Author Ray Wheeler unveils the plaque to Thames boat-builder Sam Saunders

A blue plaque has been unveiled near the Thames to commemorate a pioneering Victorian boat-builder.

Sam Saunders developed a waterproof material consisting of layers of plywood and canvas stitched together, known as Consuta. It enabled him build a new type of light, fast boat.

Author Ray Wheeler who has written a biography of Saunders unveiled the plaque on a building which was once his works at Goring-on-Thames, Oxon, now used as a Royal Mail depot..

The best remaining example of a craft built using the material, the steam umpire's launch also named Consuta and pictured below, was one of his boats on the river for the ceremony.

An exhibition about Saunders attracted a big crowd to Goring village hall..

The plaque is the fruition of work by local residents Janet and Mike Hurst who have been researching Saunders's life and Thames connections.

Mike said: "We came across him as part of a research project for the Goring and Streatley Local History Society. And the more we found out about him the more fascinating it became.

"There were many boat-builders on the Thames at that time but he seemed to take boat-building that much further. He is a very important figure in the history of the river.There has been a lot of interest in this project."

The company later established works at Cowes on the Isle of Wight and afterwards became Saunders-Roe who specialised in building flying boats and then early hovercraft.

Ray Wheeler, a former Managing Director of Saunders Roe, said:"At the turn of the century Sam had seventy odd patents of his own let alone others he had access to.

"One of his great achievements was to simplify the construction of boats by developing the laminated material when there wasn't a suitable glue - the process of sewing four layers of ply together with copper wire. He built boats by the dozen using that method."

Link to the Consuta Trust website

Story dated September 7th 2013

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