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The Golden Age of Canals Documentary.


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26 minutes ago, Felshampo said:

Your being kind. I think most are ignorant of the history of the canals even as resently as the 1980s. Let alone the IWA and the state they were in in the 60s and 70's. I heard a podcast by the "Angry Boater" with another London liveaboard complaining about some old fogey from the IWA who stood up in a meeting and tried to put the condition of the London canals into some kind of context. They clearly had no idea about the work that had been done by volunteers only thirty or forty years ago. I think many of them believe the canals were all in perfect condition up until about ten years ago. 

I think I just remembered his name but may be wrong, David Fletcher had a boat at Bulbourne

 

https://www.newcivilengineer.com/archive/news-in-brief-british-waterways-chief-executive-david-fletcher-24-01-2002/

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2 hours ago, ditchcrawler said:

I think I just remembered his name but may be wrong, David Fletcher had a boat at Bulbourne

 

https://www.newcivilengineer.com/archive/news-in-brief-british-waterways-chief-executive-david-fletcher-24-01-2002/

Don't forget Sir Reginald Kerr, General Manager BW, 1955 until 1962, was a waterways enthusiast (had some connection with the Lower Avon Navigation restoration), and cruised widely.  While Kerr saw the waterways as being principally for the carriage of freight he saw the need and desirability of encouraging leisure cruising, especially on the lesser used waterways, and supported the development of a BW fleet of hire, passenger and hotel boats.    And of course the current CRT Chief Exec has made no secret of his boating and general waterway  interest.

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Sir Frank Price also did a lot of boating,

 

It also seems that the amount of work done by volunteers (ie virtually none, not least because the unions would never have allowed it) on the network as a whole is vastly overstated. That's not to say that we do not have a lot to thank the likes of the WRG for but in mileage terms the vast majority of the system had never seen a volunteer until CRT days.

 

As well as the obstructive idiots, it should be remembered that BWB had a lot of very knowledgable and very enthusiastic staff (including a lot of ex-boatmen) doing their very best with limited resources and political interference. Round these parts it was a point of principle that materials should be transported by water whenever possible until the last decade or so.

 

Unfortunately the re-organisations of the 1990's started the practice of bringing outsiders in who little understanding or care for what they were managing, and those who spoke up were (and still are) marginalised or "encouraged" to leave altogether. Standards of maintenance now are fast slipping back to where we were in the early 80's.

1 minute ago, Mac of Cygnet said:

I hadn't realised that the indomitable Barbara Castle was so interested in the promotion of canals while Transport Minister.  Was her influence as great as was depicted in the documentary?

Yes, she was crucial - but only after a lot of lobbying and persuasion by those at the top of BW at the time.

 

Had she said no, it would probably have been game over for almost all of the narrow canal network.

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3 minutes ago, Mac of Cygnet said:

I hadn't realised that the indomitable Barbara Castle was so interested in the promotion of canals while Transport Minister.  Was her influence as great as was depicted in the documentary?

I believe so.  The only downside was the loss of the Right of Navigation (1968 Act).

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3 minutes ago, Rose Narrowboats said:

Sir Frank Price also did a lot of boating,

 

It also seems that the amount of work done by volunteers (ie virtually none, not least because the unions would never have allowed it) on the network as a whole is vastly overstated. That's not to say that we do not have a lot to thank the likes of the WRG for but in mileage terms the vast majority of the system had never seen a volunteer until CRT days.

 

As well as the obstructive idiots, it should be remembered that BWB had a lot of very knowledgable and very enthusiastic staff (including a lot of ex-boatmen) doing their very best with limited resources and political interference. Round these parts it was a point of principle that materials should be transported by water whenever possible until the last decade or so.

 

Unfortunately the re-organisations of the 1990's started the practice of bringing outsiders in who little understanding or care for what they were managing, and those who spoke up were (and still are) marginalised or "encouraged" to leave altogether. Standards of maintenance now are fast slipping back to where we were in the early 80's.

