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THE HISTORY OF ANNANETTA
Through this website we've made great progress in tracing the history of Annanetta. New information is continually coming to light.
If our pages jog memories and anyone reading can provide further information we'd be most appreciative.
Annanetta was built in 1939 in Graham Bunn’s yard in Wroxham, Norfolk. Graham Bunn had a long association with making beautiful wooden boats and Annanetta is definitely one of the those!
She was registered in September 1939 to an Ernest Whitby of 48 Viceroy Court London NW8. I've recently learnt that Ernest lived at this address with his wife Annie and a "domestic servant".
What I find fascinating at this point is that Ernest Whitby was clearly living the Art Deco dream! Ernest and Annie were living in the very latest, deluxe even, Art Deco accommodation with Viceroy Court only having just been built in 1937. Did his location influence the design cues that we can see now in Annanetta or was it just the trend of the time?
Viceroy Court in the 1930s and during the War | New contributions | St John's Wood Memories
Whether Ernest and Annie got to use their new boat is currently unclear. We know that Annanetta was not a Dunkirk little ship but what she did between 1939 and Dec 1943 we don't know. It certainly seems unlikely that the Whitbys were living it up on the estuaries of the east coast of England at this time.
It could be that she was laid up in the Wroxham area and there would have very real risk at this time that she might be scuttled by the authorities not wanting any resources falling into the hands of an invading German army!
Fortunately that fate did not befall Annanetta and indeed the owner prior to me did once flash me a photo with guns fore and aft. Deck refurb over the years has suggested that this could have been the case. What she needed guns for and why they were fitted we just don't know.
What we know for sure is that in Dec 1943 she was seconded into the Ministry of War Transport. She was then released from the MOWT just a few months later in April of 1944.
What she did during this brief period we don't know. My belief at one point was that she was based at HMS Nemo in Brightlingsea in Essex, for at least some of the war. HMS Nemo was a shore based operation responsible for coastal defence supporting, maintaining and running a fleet of many wooden Motor Launches. However the HMS Nemo historians have recently told me that she wasn't recorded under the name Annanetta at that location.
I've also recently discovered that her owner directly after the war, a Mr Ronald Brazil of Amersham Buckinghamshire, believed that she took part in the D-Day landings.
The cynic in me recognises that every boat offered for sale between 1940 and today, with an appropriate manufacturers date, served either at Dunkirk or Normandy!!
Involvement at Dunkirk though is well documented and Annanetta easily ruled out. So far Normandy has proven, at least to me, less definitive2. I'm still hoping to uncover more about her activities during the war so if anyone out there knows things that we do not then please do get in touch.
My more recent contact with Mr John Chaston though suggests that she was used as a mess ship at Portsmouth, so the quest continues.
What is clear though is that Mr Ronald Brazil (pictured above) owned her from around 1946 until his death in 1950. During this time I think she was initially on the Thames in the Marlow area but at some point she was moved to the Norfolk Broads. Recently I was fortunate to be in touch with Ronald's niece Annie Hamilton-Pike! Amazingly Annie has been able to supply me with copies of cinefilm from the late 1940s that show her Uncle with family and friends at sea with Annanetta. I believe somewhere on the East Coast. Some of that footage is on the blog!
After Mr Brazil her next owners a Mr and Mrs May about whom we know very little except that they are thought to have had her on the broads. She was subsequentially bought by a Mr Claude Chaston and his wife Vera in 1955.
Claude Henry Chaston was a builder in Clacton on Sea but he also owned a large joiners work shop and built cold moulded hulls for smaller craft. Later the Chaston family owned caravan parks in Clacton and it seems that their ownership of Annanetta was quite a lengthy and enjoyable one.
Claude's son John recently told me about many happy holidays on Annanetta with trips to France and Belgium.
Dated around 1955 the above photo shows Annanetta motoring down the Colne in Essex with Claude Chaston standing on the port bow - Huge thanks to John Chaston for sharing this gem!
The Chaston's then owned Annanetta until eventually selling her in 1967.
Between 1967 and 1972 Annanetta seems to have changed hands a few times. Initially being owned by a Stella Dorothy Meadway of Pulborough Sussex before quickly transferring to a Mr Brian Spoor and Frederick Horseman of Whitley Bay. She seems to have stayed with these two gentlemen for a couple of years before being sold in May 1972 to the person from whom I bought her, Peter Emms.
Under Peter's ownership Annanetta had an active life between his home in Upton on Severn near Worcester and his holiday home in Falmouth. I understand he made regular trips down the Severn, around Land's End to moor up off St Mawes in the Falmouth estuary in Cornwall. Here she is off St Mawes during the 1980s
I recently heard from people from Upton on Severn who remembered Peter and Annanetta and the parties held on her. Peter Emms seems to be quite a character. Property developer and stuntman being two aspects of his life that I've unearthed. Below is a picture of Annanetta moored in Upton circa late 1980s I believe.
Falmouth Harbour is where I first saw her in 2003 (please see video in the Blogs section). She was in quite a state as Peter had been unwell and unable to visit her. She was though exactly what I wanted - a large Classic TSDMY! Lengthy negotiations with Peter ensued but eventually we got there!
That summer of 2003 she came out of the water down at Mylor and all her exterior work was restored by the lovely Michael Johnman (would love to hear from him again). Again I have pictures and video to load. We then popped her back in the water for some fun for a few days before pulling her out again at Falmouth Docks and road trailing her to Penton Hook on the Thames. I've posted some video of her coming off the trailer and into the water. Quite an amazing sight some of which you can see in videos in the blog section!
She spent a few months at Penton Hook while we did various pieces of work ably undertaken by Stuart Emms (no relation to Peter). Stuart has had a huge hand in the the rest of the Annanetta story and I take this opportunity to thank him wholeheartedly for accompanying me on this fantastic journey!
Once ready we motored the few miles and 4 hours down to her permanent new home by Kingston Bridge. It rained all the way!
At some point I'll flesh the next 17 years out a little but gradually I saved and spent and Stu worked and worked to return, cabin by cabin, Annanetta to her glory! A glory that is both honest to her heritage, design and material BUT also a practical full time liveaboard!
Along the way I married the lovely Emma, who wonderfully loves Annanetta as much and at times more than I! We had our first daughter Ellie while living aboard then moved away for a few years to care for my ailing mother.
It was however this period away in Sussex that enabled us to properly embrace the services of Steve at Dennett’s Boatbuilders getting her out of the water and returning her hull, decks and wheelhouse again to tip top condition.
Unfortunately my Mother died in 2016 but initially we decided to stay down in Sussex and were blessed with our second daughter, Maisy.
For many Maisy’s arrival would have been the end of any notion of returning to boat life but in the end it was Emma who persuaded us to abandon a very comfortable 5 bed house in Sussex and return to Annanetta, which we did in spring of 2019.
Ultimately the lure of Lucy, Stu and Annanetta was just too strong!
Sadly after nearly 20 years of other priorities we concluded that her 1950's TS3 engines (a joint venture between Rootes and Lister and sold by Blackstone Marine) are not the way forward for Annanetta so we have bitten the bullet to have them replaced with two new Nanni diesels.
Annanetta came out of Steve's hands in early March and her return to Kingston is again captured in our blog. We have now fitted a new lithium battery and Inverter system and are booked to attend the Henley Traditional Boat Festival in August, an ambition that I started with over 18 years ago and that the family have all now whole heartedly embraced!!
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