Our Story

History of ChesterBoat

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History of ChesterBoat

ChesterBoat is owned and operated by Brian Clarke. Previously known as Bithell Boats, the Company has, in one form or another, been operating passenger vessels and taking tourists on cruises along the beautiful River Dee for over 100 years.

Brian started his employment with Bithell Boats over 35 years ago as a trainee skipper; never imagining he would now be the owner of 2 successful passenger boat operations; ChesterBoat on the River Dee and also our sister company YorkBoat, on the River Ouse in York. He also owns and operates a thriving commercial operation which he has built up over the last 15 years.  All this hBithell Boatsas been possible due to Brian’s amazing vision and drive; he is energetic, enthusiastic and positive about everything to do with the River Dee.  He continues to invest, improving the business for the benefit of the customer whilst continually upgrading equipment, improving safety standards and as such the company has fantastic safety records.

The passenger vessels were originally wooden but have gradually been replaced by steel vessels and are regularly refurbished.  Our flagship, the Lady Diana joined the fleet in 1981 when it was decided that an all-weather all year round boat was required.  Her style and appearance was in complete contrast to the traditional launches and was greeted with some criticism at the time. However the introduction of the Lady Diana proved a sound investment, resulting in a much higher rate of sailings during periods of less favourable British summer weather and also saw the inception of evening charters. The Mark Twain arrived in 1988, looking a shadow of the vessel that it is today as it was much smaller. Brian had the foresight to lengthen her and restyle her giving her a similar layout to the Lady Diana, albeit still on a slightly smaller scale. The Jackie, previously named the River Countess, was bought to Chester when Brian acquired YorkBoat in 2007. Her name, Jackie, is a tribute to a local lady called Jackie Leech who was known as the ‘Swan Lady’ and who worked tirelessly to create a rejuvenation of Chester’s swan population.

The Company employs around 30 people during the height to the season.  We have a very loyal and committed core of staff; full time, part time and seasonal. They bring a wealth of experience from similar operations in York and Nottingham while others have worked in the Navy and on board luxury yachts. One thing they have in common is their hard work, commitment and customer focus and without them the business would not be where it is today.