I love the charm and history of the old working boats, even though I know that the reality of life for a working narrowboat family was a perpetual struggle of hard graft and making ends meet. Not to mention the accidents at work and the short life expectancy!

If you share my interest you may like to check out The Historic Narrow Boat Club. It was formed in 1966 and is dedicated to preserving the working heritage of UK canals, from the UKs waterways to the boats themselves. They are passionate about working boats, traditional skills, the built heritage, and the practices and courtesies of the working boat people. They welcome all who support their aims, whether boat owners or not.

Despite it being just a village, if you’re into canal heritage you will have heard of Braunston, home of the old waterways depot at the northern end of the Grand Junction Canal where it joined up with the Oxford Canal. The Grand Junction has since been renamed the Grand Union Canal but still bears regular markers indicating how many miles to go until Braunston.

Braunston Marina host an annual Historic Boat Rally at the end of June, with over 80 old working narrow boats joining the parade, many of which are on the national Historic Boat Register. The day includes live music, Morris dancing, side shows, craft displays, trade exhibitors, tunnel legging and of course a beer tent.

If you’re enthusiastic enough to consider owning such a vessel you may also be interested in restoration. Bates Boatyard at Puttenham, and Bulbourne, Hertfordshire are specialists in historic wooden narrowboat restoration and a number of projects are usually run side by side. On site at the moment they even have a 1912 Ice Boat among many other interesting historic narrowboats.

We are proud to have a 62 foot historic narrowboat on our books at the moment. ‘Spade’ was originally built in 1929 with a riveted iron hull and an elm bottom and was an open, horse-drawn, butty. She was probably horse drawn throughout her working life which was mainly on ‘The Shroppie’ and at one time she was home to a family with six children. Read a summary of her fascinating history here. Historic Narrowboat For Sale (lots of photographs).

Alternatively our Admiralty Pinnace is a rare find. She dates from 1919 and would grace any historic collection and hold her head up in any classic company.

If you’re not looking for a narrowboat project or a historic narrowboat for sale we have all sorts of canal boats, narrow boats and barges for sale in Hertfordshire and London on the Grand Union Canal. We also cover the River Lea.

What’s your dream boat? Steeped in history or modern and stylish? Do you have a boat for sale that someone out there would love to restore? We love to talk about canal boats on Facebook and Twitter Try the hash tag #boatsthattweet

Peggy Melmoth

You may also like:
Living on a Boat: The Boatshed Guide / Roving Traders and the CRT Council / Canal Diary 2012 / A slideshow of our boat of the moment. / Blog Archive.

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