on any small photograph for a larger version
These Filey cobles represent the basic coble shape seen all the way up the East and North East coast.. However, the boats tended to be built by local builders to suit the conditions in which they were worked. Design varies from place to place and from builder to builder. Builders would also vary their basic design a little to suit the fisherman who might specialise one part of the fishing trade, or have strong views about his boat! The modern cobles often have a small wheelhouse forward, perhaps a half deck to shelter the engine, and gantries to support line haulers; both possible because there is now no sailing gear. It's interesting to compare these modern Filey boats with the black white photographs above taken over fifty years ago. The Filey coble Margaret has been restored fully further details are here
Robin Hood's Bay 2007
When we visited Robin Hood's bay in the summer of 2007 we found that the cobles had gone and none were left on the landing at the foot of the narrow winding road which leads down to the sea. Venture here was in the car park at the top of the hill together with a second double ender.
Whitby Cobles in 2007
There are a number of cobles in harbour at Whitby for the most moored to the South wall of the inner dock. Many are larger cobles with the usual forward wheelhouse. There is a busy fishery here and long stacks of crab pots can be seen on the wall at both sides of the harbour.
Click on any small photograph above for a larger version
These two beautifully crafted models were presented to Captain Richard Braithwaite on his retirement as MD of a coble ownership based for many years in Whitby. They are named after his two daughters Louise (left), and Helen (right). Photos Louise Braithwaite.
Staithes Cobles in 2007
Although nothing like as numerous as they were in the past there are number of cobles at Staithes mostly moored in the river with several against the outer harbour wall. Few of these boats are registered in the fishery and many that remain are in private hands. Unlike the Filey cobles these boats are kept afloat although at low tide the harbour dries and the river is reduced to a stream.
Against the harbour wall. Staithes.
Boats moored in the River at Staithes
Moored below the bridge The coble Grace with
sailing gear aboard
Seaton -Rose moored in the river True Love a double
Click on either photograph above for a larger version
North Landing, Flamborough
A Bamforth postcard, published in Holmfirth, Yorkshire and printed in Holland
U-Tube: Beach Recovery at Flamborough here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqxxz99EQqM
The original of this postcard is based on a poster designed by Frank Newbould for the LNER, c. 1924.
This reproduction is by IRIS Publishing Ltd in their Nostalgia series. More details at www.retrograph.com'
A big Bridlington coble - Three Brothers built in 1912 and since restored
In contrast to the Filey boats this is Three Brothers; restored and to be seen under sail. She has less sheer than usual and so is much flatter to allow beam trawling as well as passenger carrying. Like the Filey boats, these Bridlington cobles had no keel, and were held up to the sea by very deep rudders, which could be unshipped in harbour, or on the beach, and used as gangplanks. Unlike the Filey boats they returned to harbour. Sixty years ago there were a great many sailing cobles in Bridlington, and the fishermen were extraordinarily skilful in handling them, with the final position against the pier being made by oar and a 30ft. boathook.
The Three Brothers was built in Bridlington by father and son Baker and Percy Siddall in 1912. It seems to be the last of the sailing cobles. Two other Bridlington cobles are now in Sunderland: the Kate & Violet and Kathleen. This photograph, taken during her restoration, provides some details of her massive construction. Click on the picture for a larger view.
Bridlington Sailing Coble Preservation Society web site carries additional photographs of Three Brothers together with older coble photos and a history of the builder. The Society, has taken over the running of the small harbour museum in Bridlington known as Harbour Heritage. The Three Brothers restored by Bridlington Harbour Commissioners and owned by them, is now leased to the Society and used as a working exhibit for the Harbour Heritage museum. Membership is welcome.
This coble is cared for by the Bridlington Sailing Coble Preservation Society - for more information click https://bridlington.net/bridlington-history/bridlington_history_listing/three-brothers/
U-Tube: There is an excellent film of Bridlington Cobles to be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKLZ5jcM34A
The Coble & Keelboat Society
The Society brings together all those interested in the working boats of the North East of England and has over 100 members in Britain, Europe and North America. Membership includes professional fishermen and amateur sailors, historians and ship modellers. All find the local boats - the traditional fishing cobles and the larger decked inshore trawlers (or Keelboats) for example.. CKS holds several meetings on the coast each year, publishes a journal three times a year and is always ready to help with queries about these craft.
Models and preserved Cobles at Hartlepool Historic Quay
The Hartlepool Historic Quay is a serious source for those interested in these fishing boats. The museum has a selection of models illustrating the boats by type, well set out explanations of each type, plus three full size cobles on shore. Two of these are typical of the robust transom sterned types and one of these is displayed complete with rig in the museum building. Of the other two displayed on the quayside one is a double ended type.
(The Quay is also home to Trincomalee, (ex Foudroyant) in Jackson Dock, and the locally built paddle steamer Wingfield Castle. There are displays in a series of restored shops and store houses. We found it excellent, and the staff most helpful. Ed)
Model Coble Plan
A plan is available for a Northumbrian Coble at a scale 1" = 1ft, resulting in a model about 27" loa. It is published (2004) by Model Boats magazine. Go to www.modelboats.co.uk and then to My Hobby Store, then click on Scale Sailing Craft, you are looking for Enterprise plan number MM1040.
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
A plan of a Whitby Coble drawn from the prototype and dated 1949 is available from the NMM, Code Number CCB 0424. It includes lines and constructional details. A further plan dated 1950 for Whitby CobleWY63, Code no CCB 0425, includes includes oars and rig.
Go here: https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/rmgc-object-408402
The Coble Sunshine c. 1880
This one is in the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall. Click http://www.nmmc.co.uk/ for details of this excellent new museum.
'Fishing Boats of Whitby & District'
Gloria Wilson's excellent book provides a history of the coble, with photographs which span design and development from the earliest sailing cobles. Copies are now available through Amazon at
Plans for home built cobles at 10, 12 and 15 feet (3,3.7 and 4.6m) are available from Selway Fisher Design. www.selway-fisher.com
Charles Smith Publications
Last updated: 12 Jan 2023