The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

William E. Costin (1849 – 1910), Boatbuilder


William Costin was born in Berkhamsted the seventh child of Thomas and Mary Ann Costin and as a young child lived in Prospect Place (later known as Highfield Road) His father was a shepherd. At the time of the 1861 census he was living with his older brother John, who was an agricultural labourer. William was also apparently working as a labourer. He did not appear to be attending school. He was 12 years old.

In the December quarter of 1869 he married Emily Bedford, who was born in Northchurch and was from a well-established local family. They were married in Hemel Hempstead. William was 20 years old. Emily was 32.

It appears that by that time William was already working as a boat builder. He probably did not yet have his own yard, since in the 1871 census he and Emily give as their address Number 4 dock, Ladywood, Birmingham.

Ten years later the couple were back in Berkhamsted and resident in Castle Wharf where William was probably working for John Hatton, from whom a year later he bought the boatyard. In Directories for almost thirty years he is listed as boat and barge builder and coal merchant and his premises consisted of dock, shed, yard, house and water house.

Over the years Costin built a large number of boats and barges particularly for the Aylesbury Canal carrier, John Landon and Co. The last of the fleet he built was The Hythe launched in June 1909. All the boats were launched sideways and sandbags were placed opposite to minimise the damage to the opposite bank.

William Costin built up a flourishing business and employed a large number of men. The couple had no children to carry on the business. In the 1901 census William lists himself as Managing Director of a Boat building business and they were now living at no. 4 Station Road. He was by now 50 years old and Emily 62. Mary Bedford, Emily’s sister lived with them. She was financially independent.

Many local school children associated Costin’s with Sunday School outings since frequently children were taken down in heavily laden barges to Cow Roast and then by foot or in wagons up to the Bridgewater Monument for a picnic.

William E Costin died aged 61 in the September quarter of 1910. His wife Emily lived for another three years to the age of 74.The boatyard was taken over by Key’s, the timber merchants.

Jenny Sherwood

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