Society History

A short history of the Wooden Canal Boat Society


In 1974 Chris Leah was a student at Chester College, living on boats to save money.
He bought a full length wooden narrow boat called “Lilith” for one hundred pounds. The boat needed repairs and Chris set about doing them.Repairs to Lilith 74-04

Down the chute 4 11 pixie

Lilith earning her keep by loading rubble at Cavendish Mill

Before long Chris had aquired a second boat “Sarah”, later renamed “Forget me Not”.
In May 1987 the Wooden Canal Craft Trust was formed. Initially this was a small group of friends who wanted to build a future for “Lilith” and “Sarah”.
The 1989 British Waterways Bill threatened to introduce new regulations that would make the work of the Wooden Canal Craft Trust virtually impossible and force most owners of historic wooden craft to destroy them. The Trust petitioned against it. The Trust’s case against the Bill was put at the Lords Committee stage and several witnesses called. This, and negotiations over the next two years, resulted in substantial changes in the legislation together with the beginnings of a recognition of the importance of the floating heritage by British Waterways.


By the Spring of 1995 The Wooden Canal Craft Trust owned six boats, Elton, Forget Me
Not, Hazel, Lilith, Southam and Queen.
The trustees of the Wooden Canal Craft Trust decided that the way forward was to become a company and a registered charity. To do this they needed to form a new organisation with a new Constitution. The Wooden Canal Boat Society was subsequently established.
In 1996 The Wooden Canal Boat Society Ltd was registered as a non profit making co-
operative company limited by guarantee. It became a registered charity in 1998.
The Wooden Canal Craft Trust was wound up in March 1997 and it’ s assets handed over to The Wooden Canal Boat Society.

In October 1996 our first boat moved to the Portland Basin Museum in Ashton.
We really needed a proper boatyard and in 1999 Tameside Council provided a site
at Knowl St in Stalybridge.
As well as creating a fully functional Heritage Boatyard we are now involved in a range of activities aimed at preserving and using wooden narrow boats.

Read a Full History

8 thoughts on “Society History

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  7. hi we have a 1938 60ft wooden narrow boat which has a current bsc called shilton we are not sure weather to break the vessel and sell off the machinery or try to sell the complete boat do you have any ideas regards Dean

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