Working boats of
the UK Waterways
The Birmingham Canal Navigations developed in the period from 1770 to 1840, and both developed and served the growing industrial area of Birmingham and the Black Country. As well as offering a through route from North to South via Birmingham, the system of canals eventually totaling over 160 miles, and consisted mostly of short haul traffic, connecting industry with essential supplies, and easy transport for the products. The boats built to transport the goods on the BCN, numbered in the thousands, with boat builders constructing and repairing, in the hundreds.
Day Boats, or Joey Boats
.........................Stewarts & Lloyds day boats at Coombes Wood, 1976
Construction; wooden boats.
Wooden day boats were built of pine, deal or larch, side planks of 2" thickness, and bottoms of 3". Planks were either 9" wide or 12" , giving 4 or 5 planks to the boat side, and a depth of around 4ft. Side planks were spiked to large knees, at 3ft spacings and these in turn were spiked to the bottom planks. A keelson joined up all the bottom planks to prevent vertical movement, and the width of the boat at gunwale level was held by beams dovetailed into the gunwale. Side planks were scarf jointed, and always spaced apart to prevent weakness. At each end of the boat, 3 extra guard boards were added; one at waterline in oak, one mid way in elm, and another oak board on the second plank down. Iron guards at both ends protected the woodwork from the inevitable rough handling these boats received. Cabins were constructed in deal boarding, were 5ft 6" long, with a headroom of 5ft 3". The sharp tumblehome was necessary to pass through the many small entrances to basins off the main canal. Inside the cabin, a bottle stove was on the left, and a bench on the right and across the cabin bulkhead. As the traffics on the BCN was short haul, the day boats were never intended to be slept in, hence the small size.
Iron boats from 1860.
.......Iron day boats in use at Stewarts & Lloyds, Halesowen.
A small deck was positioned at each end of the boat, and BCN gauging plates fixed under the gunwale on the Starboard side. The many different shapes of iron day boats, came from the numerous builders of these craft on the BCN canal system.
Ernest Thomas day boat BIRCHILLS at the B.C.L.Museum.
ANTARCTIC; Iron Ice boat dating from the 1830's.
BALTIC; Iron ice boat; Operated by BCN in their No 4 district. Sold by BWB in early 1970s. Motorised and converted in 1977 /8.at Pitstone Wharf.
PELICAN; Wooden Ice boat, One of two wooden ice boats built in 1911 for the Coventry Canal Company. Converted to a powered craft in the mid 1950s and had a counter fitted in 1958 at Charity Dock. In 1971 suffered a gas explosion and sank. She was rescued and restored. Bought by present owners in 1999 again in need of major restoration which is ongoing. She is now powered by a 1937 Bolinder LDW engine.
PEARIE; Wooden Ice boat.
ROSS; Wooden Ice Boat Originally horse drawn, then tractor hauled ( sometimes both! see Photo). The only one of the 5 out of 6 boats of this type that survive to not have been motorised. Much restored. BCN Photos
Stevens & Keay tug JUDITH ANN at Ryders Green, in 1976.
As well as new tugs being built by local boatyards such as W.Harris of Netherton, and Worsey's of Walsall; many tugs were made from long distance narrowboats cut down in length to suit. A good number of Ex FMC boats became tugs; both motor and butty conversions. Also, some Ex GUCC boats were also converted by W.Harris for Stewarts & Lloyds of Coombeswood, Halesowen. The real BCN tugs were built for work, and work they did; the modern tugs built for pleasure today bear little resemblance to these work horses of the past.
ATLANTIC; BCN tug built by W. Harris of Netherton. 40ft long with ice breaking bows, and constructed for Yates Bros. Sold by BW in 1978 at auction, to Alfred Matty of Coseley. Sold by Matty's in 1983. Re cabined in steel, and now fitted with a Lister JP3. Based at Aylesbury. Attended Braunston in July 2000.
ATLANTIC No 3 and Leonard Leigh tug, JAMES LOADER.
Boat names in RED are extant.
APOLLO; Ex Midlands & Coast motorboat. 1929 John Crichton, Saltney Ferry, Chester, composite butty. BCN gauging 1490, 15/5/1929. Length 70ft 10". Converted to motor-boat 1936 and fitted with an 18hp Petter. Became FMC No 349, Regd at Wolverhampton No 1147. Sold to E.Thomas; fitted with a petrol/paraffin TVO engine. Now based in the North East as a shortened trip boat.
