It wasn’t just anyone that left their yacht at Tollesbury. Back in the day, the wealthy of Edwardian society brought their boats here to be stored for the winter in the four sail lofts, among them Thomas Lipton, of tea fame, and even Edward, Prince of Wales.
The lofts were constructed from sawn timber brought by barge from nearby Maldon and the weather-boarded structures are still a landmark today, even if the clientele at the village’s marina and boatyard aren’t quite so famous. They were built between 1906 and 1908 for the Tollesbury Yacht Berthing Company; the lower floors were used for storing the yachts and sailing gear while the upper part was used by local fishermen. After World War Two they fell out of regular use, before gaining Grade 2 listed status in the 1970s and being restored the following decade.
Today, the first of these lofts as you drive down into the marina houses The Loft, a tearoom with a charming vintage theme befitting its setting. It’s accessed by some small steps, the raised position a necessity when the road floods on the highest tides. Nicknamed locally Tea by the Sea, it’s been open since 2011 and serves a mean cream tea. That’s mean as in awesome, not mean as in stingy. Read their blog here: http://t-bythesea.blogspot.co.uk/
After fuelling up, you’ll need to burn off some calories, and it’s interesting to take a walk by the tidal flats to see the red lighter ship and the other craft anchored in the River Blackwater’s estuary.
The village has a tradition of salt production and oyster fishing. On top of the sail lofts, there are also several other buildings worth inspecting including the 150 year old Granary. These old structures add a great deal of character to the place, but it’s still very much a working marina.