Built in 1817 “Queen” is now the oldest surviving wooden motor narrow boat

In 1993 another new owner neglected to keep the bilge pump batteries charged and “Queen” sank in deep water at Denham on the Grand Union.

British Waterways put a section eight notice on the boat and would normally have sent in the dredger to break her up, but recognising her heritage value, they offered the then Wooden Canal Craft Trust the opportunity to mount a rescue.
This was carried out in March 1994 with great help from the staff of the adjacent Denham Country Park and local boaters. “Queen” was then hitch hiked 200 miles to safety at Runcorn.
Since 1997 “Queen” has been with the rest of the W.C.B.S. boats at the Portland basin museum Ashton under Lyne.
While past repairs to the bottom have held up well, deterioration above the waterline has caused increasing concern. The introduction of the Waterways Trust small grants scheme made it possible for the society to contemplate buying in help to strengthen and stabilise the boat to give her a better chance of surviving long enough for a full restoration to be carried out.
During the Autumn of 2002 “Queen” had her sides completely sheathed in galvanised steel sheet which has been screwed or bolted right through the sides into an extra layer of hardwood shearing (thin vertical planking) lining the inside. All cavities were filled and inner and outer linings sealed with vast quantities of chalico ( a traditional sealant made from pitch, tar and horse manure)
The all important bow was one of the most difficult parts. This was being held together by the guard irons and ice plating but the old ice plating was starting to rust through. New steel sheet was carefully beaten round the outside of the bow and bolted through fibreglass sheet lining the inside. Liberal amounts of the somewhat non traditional expanding polyurethane foam were then injected into the cavities where the planks used to be so that their shapes will be preserved.
The bulk of the work was carried out by Peter Hawker, better known around the cut for selling coal and diesel from his Grand Union pair “Bletchley” and “Argus”. Peter was backed up by W.C.B.S. volunteers endlessly melting chalico. About £1000 worth of timber was donated by Benchmaster Engineering of Mossley who also supplied the galvanised sheeting at cost price. The whole thing was made possible by a £1000 grant from The Waterways Trust.
The Wooden Canal Boat Society has set up a fund for “Queen”s full restoration, which will take place after “Hazel” has been restored. Discussions are taking place within the society as to whether to restore her to her original condition or her later guise as Harvey Taylor’s “Queen” and what her eventual role will be.

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