BIRCHILLS; Ex FMC butty boat named KINGSTOWN; No 278. Re-named KERRY in the early 1920's. Shortened for tugging by Ernest Thomas, and re-named BIRCHILLS. At the Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port. BCN Photos
BITTEL; Ex Stewart & Lloyds tug Photo
CAGGY; Built in 1945 by W Harris of Netherton for J Foulkes of Wednesfield. Riveted iron construction. Powered by a Lister JP3, and currently March 2001 semi derelict at Bumblehole, Netherton. Owned throughout it's life by the late Mr. Alan, "CAGGY" Stevens. Photo
CHRISTOPHER JAMES; Built for Leonard Leigh Ltd; Wooden tug by L. Alan & Sons at Spencer Abbots Dock, Saltley. Elm bottoms with Oak sides. Worked commercially until 1965; and powered by an Armstrong Siddeley AS3 Diesel.
CROWN; Ex Midlands & Coast THE NORTH; 1926 Yarwoods built composite butty. BCN gauging No 1136, 16/2/1926. Converted to 44ft tug, Harris's, in 1937, renamed CROWN. Fitted with a 30hp Petter semi diesel. Sold to Hingley's in 1937. Rebuilt at Norton Canes, and now named LION. Converted, and now 70ft in length, based at Braunston. This boat was re-built of very thick iron, and was not a success as a tug.
DOT No 4; Ernest Thomas Tug. Ex APOLLO FMC Sold to E. Thomas of Walsall in 1946 . Became DOT No. 4 in 1951, having been shortened to 56' and regauged using same BCN no. on 10. 1. 1951, a Fordson engine having been installed. Sold into private ownership in 1970. Ailsa Craig RL 2 , 20 hp engine fitted in 1970, changed to a Ford 4D , 57 hp one in 1973 and then again in 1974 to the current Lister HR W2MGR2 , 29 hp diesel. Re-lengthened and restored. DOT No 4 BCN Photos
EARLYBIRD; BCN tug. Built for Yates Bros by Harris's of Netherton. EARLYBIRD
ENTERPRISE; originally the FMC steamer, COUNT; 1899, Saltley composite. Regd BHM 1036. Converted to motorboat 1925. Shortened for tugging on the BCN; sold to Ernest Thomas, re-named ENTERPRISE. Now privately owned, and powered by a Gardner 5L2. Twin tandem steam engine, coke fired. 1925 converted to a motor boat, fitted with a 15hp Bolinder. BCN gauging No 1162, 23/4/1926. Length 71ft 2". 1944, sunk by bombing in Birmingham, and sold in 1945 to Ernest Thomas of Walsall. Shortened to 52ft for tugging on the BCN. Engine, Gardner 5L2 Diesel, from 1931 Pagefield Paladin lorry, Reg JJ950. Parsons gearbox, driving prop 35"x25" via a 2:1 reduction.. Main use tugging; pulling day boats from Cannock to Birchills Power Station, Walsall. Became semi-derelict after 1960, and purchased by the present owners in 1973. Maintained in working tug condition. At Crick in May 2000 with BCN day boat BHP No2. Photo BCN Photos
Iron riveted tug by W. Harris of Netherton. Originally built
for and owned by Oldbury coal merchants Joseph Holloway's.
Leonard Leigh tug JAMES LOADER.
HURRICANE; BCN tug. Built for Leonard Leigh Ltd, by Harris's of Netherton.
JOAN II; Wooden Tug built at Worsey's dock Walsall in 1936 for Leonard Leigh Ltd. Launched April 16th 1936. Engine thought to have been a lamp start 2 cylinder Ogle. Named after Leonard Leigh's daughter.
