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About Hastings

  • Birthday 07/04/1946

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  1. Jack Roberts, a fly-boat captain on the Shropshire Union system until fly-boating ended in 1921, describes his boating in his book Shropshire Union Fly-Boats, written in the late 1960s, but published by us only four years ago. Jack came out of retirement in about 1960 to steer Hostelcraft’s boat, Margaret, with Clydesdale horse Mary. Trips started at Stretford. The first week (with passengers paying about £8) was to Llangollen, then the boat visited Tettenhall, then on to destinations such as Coventry, Stratford (obviously from 1964 onwards, when the canal reopened), Leamington, Stourport etc. The boat initially carried 20, in two dormitories, but this was later reduced to 12, to provide better facilities. The steerer, mate and cook slept in the boatman’s cabin and fore-cabin. Jack talks of another boat, Firebrand, running from Guildford to near Hatton – it couldn’t get further up the Grand Union, being 10’ beam (who says wide boats going up the GU is recent? There was also cargo carrying Progress in the 60s). Jack once took Firebrand up the Thames to Abingdon – difficult, as the towing path was no longer suitable for horses, with field fences going right to the river’s edge, so he had to move and replace them where he could, or take the horse on an inland route via paths and roads. Near Lechlade, they had to lead George the horse across the lock-gates!
  2. I see that CRT has proposed that the Shroppie is closed both before Christmas (Tyrley Locks and Market Drayton Embankment) as well as after Christmas (Audlem Lock 12 and Hack Green). In past years, it's always been one or other, so giving some chance to go winter boating. A stoppage of almost three months, apart from the usual short window at Christmas, is excessive, and extremely unfair on canalside communities that rely on canal trade. Does this come about because CRT has now split the management of the Shroppie main line between two areas, with the boundary just south of Audlem? It all used to come under Northwich.
  3. Absolutely right, Dave. I remember coming across them in various places around Suttons in the late 1960s. Peter
  4. (It was Jack, not Alf - I published it!) I've always assumed that the Tilstone building was built for the same purposes as other lock hovels - shelter for maintenance people and lock-keepers. There are other examples, though not so attractive, at Audlem locks 4 and 15. The buildings had stoves, for comfort and boiling water/cooking purposes, but were very small. At Audlem, there were lock cottages at locks 1, 8 and 13 (those at 1 and 13 still exist, though that at 1 has recently been rebuilt such that Telford would turn in his grave), so cover from the elements was available throughout the flight. Other locks on the Shroppie had cottages or hovels. The point to bear in mind though, was that the section of canal containing Tilstone was the Chester Canal, which opened nearly 60 years before the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction from Wolverhampton to Nantwich - hence perhaps the different architectural style. Fly-boats did operate 24 hours a day, but didn't need lock-keepers to help them through; they usually had a crew of four (two on duty, and two "sleepers", who'd be called out for lock flights).
  5. We publish Shropshire Union Fly-Boats, written by Jack Roberts, who was a fly-boat captain before WW1 and until fly-boating finished on the Shroppie around 1921. There's no suggestion in his book that fly-boats went noticeably faster than other boats, but points made above would suggest that they were perhaps a bit faster. They were barrel sided (rounded), and quite light being wood, not iron, as some others at the time would have been. The key points are that the channel was far deeper than now (probably at least four feet), well dredged to the sides, and horses (changed fairly regularly) will always be faster than a motor, on average, especially as they accelerate faster in flights. Jack claimed that they normally cleared the Audlem flight of 15 locks (spread over 1.5 miles) in 55 minutes. Try that now! And the key thing is that Shroppie fly-boats operated 24 hours a day, more or less to a timetable, with a crew of four, though with two sleeping at quieter times. Jack gives some timings in his book, though there's never all the details we'd like. But we know that Birmingham to the Port (Ellesmere Port) was not a lot over 24 hours. Remember also that the fly-boats weren't plagued by miles of moored boats, so they didn't slow down. Incidentally, there seems no real evidence that Shroppie fly-boats had precedence over other boats. I suspect that only applied to packet boats carrying passengers, and there probably weren't any (or many) in fly-boat days on the Shroppie. I'm not able to comment on what was the case with other canals.
  6. The 11th Gathering will be held in the bottom three pounds of the Audlem flight on the Shropshire Union Canal on 27/28 July 2019. Entries are invited for any ex-working boat built up to 1962. For insurance reasons, the person responsible for the boat must be a member of the Historic Narrow Boat Club. Please contact Audlem Mill - [email protected] to enter your boat.
  7. Hi Henry - I don't have any pictures of Erebus, and in fact did not know of its existence until it appeared in this thread. Also, I don't think that it's on the HNBC list. I'd like to create an entry in the digital version of "Historic Working Narrow Boats Today" that I keep up to date, ready for a future reprint. Would you have a suitable photo I could us? Also, it would help to know length, approx. date built and original owner, if you know. I think I'm right in saying that just about all ice breakers were built for a specific canal company - there are examples around built for Shropshire Union, BCNS, Oxford Canal etc. Many thanks, Peter, CanalBookShop
  8. Within a few days, we'll have the book in stock at Audlem Mill, and available on mail order from www.canalbookshop.co.uk Peter
  9. We have just had it reprinted, and it is now available again on Amazon or from us. CanalBookShop, Audlem Mill
  10. Adie - You may be aware that I wrote and published two books which contain a photo and details of all known historic ex-working narrowboats (Historic Working Narrow Boats Today vols. 1 & 2). Between them, they contain not far off a thousand boats. You can see more about them at www.canalbookshop.co.uk/canalbookshop%20books.html . I didn't know about your ice boat - but do now! Although a new edition of the booksis not imminent, I try to keep the electronic copy of the book up to date, ready for the day. Might I please use your photo? If so, please PM me with your full name, as we attribute photos to whoever took them. Many thanks. Peter, CanalBookShop
  11. Although our shop is closed until the end of February, we can help if you phone us on 01270 811059 - or you can order Knots for the Cut from our book website at http://www.canalbookshop.co.uk/knots.html
  12. Merely out of curiosity you understand ...... and I fully appreciate there aren't many built after 1960 ....... but off the top of my head I can think of three ...... so why not? I seem to remember a thread on here some while ago which listed around 14 or 17 boats that have been built as cargo carrying narrow boats since the 1960s. But the key is that this is a show of historic boats, so we draw the line somewhere. 1960 saw the last boats built for carriers who had been going for decades, or a considerable number of years. Just about all boats built since then have (I believe) been one-offs for individual people, none of whom traded under the names seen prior to 1960. No doubt someone will now tell me how wrong I am - but I'm still drawing the line at 1960! And taking pedantry to the extreme, but "built up to 1960" would actually exclude those built throughout 1960! Alan, you are of course right. Can I amend that to "built up to the end of 1960"? Pedant alert over, I hope!
  13. This year's (10th) annual gathering of historic boats at Audlem on the Shroppie is on 28/29 July. Though a fair few boats are already booked in, we still have space for more. An ex-working boat built up to 1960 is invited to book in - please email [email protected]
  14. Hastings


  15. We might consider stocking your new book in our shop at Audlem Mill on the Shroppie, and on our website CanalBookShop.co.uk. We stock by far the widest selection of canal books in Britain (at least 500 titles). When you know more, please contact us with details about the book, trade price etc. Best wishes Peter Silvester
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