Winter 2016 - Issue 44

The Winter 2016 issue of NarrowBoat includes the following features. You can purchase back issues online -  click here for our shop.

Current NarrowBoat subscribers will be able to read the digital edition online. Read Issue 44 Winter 2016 online. You will need to log in and, if you have not already done so, enter your 6-digit subscriber number.


Front cover: One of the early boats used by Thomas Bantock & Co was recorded in the BCN Boat Register on 27th December 1873, named Birkenhead. Anecdotal evidence from several sources indicates Bantocks’ livery was grey with black lettering, which was still seen on its road vehicles in the 1950s. Early photos of the company’s cabin boats have not come to light so this image is an interpretation, and is not based on documentary evidence. Birkenhead’s boat registration was cancelled on 1st November 1887. 

Famous Fleets: Thomas Bantock & Co

Tom Foxon details the activities of a small canal-carrier that largely served the railway industry. In 1852, Thomas Bantock & Co provided boatage services for the Great Western Railway (GWR). The company established boat docks at Oldbury, Hawne, Withymoor and elsewhere. Chris M. Jones also explores the origins of the company’s iron-boats.

Picturing the Past: Barging to Bishop’s Stortford

Chris M. Jones looks at how the Stort Navigation once formed part of a vital cargo route between east Hertfordshire and London. The 14-mile navigation, opened in 1769, gave direct connection with the capital via the Lee Navigation.

From The Archives: Spell-weaver

Joseph Boughey looks at how the social history of the waterways can be explored on a website dedicated to boating ancestors: spellweaver-online.co.uk. The site was set up by two enthusiasts with boating ancestors from Runcorn and the Thames and covers newspaper excerpts for England and Wales, transcribed from a number sources. A section called ‘Boatmen in the News’ highlights several newspaper stories that provide insights into the lives of boat people.

Historical Canal Maps: Kensington Canal

Richard Dean explores the Kensington Canal, one of London’s lost waterways.


Image courtesy of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

Unearthing History: Aspects of Boat-Building

Chris M. Jones examines the small boatyards that produced and maintained large numbers of working craft. In the 19th and 20th centuries, these boatyards ran on tight budgets and their location was often crucial to their success.

Broader Outlook: A Long-Lost Country Wharf

Robert Hamilton traces the forgotten history of the Cambridge Arm of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and its terminal basin. The arm fell into disuse 140 years ago, though the remains of it can still be uncovered.

Art of the Waterways: Early Ron Hough Decoration

Another look through Patrick Rawlinson’s photo collection reveals some early decorative paintwork by the late Ron Hough. Hough was a legendary signwriter and waterways artist, and the images are colour painting from the 1950s.

Time and Place: Sailing Through Sprotbrough

Chris M. Jones  examines an early 20th-century photograph of a keel under sail on the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation. The photograph is dated 22nd November 1905 and shows the 1879-built craft Alboro heading downstream along the Spotbrough Cut near Doncaster.

Traditional Techniques: Locking Through Stoke Top

We follow the progress of a pair of narrowboats negotiating Stoke Bruerne Top Lock during the latter days of commercial carrying. The 1960s photographs show Blue Line Carriers Ltd’s boats descending the lock and provides a stage-by-stage illustration of the traditional techniques involved in operating a motor and butty pair.

Working on the Waterways: Halfway House

Chris M. Jones studies images of second-hand craft that were operated by L.B. Faulkner in their previous owners’ liveries until they could be repainted in his own colours. Although some canal boats were bought new and stayed with their original owners until the end of their working lives, many were acquired second-hand from boatbuilders or other carriers. After changing hands, a lot were put to work still carrying their previous livery, which they continued to wear until their next docking. Canal-carrier L.B. Faulkner of Leighton Buzzard bought many second-hand boats and, as we shall see, sometimes carried out this practice. 

Time and Place: Shooting Old Belgrave Bridge

Chris M. Jones examines a World War I-era image showing cargo-carrying at Belgrave on the River Soar. The image captures a rare view of the location and some of the traffic that regularly plied the route between Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.