JAMES LOADER; Built for Leonard Leigh Ltd; Fleet No 8. Wooden tug built in 1946 for Leonard Leigh Ltd. by Joe Worsey of Walsall with Elm bottoms and Oak sides. Leonard Leigh moved coal from mines to power stations and other customers on the Birmingham Canal Navigations using a fleet of powerful tugs and many open 'day' boats. Trains of up to six boats pulled by a tug would be seen winding along the Wyrley Cut, or waiting at locks for the day boats to be locked through. A tug below would take the train on, while the tug above would take the empties back to the mine. The tug fleet was enlarged after the war with two wooden tugs, JAMES LOADER and CHRISTOPHER JAMES, and steel tugs HELEN, JOAN and JOAN II. They worked until the harsh winter of 1962, when the big freeze put the coal traffic onto lorries and it never returned to the boats, was originally fitted with a 56 hp four cylinder Fordson semi-diesel engine, but after other engines and private purchase in 1963 it was fitted with the present Gardner 2LW diesel in 1968, under a new cabin. He (she?) has 2" thick oak sides and a double planked 4" thick elm bottom, most of which is 60 years old this year. Some planks have been replaced over the years, notably at the waterline, and the maintenance work never stops.
JOAN II; Leonard Leigh Ltd tug.
JUDITH ANN; Peter Keay tug, built by Keay's in 1944. Powered by a Lister JP4; formerly a Ruston 4VRH. Later in the livery of Stevens & Keay. For sale Summer 2000, Judith Ann is now at Langley Mill. Apart from the posts and one chine plank all the planking and bottoms were replaced at Puttenham and we are now fitting decks and cabin. BCN Photos
Judith Ann shown here just after launching from Jem Bates yard at Puttenham. (Owners pic)
LION; Harris's of Netherton tug built for Hardy Spicer's in the 1940's. Recently on dry land at Booth lane, and has now moved to Barthomley in Cheshire for re-building. Originally powered by a Lister JP3, with 4 bladed propeller.
MERCURY; Ex FMC steamer COLONEL; 1899, Saltley composite. Regd BHM 1040. Converted to motorboat 1924. G.J.Gauge No 11607. When shortened by Ernest Thomas, the boat was called MERCURY. Recently lengthened using side plates from the FMC butty BRENTFORD. Now based on the GU at Uxbridge.
PACIFIC; Ex FMC steamer VICTORY; 1911, Saltley composite. Regd BHM 1247. Converted to motorboat 1927. Became James Yates's tug PACIFIC. Re-named MALLARD when converted to a hire boat. Oct 2000 at Stockton. March 2001 for sale at Stockton. Sold by October 2001.
PRIMUS; built for W. H. Bowater's Photo
ROAMA; Built by Yarwoods in 1938 for the LMS Railway Co. One of a number of tugs operated by the LMS became Tug No 1. Is of wooden construction and was used on the Trent and Mersey Canal. Engine Russel Newbury DM2 Photo
SANDBACH; Built by Yarwoods of Northwich in February 1946 as a 25ft long boat. Again built as both a Tug and Ice breaker, she was lengthened by 10ft later in 1946 to her present length 35ft.Passed into BWB ownership and sold by them in early 1980s. Refitted with a 2 cyl Bolinder engine about this time. photo
SALLY; Ex FMC steamer MARQUIS; No 237;1898, Saltley composite. Regd BHM 1002. Converted to motorboat 1925. Captained by Sam Slater on the GJC 1910. Sold to Joseph Holloway of Oldbury. Later sold to J. Haywood of Tipton, and re-named SALLY. Became a pleasure boat called CALYPSO. At some time shortened for tugging (54ft).New cabin built Spring 2000 at Brinklow. Engine Lister FR3. Attended Braunston in July 2000. BCN Photos
SPITFIRE; BCN tug, 46ft in length. Built by Harris's of Netherton in 1940 for Leonard Leigh Ltd. Converted to pleasure use in 1961, by Allen Bros, Oldbury. In 1972 made into a 42 seater trip boat on the Chesterfield Canal. In 1985 converted to a pleasure boat again, with a steel cabin. Now a converted boat powered by a Perkins diesel. Sold in October 2001, now based on the Caldon Canal.
STEWARTS & LLOYDS N0 2; Ex GUCC motor, ALGOL; No 5, Small Woolwich motor, built 1935, Regd Brentford 554, GU No 12433. Sold by GUCCC in June 1940 to Stanton & Staveley tube works for £950.00. Registered at Ilkeston in Nov 1941 No99. The boat became No 51 in the Stanton fleet. Sold in July 1947 to Stewarts & Lloyds at Halesowen, to become Tug No 2. Shortened, by W Harris of Netherton, and a new cabin added and tug deck. Currently Oct 2000, at Saul Junction having a steel bottom fitted.
