The West Quay Houseboats from the air in May. You can just make out the houseboats at the War Memorial, top centre. © 2018 Luke Englefield

Burnham has a unique collection of houseboats along its waterfront.

They fall into two groups, the West Quay houseboats and the War Memorial houseboats.

There used to be more in Prior’s Dock, too.

The West Quay houseboats

West Quay houseboats, some with ‘sail canopies’ to provide shade on their foredecks. © 2018 Nick Skeens

There are five houseboats on West Quay, where the river borders the Riverside Park.

Four of them, Mulberry, Fathom, Innisfree and Anne-Marie, each 86 ft long, were constructed during the second world war as ‘dumb barges’, ie lighters that could be filled with military supplies and towed across the channel to the floating Mulberry Harbours off the Normandy beaches after D Day.

Their hulls are made of military-grade concrete (like the WWII pillboxes dotted around this coast), and, before you ask, yes, they do float when the tide comes in.

Anne Marie has been in its current location since the 1950s.

Mulberry and Fathom were both rescued from a possible watery fate in the Crouch in the 1980s.

Innisfree was brought down from Heybridge on the Blackwater in 1997. Once named Fiona, she served as a sea scout hut  in Wivenhoe on the River Colne.

They have all been converted into modern homes.

Hermione is the longest of the houseboats in Burnham. A 137ft Dutch Barge, she is made of steel and was replated in 2017 at Turk’s Yard in Chatham.

These are private residences and not open to the public, but sometimes some of the boats take part in open days, e.g., for the Art Trail, and, if you ask nicely and they have time and like the cut of your jib, the owners may be open to giving you a tour. No promises…


Houseboats by Burnham’s war memorial in June © 2018 Nick Skeens

The War Memorial houseboats

There are at least four steel-hulled houseboats opposite the war memorial.

Some of them take great pride in pretty flower displays.

They are, of course, private residences and not open to the public.

They are mostly on foreshore owned by the adjacent R J Prior’s & Son boatyard.

The Llys Helig

The Llys Helig, Burnham’s so-called ‘Titanic’, capsized in early 2017 but was brought upright in July 2020. Click here for more information. 

She has been bought and will be restored, by the new owner, based in London’s docklands, somewhere on the Thames.

Llys Helig capsized, June 2017. © 2017 Nick Skeens