Cobles in Art & Antiques

Celebrating the Northumbrian coble and Yorkshire cobble in popular culture

Celebrating the Northumbrian coble and Yorkshire cobble in popular culture


The above London and North East Railway (LNER) poster was illustrated by Frank Henry Mason RBA RI RSMA (1875-1965) and in use between 1927-47.


Another LNER poster. 'East Coast Craft No 5.' Shows the small coble set against a much larger ship in the background. The caption continues 'Employed in the district from Hartlepool to Holy Island - difficult to handle but a wonderful boat.'  Artist Frank Mason


See also Bagshawe's postcards bottom right.


 An extremely rare souvenir pearlware polychrome pottery model from 1820-40. The colours are true to the cobles of the 19th century as fishermen used to paint the individual strakes (planks) in many more colours than are used today. For example, at Staithes one writer says that brick red, emerald green, pungent blue and white with orange, pink and blue mouldings were most popular - what a sight they must have been all drawn up on the beach, no wonder artists were attracted there! To prove the point, see the oil below by Henry Rollet dated 1897 in the Pannet Art Gallery. Pottery examples can be seen at Sunderland and Whitby museums.



A model of Grace Darling's coble from the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich, London). Built in the mid 20th century at a scale of 1:12, the model is decked and constructed plank on frame (clinker built) and is equipped with thwarts, thole pins, a pair of oars and is inscribed 'Grace Darling' on the bows. Dimensions: 112 x 560 x 143 mm. The original 21 ft 'rescue' coble can be seen at the recently refurbished Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh, Northumberland.

Victorian Photographs (The largest selection of east coast fishing on the net!)

'Sunstar' from Seaham (?) There's evident pride in the boat from these family owners. Circa 1900 - 1920.


Other collectables, songs, ballads & shanties etc.




This website is dedicated to exploring how the inshore fishing boat called the coble (or cobble) - commonly found along the east coast of England from Berwick-on-Tweed in the north to Hull in the south - has been reflected in popular culture, in everything from paintings to postcards, planters to posters

The variety of illustrative and souvenir material produced featuring the coble is absolutely huge - much of which is now actively sought out as antiques. Which begs the question, why? Why is the coble so admired?

Well, could it be because of romance, as a descendant of Viking longboats, or beauty, a compelling mix of colour and shape, or simply because of faith, as generations have trusted their lives to its seaworthiness - not for nothing has the North Sea been described as the 'old grey widow maker.' 

Whatever the reason, it is undoubtedly the most iconic symbol yet devised for the coast between the Tweed and the Humber.

And it was ever thus! As long ago as the early 1800s the coble was celebrated as a pearlware model by Sunderland and Stockton-on-Tees potteries. And of course, any artist working on the east coast (home to artist groups or colonies at Cullercoats and Staithes) just had to feature the coble as the essential working tool of it's fishing communities.

Among the more notable to feature it in their work are America's Winslow Homer, Nottingham's (later Newlyn's) Harold and Laura Knight, Tyneside favourite Robert Jobling and, last but not least, is perhaps the best to depict the Yorkshire cobble as a working boat - the artist's artist, Whitby's Joseph Richard (JR) Bagshawe.

To find out more on this unique boat go online. A quick browse will throw up a good number of sites featuring the coble - from preservation societies to maritime trusts, art galleries to personal blogs. Hopefully, over time, this site will add to this canon of knowledge.

Contributions (photographs and captions initially) are most welcome and will be published in the appropriate gallery, an index of which will evolve as material becomes available.

Meanwhile, the images published now are only an appetiser of what will come.

For those wanting to see an actual coble, they can still be found in reasonable numbers in the following coastal villages and towns: Berwick, Holy Island, Beadnell, Craster, Newton, Amble, Newbiggin, Cullercoats, North Shields, Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Redcar, Saltburn, Staithes, Runswick Bay, Whitby, Robin Hoods Bay, Scarborough, Filey, Flamborough, Bridlington and Hull.

Note 1: there are differences in build between the Northumberland and Yorkshire craft - essentially, the latter are deep and squat compared to the former which are long and sleek. And in spelling, 'coble' north of the River Tees and to the south, 'cobble.'

Note 2: most of the illustrations on this site are of beautiful old rowing/sail cobles which, from bow to stern, are much more drammatically shaped than those found in today's harbours. The difference between the graceful 'old' and the clunkier 'modern' has arisen simply because, with the advent of diesel motors introduced in the 1920s and 30s, the sides of cobles grew higher as there was no longer a need to get oars in the water, and as horsepower increased so did width, length and weight.


'Homeward Bound' - oil by Ernest Dade


No cobles, they're beached below the Flamborough cliffs but crikey, what a sketch by Winslow Homer!

Half hulls and dioramas


A 'carved from the solid' half hull or half block (or half model)  diorama of a pilot coble from Sunderland (River Wear) circa 1850s -  from the Discovery Museum, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Similar dioramas were produced for their owners by Joseph Fannen, a well known NE ship portrait painter at the turn-of-the-century. In real life, pilot cobles were (as above) painted in dark colours (perhaps in reference to being black leaded for extra speed) in contrast to the multi-coloured fishing cobles (see Pottery).

Planters (plant containers)


Shops and houses up and down the east coast have coble planters drilled to their outside walls and filled with flowers in the summer months. Such planters are readily available to purchase and come in a variety of sizes and colours.

 Bagshawe Postcards


Illustrated in this gallery (click the index at the top) are both sets of Tuck postcards by the artist's artist, J R Bagshawe.