THE DART; Ex FMC steamer DUTEOUS; 1923, Uxbridge wooden. Regd BHM 1448. Converted to motorboat 1924. At some time the boat was called VICTORY. Ended it's life as Peter Keay's 70ft tug called THE DART. 1993 sunk on the BCN at Walsall.
TEMPEST; BCN tug. Built for Leonard Leigh Ltd, by Harris's of Netherton.
TYPHOON; BCN tug, based at Hanwell. Built for Leonard Leigh Ltd by Harris's of Netherton. Similar boat to REDCAP. Originally had engine installed amidships. photos
Wharf, 'ampton boats, or big boats, were built of wood, and solely used on the Wolverhampton level of the BCN. This level, 40 miles in length had no locks, and was the main coal route from Cannock into Wolverhampton. It thus made sense to build boats of a larger gauge; the length and width it is said, being determined by the limitations of the junction at Pelsall Common. The typical load for a wharf boat was 45tons, possibly 50 maximum. All the boats had a typical day boat cabin, with timber towing head in the stern well deck. A further addition was an extension to the rudder that slotted over the rudder blade to give more leverage against the flow of water. The majority of the wharf boats were single ended. There are a few wharf boats extant but they are all sunk and in danger of being lost forever.
All the entries here are the large wharf or 'ampton boats . The entries are currently from December 1916 to September 1937. Entries are made under company ownership, with the company name first, and address in the gauging book. The boat name follows, if no name or number is indicated, then these entries are blank in the book. BCN gauge No, and date of gauge follow; size of the boat, (length and width), and the freeboard with maximum load on, at test at Tipton or Smethwick gauging stations.
ALBION COAL CO; Wolverhampton.
BCN 343, 28/7/1922. 76ft10" x 7ft8.25" 49ton @ 0.75"FB
ASTBURY & BARROW; Can Lane Wharf.
DENNIS; BCN 1230, 17/12/1926. 82ft7" x 7ft8.5" 52ton @ 0.00"FB, (presumed sunk!)
LITTLE JIM; BCN 23193, 23/6/1920. 79ft6" x 7ft6.5". 46ton @ 0.18"FB.
ANNIE; BCN 22605, 11/12/1916. 76ft10" x 7ft6.5". 46ton @ 0.48"FB.
BCN 1876, 13/9/1935. 88ft10" x 7ft9.5". 61ton @ 0.48"FB
BCN 747, 22/10/1923. 72ft 8" x 7ft2.5"
BCN 445, 2/10/1922. 84ft4" x 7ft8.5"
No 2, BCN 1125, 1/12/1925. 82ft 9" x 7ft7.5" 50 ton @ 0.32" Freeboard
No3, BCN 1216, 1/11/1926. 83ft9" x 7ft8.5" 50ton @ 0.48"FB
No4; BCN 1376, 25/2/1928. 85ft0" x 7ft9" 54ton @ 0.21"FB
E DYKE, Lanesfield.
AUBREY; No2, BCN 1037, 30/3/1925. 80ft2" x 7ft7" 51ton 0.12"FB
DOWN & OUT; BCN 1214, 21/10/1926. 83ft7" x 7ft8.5" 49ton @ 0.72"FB
FLORENCE; BCN 933, 8/10/1924, 82ft4" x 7ft8"
W. ELWELL & SONS Ltd, Tipton.
IVY; BCN 1746, 25/1/1933. 88ft9" x 7ft10" 58ton @ 0.48"FB.
MR. PERKINS; BCN 1793, 7/2/1934. 86ft4" x 7ft8.5" 57ton @ 0.64"FB
UNCLE JIM; BCN 1770, 19/7/1933. 84ft x 7ft8.25". 54ton @ 0.7"FB
S.EVANS & Sons, Wolverhampton.
HANNAH; BCN 1623, 22/7/1930. 86ft0" x 7ft8". 55ton @ 0.44"FB
FANSHAW & PINSON, Wolverhampton.
ANNIE; BCN 159, 30/1/1922. 75ft7" x 7ft6.5" 49ton @ 0.47"FB
PONGO; BCN 1446, 29/11/1928. 76ft5" x 7ft6.5"
SHEILA; BCN 1758, 28/4/1933. 85ft10 x 7ft8" 55ton @ 0.30"FB
J FOULKES, Wednesfield.
