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 BIOGRAPHY - Mark Stanley

MARK STANLEY finished his schooling aged 16 to work at Graviner Ltd, an engineering company based in Colnbrook.  Here he trained on all manner of equipment including lathes, milling and shaping machines.  Mark says this was a brilliant year of grounding in the engineering field and while in their training centre he also studied a day release course at Slough College for a HND in Engineering.  Subsequently he became fully employed with the company as a Marine Service Engineer, working on fire and explosion detection systems on ocean going vessels.  However a year on he became disillusioned with the round-the-world travelling the job entailed and left the company.
During this period Mark discovered skiff racing on the Thames with the Wraysbury Skiff & Punting Club based in Old Windsor, he also began work as a Saturday turn-around lad for the hire fleet at Nicholes Boatyard, close to Bell Weir Lock.  This was the start of his love for the River Thames.
At the age of 20 he went back to being an apprentice and joined Dennis Trott Racing Dinghies also in Old Windsor.  Here he learnt to build Fireball, Enterprise, 505 and Marauder racing dinghies and was where he met and became firm friends with Clive Thomas.  Mark and Clive sailed the works boats at regattas all over the country, Clive being a very accomplished helmsman and Mark an enthusiastic crew!
Three years later Mark left Trott Racing and joined Nicholes Boatyard to work on their hire fleet, undertaking the winter maintenance whilst also building new hire cruisers.  It was while he was here he began working on classic wooden boats.  The first was ‘The Duchess of Argyll’, a prominent  steam launch on the river.  The owner of Nicholes, Ian MacDougal, then bought the shell that was ‘Eclipse’, found at Duntons Yard in Shepperton.  Ian and Mark set about a 2 year restoration of ‘Eclipse’, which entailed building a new cabin and a new steam plant.  Since this time the vessel has graced the Thames for a great many years and now known as ‘The S.L Eclipse’.
When this project came to an end Mark rented a workshop, Clive Thomas left Trott Racing and Stanley & Thomas Boat Builders was born in 1983 where they returned to building and repairing racing dinghies.  During the ensuing years Clive kept the lucrative work on the dinghies going and Mark started to work more and more on the traditional side, restoring slipper launches and small cabin cruisers, in fact any work that came in.  Eventually the traditional side of the business took over and Clive became more involved with this; there was also a great deal of skiff and punt repairs coming in.  However, following a 10 year period together Clive decided to emigrate to Australia and has worked on boats in Perth ever since.
Not long after, the workshops at Tom Jones Boatyard in Windsor became available and with the help of John Crevald of Crevald’s Boatyard, Mark moved the business to Windsor.  At that time he was lucky to have a client looking to buy a cabin launch to restore.  Mark found a boat called ‘Lady Sophina’ in Ely, Cambridgshire and she was transported down to Windsor unseen by the owner who trusted Mark’s judgement - the owner fell in love with her.  Mark required more man-power with this project and employed Gerry Marsh.  When ‘Lady Sophina’ was finished she won Best Restored Boat at the Thames Traditional Boat Rally in Henley.  This would be just the first of many awards for the work at Stanley & Thomas.  Many substantial restorations have been turned out over the decades such as ‘Merlion’, ‘Lisbeth’, ‘Humble’ and ‘Zenita’ to name but a few.

Within a relatively short time Stanley & Thomas were commissioned to build 3 double racing skiffs for one of the five clubs on the river.  John Cox, the well known and highly regarded skiff builder from Eton College Racing Boats came to work with Mark along with Mark Neal who specialised in painting and varnishing.  Julian Perry, who worked under John Cox at Eton College joined Stanley & Thomas and when John passed away Julian carried on the good work as a builder of skiffs. Mark also received an order from Olympic oarsman John Pritchard to build a pair of double skiffs for a charity event to help children in Africa, the boats were to be rowed the full length of the Mississippi River, the project was called “Right To Play”.  Their target was surpassed and over 1 million dollars was raised once the row had been accomplished.  To date Stanley & Thomas have built more than 20 double and single skiffs. 
Some years ago Mark purchased the business of J. Sutton Racing Blades, making oars and sculls in Sitka Spruce for the clubs and individual owners of classic rowing boats.  A prestigious order came in to make the oars for the Queen’s Row Barge ‘Gloriana’ for her Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.  J.  Sutton is now a trading name used by an incorporated company called Xcell Rowing Ltd. who produce many of the carbon oars used for ocean rowing.  This business is now run by Mark’s eldest son, Jonathan, in Devon. 
Twelve years ago Mark purchased a sports clothing business, now trading as Brandable Clothing  who  now   supply corporate embroidered clothing.  Mark’s youngest son, Michael, runs this business from the Slough based premises.
By this time Mark and a boating partner had purchased one of the most beautiful wooden cruisers on the river, the 40’ Bates Star Craft ‘Louis Phillipe’ and took part in the Diamond Jubilee Pageant Flotilla on his own vessel.  He also participated in the Dunkirk 75th Anniversary, taking ‘Louis Phillipe’ across The Channel.  All being well, plans are afoot for joining the upcoming 80th Anniversary in May.
Now aged 62 Mark has sold his boat building business of Stanley & Thomas to Steve and Dilly Bil who are determined to carry on the good work as a family run business that will be known as ‘Stanley & Thomas Limited’. They have Mark’s full support.  Mark has retained a workshop at the yard and will now be working on his own collection of classic wooden vessels for the foreseeable future.

 

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