ABOUT OUR BOATS

All our boats are now based on the canal behind Portland Basin Museum in Ashton under Lyne. Come along any time and say hello to any volunteers working on them.

HAZEL is one of the few surviving wooden boats from the Northern parts of the canal system. She was built at Runcorn in 1914 and is the last complete example of a Runcorn “Wooden Header”. These boats were deep, 6 plank boats, intended for use on the Bridgewater canal and connecting waterways. Being narrow beam they were able to work up to Ashton or down to the Midlands. Drawn by a single horse, woodenheaders could carry a good 30 ton load if the water was deep enough. Originally known as “Mull” she worked for the Salt Union, carrying coal, salt and chemicals to and from the Northwich area. It is possible that she may have brought some loads up the Ashton canal. In 1929 she was sold to Agnes Beech who renamed her “Hazel” and used her to carry coal from Leigh to Northwich and Runcorn. From 1948 she became a crude passenger trip boat. In 1951 she was fitted with an engine and converted into a luxury cruising houseboat and for many yearsshe was home to a series of families and travelled extensively around the canal network until she was donated to the WCBS in 1988,

LILITH was built in 1901 and spent her first 70 years carrying goods in and out of the Coombeswood Tubeworks on the Dudley No 2 Canal near Halesowen. She is a joey boat, built for short distance carrying work on the complex Birmingham Canal Navigations. Originally she had no name, being known simply as number 9, and no cabins. The hull is of a very simple shape and has been almost completely renewed since 1974. Similar craft were once used for short distance traffic on the Ashton Canal, carrying coal from the pits to canalside mills where it was used to fuel the mill engines. Unfortunately no examples of these local boats survive. In 2001 she celebrated her centenary by carrying the first load for 80 years over the summit of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Dating from 1917 QUEEN is probably the oldest surviving wooden motor narrow boat. She is typical of boats of her period and is a remarkable survivor, having been discarded 3 times since 1947. Originally called “Walsall Queen” she worked for Hildick & Hildick, a Walsall based company of which little is known. From 1926 she worked for Harvey Taylor of Aylesbury. The post war decline in traffic resulted in her being abandoned and sunk in 1947, but she was rescued for pleasure boat use two years later. In 1994 volunteers recovered her from deep water in Buckinghamshire where she had been abandoned. With help from the Waterways Trust in 2002 she had essential conservation work carried out to ensure that the old boat survives long enough to be fully restored.

FORGET-ME-NOT was originally built as a horse drawn boat in 1927 and belonged to Number One ( owner boatman) Henry Grantham. He supplied coal to industrial premises and was always something of an innovator. In 1929 he had “Forget me Not” motorised, then two years later he had the stern end rebuilt with a counter. In 1941 Mr Grantham retired and the boat was sold to the Samuel Barlow Coal Company who used her for similar work and gave her the name “Sarah”. She was sold and converted to a houseboat in 1959, becoming derelict by the mid 1970s. In 1987 she was hauled out of the water for restoration work to begin. Relaunched in 1994 she has now reverted to her 1930s appearance. An original Bolinder engine has been renovated and fitted.

SOUTHAM and ELTON, built in 1936 and 1937 respectively, were 2 of the fleet of 62 wooden butties ordered from Walker Bros of Rickmansworth as part of the fleet expansion programme of the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company.Intended to work with new steel motor boats, these craft were all named after towns. They mainly worked on the Grand Union main line between London and Birmingham but could travel to any part of the narrow canal network and carried a wide variety of commodities.They were both sold by British Waterways in the early 1960s . “Southam” was motorised and fitted with a full length cabin. “Elton” continued with limited carrying work for her new owner. Eventually both boats became sunk and were rescued by volunteers.