TONY; BCN 1772, 21/8/1933. 87ft6" x 7ft8.5" 57ton @ 0.48"FB
RON; BCN 1801, 25/4/1934. 88ft x 7ft8.25". 58ton @ 0.33"FB
GEORGE & MATTHEWS; Wolverhampton.
FLORENCE; BCN 348, 31/7/1922. 79ft4" x 7ft7.25"
A. GRIFFITHS & CO, Walsall.
JACK; BCN 882, 16/7/1924.
J HENLEY; Heath Town Dock.
PEARL; BCN 1099, 30/9/1925. 87ft x 7ft8" 56ton @ 0.51"FB
J HICKINBOTTOM & SONS, Wednesbury.
No, W.A. BCN 1777, 29/9/1933. 84ft7" x 7ft8.5". 53ton @ 0.67"FB
BETTY; BCN 1778, 9/10/1933. 84ft5" x 7ft10.25". 55ton @ 0.34"FB
THOMAS SIDNEY; BCN 1952, late No 15765. 16/4/1937. 80ft9" x 7ft8". 49ton @ 0.7"FB
CHAS INGLES; Horsley fields.
VIOLET; BCN 395, 25/8/1922. 77ft3" x 7ft8"
J. INGLES; Spring Vale.
ISIS; BCN No 23033 76ft6" x 7ft5". 30/6/1919. 46ton @ 0.80"FB
JONES & POWELL, Ettingshall.
BEATRICE LILY; No1. BCN 1420, 27/8/1928. 81ft3" x 7ft8". 52 Ton @ 0.55" FREEBOARD
EDNA IRENE; BCN 1840, 1/2/1935. 86ft8" x 7ft8.5". 58ton @ 0.04"FB
IRIS MOREEN; BCN 1720, 20/5/ 1932. 86ft 2" x 7ft 8.25". 57ton @ 0.25"FB
SAMUEL; BCN 1605, 28/5/1930, 85ft7" x 7ft*.5". 53 Ton @ 0.09" FREEBOARD
CONTENTED; BCN 1052, 21/5/1925. 81ft10" x 7ft8.25". 50ton @ 0.77"FB
MICH; BCN 1039, 1/4/1925. 82ft0" x 7ft8" 51ton @ 0.47"FB
MIND WHAT YOUR A DOIN; BCN 1383, 21/3/1928. 84ft x 7ft9" 51ton @ 0.42"FB
E.PROBERT & Sons, Millfields.
PROSPER; BCN 1416, 20/8/1928. 85ft4" x 7ft8.5". 52 ton @ 0.74" FREEBOARD.
PROCEED; BCN 1217, 3/11/1926. 78ft5" x 7ft6".
PROMPT; BCN 1736, 19/8/1932. 87ft8" x 7ft10.5". 59 ton @ 0.08" FREEBOARD
PROSPERITY; BCN 1239, 10/1/1927. 84ft8" x 7ft8". 51 ton @ 0.12" FREEBOARD
E.W.REID, Dudley Port.
BILL; BCN 2380, 5/6/1957. The last wharf boat to be registered on the BCN.
2369; BCN 2369, 16/2/1955.
No3; BCN 208, 23/3/1922. 75ft7" x 7ft5.5"
EWAT; BCN 1591, 26/4/1930. 83ft 0" x 7ft9". 50ton @ 0.29"FB
F. ROBINSON, Wolverhampton,
GEORGE HARDY; BCN 1537, 2/12/1929. 79ft7" x 7ft8.5" 50ton @ 0.11"FB
SEAGRAVE; BCN 1535, 26/11/1929. 83ft1" x 7ft9" 50ton @ 0.59"FB
SOUTHAM COALING Co, Wolverhampton.
BCN 1046, 1/5/1925. 82ft3" x 7ft7.25"
BCN 678,22/6/1923. 80ft7" x 7ft8.25"
JUNE; BCN 975, 5/12/1924. 83ft4" x 7ft8.5"
ONE X; BCN 1081, 31/8/1925. 82ft x 7ft8". 50ton @ 0.76"FB
BCN 856, 12/5/1924. 82ft2" x 7ft8.25"
MAYFLOWER; BCN 757, 5/11/1923. 82ft6" x 7ft8.5"
J & E TAYLOR, Horsley fields.
