Harriet Fishing Smack

Harriet Fishing Smack

Harriet is the last surviving fishing smack that was built and registered at Fleetwood, and is being preserved for future generations at Fleetwood Museum

Tours of the Harriet and boat hall generally take place throughout the day (subject to availability of volunteers) – just ask at reception.

Harriet Fishing Smack, at Fleetwood Museum

One of the outstanding features of Fleetwood Museum, frequently remarked upon by visitors, is the huge volume of knowledge possessed by our volunteer guides.

The Harriet tours are no exception, with a number of local fishermen amongst the guides.

Fleetwood Museum is open:
10.30am  –  3.30pm on Tuesday to Saturday
Bank Holiday Sundays & Mondays
Special Sundays (Tram Sunday, Folk Festival, Heritage Open Day)

Visit the Coffee House and shop which are open to all without payment of the museum admission charge.

Museum admission charge is £3 Adults, £2 Concessions and free for accompanied children.


Find Out More

Fleetwood Museum

Saving Fleetwood Museum

What’s on at Fleetwood Museum

(NB. Talks are held in the Upstairs education Room accessed only by several flights of stairs)

Join Fleetwood Museum Trust and Friends on Facebook here


More about the History of Harriet

Harriet is the last surviving Fleetwood built and registered fishing smack, a unique example of a type which evolved specifically for work in the difficult waters of the Irish Sea and the North West coast.

Fishing smacks were sail driven craft and were the fore runners of the modern deep sea Moretrawlers. Smacks, like Harriet helped to build Fleetwood’s huge fishing industry.

Fleetwood fishing smack Harriet being built
Harriet, being built in 1893 at Singletons of Fleetwood, seen just before launching.

She was built by the Singleton Bros. for £1,200 in 1893. She is a ketch rigged fishing smack, constructed of pitch pine planking on oak frames, 64 feet long with a beam of 21 feet and from keel to deck level, a height of 11 feet 9 inches. Her main mast was 45 feet high and her mizzen 27 feet and her gross tonnage 80 tons. She made her maiden voyage on 22nd. September 1893.

At this time Harriet, towed a beam trawl (consisting of a trawl net held open by a heavy wooden beam with weighty iron shoes on each side) and had a full set of sails. These craft were dependent on the wind and tide and had no power save that from a small steam boiler used mainly to operate a capstan which helped to haul the trawl gear. In the 1930’s she was fitted with a semi-diesel auxiliary engine that gave her a top speed of 6 knots.

In 1942 when George Fletcher joined the crew, Harriet was still using full sails, paraffin lamps, lead line and compass and he said that she still had an open cockpit and tiller. David Helm owned the Harriet until his death in 1969, although by this time George had come in with him as part owner as well as Skipper and in 1969, George became full owner.

During thirty odd years on the Harriet, George made many improvements, adding a wheelhouse, a steering wheel and a winch to replace the capstan. He also added new engines for instance in 1943, a 68 horse power Gardner engine was fitted and some of her sails were subsequently removed and the masts shortened.

In 1962 she was still sailing regularly from the port to Morecambe Bay, Manx, Scottish and Irish fishing grounds in search mainly of soles and hake, she had been at sea almost continuously since the day she was launched. Harriet survived many storms and groundings in her long career- a tribute to her sturdy construction and the “trunnel” (or tree nail) fixings which allow flexibility in the hull.

In 1977, after over 80 years of fishing Harriet made her final voyage, skippered for the last time by George Fletcher to Borwick Rails near Millom. She was taken out of the water to be transformed in to a day centre for handicapped children, run by the Harriet Trust.

In 1994, Harriet and another vessel Sulwath were dramatically altered to provide better facilities for the children in a project designed for the B.B.C. television programme, “Challenge Anneka”. However the project’s results proved to be short lived as a year later, the boat was declared unsafe.

After discussion with the Harriet Trust, Lancashire County Museums Service made the decision to rescue the historically important Harriet and return her to Fleetwood for conservation and display within the Museum. The Friend’s of Fleetwood Museum and museum staff worked hard to ensure Harriet’s homecoming – the project was fraught with many obstacles and her rescue is a testimony to those involved.

However, anyone who witnessed her return to Fleetwood on August 19th, 1998 passing the Lower Lighthouse in fading light on a floating pontoon, to the sound of cheers and car horns, will know what she means to Fleetwood.

By 2009 ome restoration work had been done under controlled supervision alongside conservator, John Kearon (from Liverpool).

She has been allowed to dry out slowly and some of her excess ballast has been removed as it was too heavy for the boat out of water. Her rather patchy paintwork appearance is due to samples being taken to check the firmness of the wood underneath.

Harriet is now however, in a stable environment and part of the long term strategy plan is to find funding for more expert conservation advice, to ensure that she gets the best possible treatment.

In April 2011, Harriet was added to Lancashire Historic Environment Record, PRN34997.
Source: Fleetwood Museum / National Historic Ships


Find Out More

Fleetwood Museum

Saving Fleetwood Museum

What’s on at Fleetwood Museum

(NB. Talks are held in the Upstairs education Room accessed only by several flights of stairs)

Join Fleetwood Museum Trust and Friends on Facebook here

Fishing smack Harriet at Fleetwood MuseumHarriet at Fleetwood Museum, seen from the stern

Harriet at Fleetwood MuseumHarriet at Fleetwood Museum, with people visiting the boat hall.

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