What Is a Sherry? Definition, Meaning and Concept

A sherry is a flat-bottomed boat that was once widely used to transport passengers and goods on the River Thames and the inland waterways of East Anglia. It evolved from the Norfolk Keel, an old type of ship from the Middle Ages. There were two main types of cherries, those for commerce and those for pleasure.

Trade fairs played an important role in commerce in the days before railroads. A sherry cargo ship could carry several tons of cargo back and forth along waterways and canals to ships waiting at sea. These sherry canisters varied in size according to the size of the waterways they traversed, ranging from 12 feet (3.66 m) six inches (15.24 cm) by three feet (0.915 m) six inches (15.24 cm) to 54 feet ( 16.47 m) by 12 feet (3.66 m) eight inches (20.32 cm).

A sherry cargo ship usually had a black painted hull, black painted sails, and a white painted bow. The black color of the hull and sails was intended to protect the boat from the effects of dust and dirt, while the white bow ensured easy visibility of the ship. The bow was built long and flying to facilitate landing at a time when there were few or no landing stages along the waterways.

Cargo ships generally had specifically designed or decorated weather vanes and mast caps as forms of identification. People would be able to recognize who owned a particular sherry by looking at its unique mast design or weather vane design. In addition to cargo holds, there were smaller sherry rowboats used to ferry passengers across rivers and canals.

Rowboat fairs usually had two boatmen rowing at each end. These boats were especially popular in Elizabethan times and continued in use into the 19th century. The advent of more modern transportation and extensive bridge building ended the rowboat's mass appeal.

Modern forms of transportation, such as rail, have also abolished the use of cargo holds. Seeing their traditional source of income vanishing, many commercial female owners entered the burgeoning tourist industry and transformed their boats into places of pleasure. The trade fairs were redesigned to have kitchens, dining rooms and living quarters in place of the cargo hold and seating areas were installed on the decks.

Next, steam cherries and yacht-like cherries appeared on the spot and found fans. However, their day was past and maintaining floaters on a large scale soon became an economic burden. In modern times, the holds are owned by boating enthusiasts and boating clubs, or have been restored and used for the tourist industry.