WCBS is taking part in The National Trust’s Heritage Open Days events.

If you live near to Ashton under Lyne please can you volunteer to help us

man an information stall and show our boats off to the public.

Contact : Tony Hewitson – hewitson.tony@gmail.com

Thank you.

OUR EVENT – Wooden Canal Boat Society Heritage Boats

The Wooden Canal Boat Society boats, Portland Basin Boatyard, Portland Street South, Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, OL6 7SX

The Wooden Canal Boat Society have 6 heritage wooden canal boats based at Portland Basin. All of them are over 100 years old and were used in various places around the country during the canal system’s industrial heyday. Normally, due to volunteers working on the boats, we cannot allow public access.
We have rescued these and restored them, to differing degrees, for use in the community.
Our pride of the fleet is Hazel who has been completely restored and is now working as Tameside’s well-being boat for those suffering poor mental health. You will be able to see her in her modern state.
You will be able to see the back cabin on Forgetmenot as it would have been with a family living on her while she worked the canals.
You will be able to talk with our volunteers about the boats, their industrial past and their current work in the community.
Suitable for all ages as long as children are accompanied. Disabled access available on Hazel.

Opening Times

  • Saturday 10 September: 1100-1600
  • Sunday 11 September: 1100-160


Brown road signs are all around the area directing traffic to Portland Basin Museum. The canal is behind the museum and can be accessed separately. By bus, the 330 bus, Stockport to Ashton, stops opposite Asda and there is a small footpath leading down to the canal (not signposted but the only footpath) From Ashton town centre on foot, go along to Lidl, cross the road and follow the sign posts or find the footpath as above.

Organised by

Anne Louise Black

Anne Louise Black



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.

Come for a canal trip with us – recycling trips – dates to end of 2015

For those of you who don’t know about these trips – on the first Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of each month we take some of our boats from Portland Basin, Ashton-under-Lyne for about one hour into Fairfield where we collect donations from the houses around. The previous week leaflets are taken round these houses with a reminder of the next dates.

This way we manage to collect a lot of useful items, mainly for selling in our charity shop at 173 Stamford Street, Ashton, but also for scrap or recycling.

The trips are great ways to enjoy the canal, learn about the boats and how to steer them and meet other volunteers.

On the Sunday trips we start at 9.30 a.m.and take three boats, usually Southam with the engine pulling Forget-me-not and Lilith the ”butties” or unpowered boats.We return around 3pm.

On the Monday and Tuesday trips we start at 6pm and just take Southam. Note; if the Monday is a Bank Holiday we go the next Monday.

Please feel free to come along whether you are a member or not; it’s a great way to find out about the Society and meet everyone. Just remember to wear old clothes (life-jackets are provided for children) and bring lunch on the Sunday trips. If there’s a group of you it’s best to check with Chris Leah – 07931952037 – as we are restricted as to how many people we can legally carry.

These are the dates…………………….

OCT 5th 6th 7th
NOV 2nd 3rd 4th
DEC 7th 1st 2nd
JAN 4th 5th 6th
FEB 1st 2nd 3rd
MAR 1st 2nd 3rd
APR 12th 13th 7th
MAY 3rd 11th 5th
JUN 7th 1st 2nd
JUL 5th 6th 7th
AUG 2nd 3rd 4th
SEP 6th 7th 1st
OCT 4th 5th 6th
NOV 1st 2nd 3rd
DEC 6th 7th 1st