Wednesday, 03 October 2018

Boatshed has restored a historic building in Gosport; the world’s largest boat brokerage now houses its cutting-edge technology in this monument to the 19th century industrial revolution. Boatshed’s HQ offices are located at the Royal Engine House, located in the historic area called Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport.

Boatshed has been working on the restoration since 2005, when Boatshed CEO Neil Chapman and Mandy Chapman purchased the Engine House building and converted the facility to a modern meeting, conference and global headquarters for the organisation and its technology development parent company NMK Media.

Feeding the Royal Navy

The Yard has a long history. In the 18th century, the Royal Navy was provisioned in part from what was then called “Weevil Yard” in Gosport, which had a cooperage and a brewery.

From 1828 to 1832, the Weevil Yard was expanded and, in 1831 was renamed Royal Clarence Yard after the Duke of Clarence. It was a victualling yard supplying the Royal Navy with fresh water, salt meat, biscuits and rum. The yard was damaged during World War II and has now been developed into a mixture of residential, office and retail areas (including artisan workshops) combined with a large marina.

The Engine House, which dates from 1859, is a late Georgian and fine example of a hydraulic-powered facility. It was designed by Andrew Murray, Chief Engineer Portsmouth Dockyard, under the direction of Col. G T Greene and is made of red engineer brick in English bond, with slate roofs made with lead dressings.

The Engine House was designed to maintain a hydraulic head of 700lbs psi, top-level technology for the 19th century to provided power to the adjacent Mill and Bakery buildings and the reservoir in North Meadow.

The Mill and Bakery building produced 20,000 hardtack (ships biscuits) and a ton of bread every hour. Royal Navy hardtack was made by machine at the Royal Clarence Yard, stamped with the Queen's mark and the number of the oven in which they were baked. Biscuits remained an important part of the Royal Navy sailor’s diet until the introduction of canned foods -- one of the key factors of the navy's success was having a reliable supply of quality preserved food for ships to take to sea for up to six months.

Royal Clarence Yard provisioned vast quantities of food for the thousands of troops anchored at Spithead for the D-Day landings. The yard was also involved in victualling operations for the Falklands conflict in 1982, when it would ship supplies to RAF Brize Norton to be flown to the front-line.

The Royal Clarence victualling yard was decommissioned in 1991.

Graceful restoration houses high-tech operations

Here at no. 33, the graceful restoration combines 19th century look with a modern feel. The red-brick rooms are softened with wood panelling and pastel-slate, which also mutes the effect of all the computers and high-tech equipment. A beautiful wooden staircase sweeps into the living room. Lots of model boats all around, of course.

The Engine House is one of several spectacular buildings in Royal Clarence Yard, including the Pump House (now a café), the old forge, Flagstaff Green, the Ceremonial Arch and the great granary, bakery and slaughterhouse, all of which are Grade II listed by English Heritage.

Boatshed, which introduced high-tech to the boat brokerage industry, centre’s its operations at the Engine House while building its international network which now sells more boats per year than any other broker, thanks to its use of Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics. But Boatshed maintains the traditional values of transparent sales and committed service that do indeed hark back to the 19th century.

The perfect blend of old and new technology.