The team of craftsmen boatbuilders at Peter Freebody & Co are skilled in all aspects of traditional boatbuilding - design, hull construction, fine joinery work, finishing, classic craft restoration and conservation and brightwork.


The ancient art of boatbuilding began in the Thames Valley in the Neolithic period when man fashioned tools from flint and bone, and felled trees to create simple dug out craft.  For many centuries boatbuilding on the Thames, and certainly for the Freebody family, was restrained to commercial craft - flat bottomed punts for fishing and ferrying and barges for the transport of goods between Oxford and London and the many towns and villages in between.  The arrival of the railway during the Victorian era saw crowds flocking to the Thames for recreation and the bias shifted strongly towards the building of boats for pleasure. Skiffs and small scraft were produced in abundance, steam boats and elegant saloon launches from which the Edwardian elite could entertain in fashionable splendour.  Today, Peter Freebody & Co are proud to be a continuing part of this rich history of boatbuilding on the River Thames and take great pleasure in the creation of beautiful, bespoke craft for future generations to enjoy. 

The woods

Many types of wood are used in the building and restoration of boats at Peter Freebody & Co.  English Oak is favoured for its strength and is used for stems, keels and also steams particularly well to create pliable shapes when needed.  Teak is perhaps the most durable boatbuilding timber, which usually has a consistent grain and develops a lovely warm colour tone when varnished.  Mahogany has always been prized for its decorative grain figuring and as such it is the timber of choice for slipper launch hull sides and decks.  Where lighter construction work is needed, cedar and spruce are also used and being paler in colour can complement the richer tones of teak and mahogany.

Fastenings and fixings

An array of different fastenings are used in the building and restoration of boats at Hurley - copper nails and roves for carvel construction and the rivetting up of clinker planking on dinghies, skiffs and electric canoes, and brass and silicon bronze screws for general construction, interior fitting out and laying of decks etc.  When it comes to finishing work, chrome plated brass screws are used for the fastening of deck fittings and other brightwork, with care being taken to line up screw heads for that famous Freebody neat and polished look.


The boat's deck fittings, often finished in chromium plate on brass, start with wooden patterns, made by the boatbuilders.  These patterns are sent to the foundry for loss wax castings to be made.  On their return the fettling process begins and the rough castings are then transformed into smooth objects of beauty ready for drilling and countersinking.  Then it's off to the chrome platers where the final touch of magic is performed.

The Signwriter

With mahlstick, palette and dippers, the sign writer's task is to capture the character of the boats name.  With cove lines gilded in 23.5ct gold leaf and decorative scroll work applied with artistic flair and steadiness of hand, the work of the sign writer is a true art form.