Worcester boat hire business is to close after more than a century

Farewell captain: Shipwright John Morris still feels a deep connection to the river, its wildlife and his traditional way of life.

Farewell captain: Shipwright John Morris still feels a deep connection to the river, its wildlife and his traditional way of life.

First published in News
Last updated
Malvern Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

THE final tale from the riverbank is about to be told for a Worcester family as they prepare to close their popular boat hire business.

Pitchcroft Boating Station, in Waterworks Road, in Barbourne, could close as soon as September, depending on the weather, as the family prepare to wind up a business that has been on the river Severn for more than 100 years.

Owner and father of three John Morris, aged 86, has been involved in the business since the mid-1940s along with brother Philip after their father, Sid, took it over.

The business was started in 1910 by two brothers, both shipwrights from Newcastle- upon-Tyne, but it was under the Morris family that it experienced its heyday in the 1950s, and at one time they had 80 boats on the river.

The family has made a living off the river, where the family hire out boats – rowing boats, motorboats, day boats and canoes and also moorings for private boats.

Mr Morris made vessels from wood and later from fibreglass. Regular customers return year after year, and the family rely on word of mouth and the telephone rather than the internet for trade.

A boat called Munchkin has proved a big hit, particularly among students as people row up and down the river between Bevere and Diglis.

“If they can’t row then we soon learn them – at no extra charge,” he said. “It is the end of an era. We’re probably the last family operating rowing boats on the Severn.”

Mr Morris, who describes himself as a shipwright, found a helping hand in one of his three daughters, Jacqui Morris, 57. “As you row up this river you have different things appearing and disappearing,” Mr Morris said. “You will see a heron and a couple of water rats, otters, a seal and a salmon jump or a fisherman catch an eel, things some people have never seen before in their lives. There’s a lot of character in the river. It is sorely neglected.”

They family also used to run an 80-seater passenger boat and some paddle boats from the main Worcester bridge, and have both a 42- foot private rented mooring and they rent another from Worcester City Council.

Miss Morris said: “This place will be truly missed. It’s an easy business to run because we live on site. It is a way of life – our tales from the riverbank."

“Sometimes I think people now don’t know how to enjoy themselves. This offers relaxation, a way to switch off from the rat race. We will miss it. It is in our blood.”

To hire a boat call them on 01905 27949.

Comments (6)

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1:13pm Thu 31 Jul 14

Northerngirl1954 says...

Had many happy hours in my younger days hiring one of Mr Morris's boats and rowing upto British Camp at Grimley, life as Jackie commented is such a rat race now we forget these slow pace of life enjoyments Goodluck to the Morris family for the future !
Had many happy hours in my younger days hiring one of Mr Morris's boats and rowing upto British Camp at Grimley, life as Jackie commented is such a rat race now we forget these slow pace of life enjoyments Goodluck to the Morris family for the future ! Northerngirl1954
  • Score: 14

5:35pm Thu 31 Jul 14

Zig'Ob -StillAlive&Well says...

This is sad news! Had many happy days rowing up and down that river in boats of all description. From primary schooldays to early - mid teens with my schoolmates and friends. The things we used to see and get up to! Best of luck to all the Morris family.
This is sad news! Had many happy days rowing up and down that river in boats of all description. From primary schooldays to early - mid teens with my schoolmates and friends. The things we used to see and get up to! Best of luck to all the Morris family. Zig'Ob -StillAlive&Well
  • Score: 6

8:18pm Thu 31 Jul 14

Joe the Tug says...

Sad to see it go... indeed the end of a era.
Sad to see it go... indeed the end of a era. Joe the Tug
  • Score: 3

8:52am Fri 1 Aug 14

Worcester Lad says...

All the best for the future ,and thanks for the memories
All the best for the future ,and thanks for the memories Worcester Lad
  • Score: 2

11:37am Fri 1 Aug 14

s1lversurfer says...

Sad to hear that but great you kept going all these years. Spent many happy summers down Waterworks Road when my granny lived there and knew the children there well. Sad and happy times in Waterworks Road. Best wishes to all the family from Mrs.Vobe's granddaughter. :)
Sad to hear that but great you kept going all these years. Spent many happy summers down Waterworks Road when my granny lived there and knew the children there well. Sad and happy times in Waterworks Road. Best wishes to all the family from Mrs.Vobe's granddaughter. :) s1lversurfer
  • Score: 1

9:10pm Fri 1 Aug 14

Flexicase says...

Wouldn't it be good for Worcester City Council to take over this business to encourage more tourism and use of the river? Stratford on Avon makes far better use of their river.
Wouldn't it be good for Worcester City Council to take over this business to encourage more tourism and use of the river? Stratford on Avon makes far better use of their river. Flexicase
  • Score: 3

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