Yes I'd forgotten Sir Frank Price - a remarkable man.  I think the Lower Avon, Stratford Canal and Upper Avon had a great deal of volunteer input although David Hutchings did employ a very small number of full time staff on the latter two (Eric Pritchard one if I remember correctly), and prisoners - who might or not fall into the volunteer category!  Was there not a considerable volunteer role in the restoration of the Stourbridge, Peak Forest and Ashton Canals?  Later  restorations (the 'impossible ones') such as the Huddersfield (very) Narrow Canal and Rochdale Canal were completed relatively quickly by contractors so maybe the volunteer input was less in those years.

Although BW did bring in people from 'outside' (which can be beneficial in any organisation - Sir Frank Price being a case in point) there are still staff at all levels within CRT whose waterway service goes back many years - at a senior level we have, as examples,  Julie Sharman  the Chief Operating Officer, a highly experienced and respected waterway engineer/manager, Stuart Mills (Chief Investment Officer), and local to me Sean McGinley  (Yorkshire/NE Regional Director), and Stuart McKenzie (Harbour Master, Freight and other  roles).  Standards of maintenance have fallen (though not universally) since the 1980s simply because government funding has been cut substantially since those 'golden years' and of course the network has expanded with more mileage to maintain with less money and stricter standards being applied to strructures.  I think also (as a user of nearly 60 years, commercially for 50)  that our expectations have increased as well.

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21 minutes ago, fanshaft said:

I believe so.  The only downside was the loss of the Right of Navigation (1968 Act).

Indeed, although the corresponding obligation on the railways to carry anybody's goods was abandoned years before. For the Commercial and Cruiseway waterways (as designated under the 1968 Act), the loss of the Public Right of Navigation was replaced with an obligation to maintain those waterways in their 1968 condition, and in the 50 years since the loss of Remainder waterway routes has been minimal (although a few arms and basins have gone). So overall the loss of the PRN has not had the impact that was feared at the time.

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16 minutes ago, fanshaft said:

Later  restorations (the 'impossible ones') such as the Huddersfield (very) Narrow Canal and Rochdale Canal were completed relatively quickly by contractors so maybe the volunteer input was less in those years.

 

The Huddersfield restoration was kick started by volunteers in the early 80s, with restoration of Limekiln and Dungebooth locks at Upermill as a demonstration project. That secured local political support such that on the demise of the Greater Manchester Council in 1986 they allocated £6m of funding to the westen half of the HNC, which paid for most of the restoration from Ashton up to Diggle, apart from the infilled section in Stalybridge.

On the other side of the Pennines, West Yorkshire County Council, Calderdale and Kirklees led the restoration of the 'easy' bits on their canals, resulting in the reopening of the Rochdale between above Tuel Lane and Littleborough, and restoration of much of the eastern HNC.

Millennium funding then paid for the completion of both canals, carried out by contractors under the technical direction of BW.

In summary, the HNC wouldn't have happened without volunteers. On the Rochdale they had little direct input, but things would probably not have happened so quickly without the example of the Huddersfield.

Edited by David Mack
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3 hours ago, ditchcrawler said:

I think I just remembered his name but may be wrong, David Fletcher had a boat at Bulbourne

 

https://www.newcivilengineer.com/archive/news-in-brief-british-waterways-chief-executive-david-fletcher-24-01-2002/

 

My recollection may be wrong, but was it David Fletcher who lived at the house canalside (offside) at the rear of Bulbourne workshops? Or was it a gent by the name of Riley? And did the Boat CITY OF GLOUCESTER something to do with one or the other said gentleman? It used to be tied outside the workshops a lot. (Sorry, rubbish shots).

 

Some time prior to, there were several aviaries along the offside beyond the house. It was very tidy back in the eighties.

