In August, just as the team was coming back from furlough, we were told about a windlass which had been rescued from being taken off the foreshore at Surrey Docks by someone without permission. The Police brought it to Surrey Docks Farm for safekeeping and on Monday 24th August Will went to the farm to draw and photograph it.

The windlass is thought to have been left on the foreshore when the area was used for building and breaking up ships. Richard Horwood’s Map of 1799 shows a ship building yard belonging to a Mr Wells at the site. Subsequently the Barnard’s served a demand for timber far outstripping demand by breaking up old ships there.

Windlasses have been in use since ancient times with Archimedes being credited as inventing the device. We suspect the example found is somewhat more recent late 18th, 19th or early 20th century. On boats, barges and ships they were most frequently used to haul anchors but also used on winches to lift cargo before engines took over.


The Windlass is 98 cm long by 30 cm wide (at the widest point). At each end there is an iron/steel ratchet and within that rectangular holes running all the way through cross one another at right angles at either end. These would have permitted levers to be placed in to turn the windlass 90 degrees before being relocated to turn it another 90.

If you believe someone is behaving unlawfully on the foreshore, contact the Police.