BCN 1725, 27/6/1932. 85ft5" x 7ft8.25" 52ton @ 0.02"FB
A G & D THOMAS, Horsley fields.
JOE LOGGER; BCN 1254, 9/2/1927. 84ft10" x 7ft9" 55ton @ 0.52"FB
OLIVE; BCN 1082, 2/9/1925. 79ft7" x 7ft7.5"
YOUNG TOM; BCN 1338, 4/10/1927. 85ft6" x 7ft9". 53ton @ 0.13"FB
MARGE; BCN 1696, 18/9/1931. 88ft0" x 7ft10". 59ton @ 0.39"FB
RAY; BCN 1663, 24/3/1931. 87ft11" x 7ft9". 56ton @ 0.26"FB
J.TOOLE Ltd, Bilston.
DOVE; BCN 23123, 5/3/1920. 79ft5" x 7ft5.75". 45ton @ 0.21"FB.
FRANCES; BCN 1086, 8/9/1925. 83ft8" x 7ft7.5" 54ton @ 0.69"FB
GWENDOLINE; BCN 1087, 9/9/1925. 84ft9" x 7ft9". 53ton @ 0.28"FB
BCN 22651, 13/4/1917. 81ft6" x 7ft7.5". 51ton @ 0.34"FB.
H.TURTON; Monmore Green,
ADELINE; BCN 1741, 16/9/1932. 87ft4" x 7ft9.25" 56ton @ 0.42"FB
BRENDA; BCN 1745, 31/10/1932. 86ft8" x 7ft10.75". 58ton @ 0.20"FB
J. TURTON, Tipton
BCN 699, 30/7/1923. 83ft6" x 7ft8.25" 52ton @ 0.62FB
MARJORIE; BCN 777, 19/12/1923. 78ft8" x 7ft8.25"
PROSPERITY; BCN 23270, 15/10/1920. 78ft8" x 7ft"8".
W & S WARREN; Rough Hills.
EVELYN; BCN 1042, 6/4/1925. 82ft x 7ft8". 50ton @ 0.52"FB
No 1; BCN 1804, 16/5/1934. 88ft x 7ft8.5". 57ton @ 0.23"FB
No 12, BCN 567, 31/1/1923. 80ft6" x 7ft9.5"
BCN 23094, 2/1/1920. 77ft9" x 7ft6.75". 46ton @ 0.29"FB
BCN 749, 22/10/1923. 84ft6" x 7ft8.75".
BCN 1672, 13/5/1931. 86ft2" x 7ft9". 56ton @ 0.17"FB
JACK; BCN 134, 14/11/1921. 79ft 10" x 7ft7.25". 49ton @ 0.47"FB
VERA; BCN 23334, 19/1/1921. 80ft1" x 7ft7". 48ton @ 0.47"FB
WULFRUNA COAL CO, Wolverhampton.
BCN 781, 28/12/1923. 76ft1" x 7ft6.25"
AMY; BCN 986, 29/12/1924. 82ft11" x 7ft8". 50ton @ 0.68"FB
ARGO; BCN 782, 28/12/1923. 76ft4" x 7ft6.25"
IRIS; BCN 1751, 24/2/1933. 88ft x 7ft9.5" 58ton @ 0.49"FB
MARGARET; BCN 1041, 3/4/1925. 77ft x 7ft8.5"
UNA IRENE; BCN 1154, 22/3/1926. 82ft x 7ft8.5" 50ton @ 0.45"FB
ELIZABETH; BCN 942, 17/10/1924, 82ft8" x 7ft7.75"
FLORENCE; BCN 886, 21/7/1924. 81ft9" x 7ft8.5"
JESSIE; BCN 795, 16/1/1924. 82ft8" x 7ft8.75"
LITTLE BILL; BCN 1413, 25/7/1928. 84ft10" x 7ft8.5" 52ton @ 0.16"FB
RUBY; BCN 1503, 11/7/1929. 84ft7" x 7ft9" 50ton @ 0.74"FB
SIDNEY JOHN; BCN 1320, 29/8/1927. 83ft3" x 7ft8.5" 51ton @ 0.04"FB