J class yacht K4, Endeavour


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Did you know that the first commercial yachts were built in Gosport? Do you know what a Trotter box is? Do you remember Camper and Nicholson? Then read on…

In 1782, the first commercial yacht builder, Francis Amos, a shipwright on the Thames, moved to Charles Fort in Gosport. He began developing his boat building company and took on his nephew William Camper in 1809. Together they built the first commercial yachts.

Following the Civil War, 1642-1651 the Charles Fort on the Gosport side of the harbour was turned into workshops and commercial premises. So when Amos arrived in Gosport there was the perfect spot to begin his business. He became successful repairing and restoring boats then took over a boatyard with 3 slipways. This extra space allowed the company to build bespoke yachts for wealthy Victorians.

Each yacht was individually made and the early ones measured from 30 feet to 150 feet. They had manual winches and steering, needing a large crew and strong men to hoist the heavy sails. The skill of the yacht builder was in maximising storage space for passengers and crew to make a cosy interior in a limited space. One the company’s many innovations at that time was the “trotter box,” an irregular shaped area for feet at the bottom of a bunk!

Camper was an apprentice to Amos and learned all he could before he took over the business from Amos, and then in turn passed it to the Nicholson family. Camper and Nicholson was born, and is still known throughout the world.

A walking tour and talk around Charles Fort (now Endeavour quay) with history and stories of Camper & Nicholson’s, the oldest leisure marine company in the world!
This is a rare chance to visit a very modern boat repair facility of Endeavour Quay as part of this year’s Gosport Heritage Open Days.

William Camper of Camper and Nicholson
Endeavour, Astra, and Valsheda in C&N’s Beach Street slips in 1936; Fort Blockhouse is in the right background.