The Osborne Family

Thomas George Osborne started Osborne Bros. in 1880.  He sold cockles from Cockle Shed Row in Old Leigh, where the cockle processing factories are now situated.

Osborne Bros.’ first boat – the Old Galley was purchased for £10 by his sons Ernest, George, Frank and Walter from Chatham, Kent in 1910.  Shortly after this, Thomas Osborne took over the running of the Crooked Billet pub opposite the café and his son, Walter soon followed him.

Ernest, George and Frank remained in the family business and commissioned the building of the original Mary Amelia in 1914 by Haywards of Southend.

In 1928, the first Renown boat was built by Haywards of Southend.  This historic vessel was part of the ‘flotilla’ – ‘The Little Ships of Dunkirk’ which were used in the evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk in 1940 along with five other Leigh cockle boats. These boats were used to ferry troops from the beaches to the ships anchored in the deep waters.  The boats each rescued around 1,000 troops during this mission but as they were starting back home the Renown hit a mine and the boat was completely destroyed with the loss of all the crew – Frank Osborne (son of Frank Osborne), Leslie (Lukie) Osborne (son of George Osborne), Harry Noakes and Harold Graham Porter.   In 1972, a memorial statue (memorial statue) was erected in St. Clements’s churchyard in Leigh honouring these courageous men.

In 1947, the second Renown boat was built, but this drew too much water so it was sold and the third Renown LO88 was built by Seacraft of Leigh-on-Sea in 1948. This boat served for 42 years before being retired.  During this time, the business was run by the remaining children of George Osborne – George (Pie) Osborne, Florence Lawrence, Freda Meddle and Cyril Osborne.

During the 1980s, Peter Osborne (son of Cyril Osborne) and Steven Lawrence (son of Florence Lawrence) took over the business. It was not until 1991 that the fourth Renown boat was launched, which is still in operation today doing whelking.  In 2008, the family commissioned the Mary Amelia LO86, which is currently used today. Both Peter and Steven’s sons Graham and Andrew jointly run the businesses, managing the cockle boat, factory and Café.

In over one hundred years of trading the business has remained within the Osborne family passing through the generations to the present day where fourth and fifth generation descendants of Thomas George Osborne run the business.