Shellbend folding boat, c1900

old wooden boat in storage

This ingenious boat was made by the 'Shellbend' Folding Boat Company of Liverpool. It was an attempt to create a lightweight collapsible craft, before the development of inflatable rubber boats. The 'Shellbend' folding boat was designed to be carried on board a yacht, or other large vessel, and to travel between the yacht and the shore. When stored on board the collapsible boat was lighter and took up less deck space than craft with traditional solid wooden hulls.

The 'Shellbend' boat was invented by Liverpool architect and civil engineer Mellard Treleaven Reade whose company produced them from the late 1890s onward. The boat is made from mahogany boards and had a number of canvas hinges worked into its design that allowed the boat to fold up. The boat was light and collapsed to one fifth its total depth; Reade claimed that one man could assemble the boat in twelve seconds. Although the Shellbend Company was based in Liverpool, the majority of the boats themselves were built by W Roberts and Co of Chester.

Accession number 1990.141


This boat is currently in on display by the information desk at the entrance to the museum.

old photo of a man on the deck of a ship with a smaller boat

Mellard Treleaven Reade alongside one of the folding boats that he designed.