Historic “Hazel” the Wellbeing boat!

In 1914 the Runcorn boatyard of Simpson Davies launched another narrowboat built to their established pattern.  Known as wooden headers these boats looked more like scaled down barges than narrowboats.

The new boat took the name ‘Mull’ and was used by her owners, Salt Union, the carry coal to salt works near Northwich and to carry away the salt and chemical products.  Horse drawn she could carry over 30 tons if the water was deep enough.

In 1929 the boat was sold to Agnes Beech who changed the name to “Hazel” and used her to carry coal from Leigh to Northwich. In 1948 she became a crude pleasure boat providing holidays for scout groups etc.

“Hazel” was purchased by Mr & Mrs Dean in 1951. They fitted an engine and a comfortable full length cabin to make the boat into a travelling home. During the 1950s “Hazel” played a part in many of the campaigning boat rallies that helped to save the canal network from being closed.

During the 1960s 70s and 80s “Hazel” served a series of owners as a residential or pleasure boat. In 1988 Peter and Claire Stone donated the boat to the Wooden Canal Craft Trust ( fore runner of the present Wooden Canal Boat Society ) . Since then she has been carefully looked after by volunteers while a fund has been built up for her restoration.

Hazel Today

Passing Under a Bridge


Hazel’s elderly hull is in need of extensive restoration. Most of her planks will have to be replaced.
This will cost at least £130,000 depending on how much of the work is carried out by volunteers.
So far a fund of over £26,000 has been built up and some of the necessary materials have been purchased.

The boat is listed as a historic vessel by the National Historic Ships Committee and has been put in category 2 of the historic boats list of The Waterways Trust. This puts us in a good position to get the resources needed to complete the job. The only delay at present is the need to get the slipway prepared at the Heritage Boatyard in Stalybridge. This is receiving top priority.

Hazel, the Future

The restoration work will involve almost completely re-planking the hull, refurbishing the 1951 conversion and re-constructing the original back cabin. The engine will not be re-fitted but the back cabin will be fitted out as crew accommodation and the 1951 cabin will be equipped with disabled access. Hazel will then begin a new role providing waterway holidays for people recovering from stress, depression and other illnesses. She will be towed by motor boats, or possibly sometimes by horse. The boat will be as self contained as possible with all domestic electricity being generated from renewable sources.

2 thoughts on “Hazel

  1. read your article on the well being boat in Tow path magazine.We are hoping to set up and provide opportunities for people going thro loss to enjoy retreats aboard our narrow boat pilgrims progress.We are located in Stafford.would love to make contact and find out more about your work and hope it will give us ideas and inspiration for our project .with kind regards .Rev Denise

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