 

 

City of Gloucester a.jpg

City of Gloucester b.JPG

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1 hour ago, David Mack said:

Indeed, although the corresponding obligation on the railways to carry anybody's goods was abandoned years before. For the Commercial and Cruiseway waterways (as designated under the 1968 Act), the loss of the Public Right of Navigation was replaced with an obligation to maintain those waterways in their 1968 condition, and in the 50 years since the loss of Remainder waterway routes has been minimal (although a few arms and basins have gone). So overall the loss of the PRN has not had the impact that was feared at the time.

That is probably correct though we are now in a situation where the Trust has to maintain the waterways to a certain standard (and to issue craft licences subject to certain conditions) but has no obligation to actually permit anyone to navigate them! 

1 hour ago, David Mack said:

 

The Huddersfield restoration was kick started by volunteers in the early 80s, with restoration of Limekiln and Dungebooth locks at Upermill as a demonstration project. That secured local political support such that on the demise of the Greater Manchester Council in 1986 they allocated £6m of funding to the westen half of the HNC, which paid for most of the restoration from Ashton up to Diggle, apart from the infilled section in Stalybridge.

On the other side of the Pennines, West Yorkshire County Council, Calderdale and Kirklees led the restoration of the 'easy' bits on their canals, resulting in the reopening of the Rochdale between above Tuel Lane and Littleborough, and restoration of much of the eastern HNC.

Millennium funding then paid for the completion of both canals, carried out by contractors under the technical direction of BW.

In summary, the HNC wouldn't have happened without volunteers. On the Rochdale they had little direct input, but things would probably not have happened so quickly without the example of the Huddersfield.

Thanks for filling in with that level of detail David - very useful and interesting.

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If I recall correctly there was a report  about 1965 that was titled The future of the Inland Waterways signed by Sir Reginald Kerr but largely written by Charles Hadfield  (of Historical Books Fame). This highlighted the lack of commercial long term future for transport on the narrow canals. It also went into costings of filling  in and disposal, the drainage problems expected by infilling etc. and loss of water sales. Versus the leisure revenue potential long term. I think it was this report that produced the Transport Act 

1968 Giving us the commercial , cruiseways and remainder waterways,

On 20/02/2021 at 15:21, Rose Narrowboats said:

Sir Frank Price also did a lot of boating,

 

It also seems that the amount of work done by volunteers (ie virtually none, not least because the unions would never have allowed it) on the network as a whole is vastly overstated. That's not to say that we do not have a lot to thank the likes of the WRG for but in mileage terms the vast majority of the system had never seen a volunteer until CRT days.

 

As well as the obstructive idiots, it should be remembered that BWB had a lot of very knowledgable and very enthusiastic staff (including a lot of ex-boatmen) doing their very best with limited resources and political interference. Round these parts it was a point of principle that materials should be transported by water whenever possible until the last decade or so.

 

Unfortunately the re-organisations of the 1990's started the practice of bringing outsiders in who little understanding or care for what they were managing, and those who spoke up were (and still are) marginalised or "encouraged" to leave altogether. Standards of maintenance now are fast slipping back to where we were in the early 80's.

Yes, she was crucial - but only after a lot of lobbying and persuasion by those at the top of BW at the time.

 

Had she said no, it would probably have been game over for almost all of the narrow canal network.

The volunteer works of the 60's and early 70's on BW waterways was concentrated on the remainder waterways such as the lower Peak Forest and the Ashton, ,and the Nine locks up to Dale Street on the Rochdale. 

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On 20/02/2021 at 16:16, Derek R. said:

 

My recollection may be wrong, but was it David Fletcher who lived at the house canalside (offside) at the rear of Bulbourne workshops? Or was it a gent by the name of Riley? And did the Boat CITY OF GLOUCESTER something to do with one or the other said gentleman? It used to be tied outside the workshops a lot. (Sorry, rubbish shots).

 

Some time prior to, there were several aviaries along the offside beyond the house. It was very tidy back in the eighties.

 

 

City of Gloucester a.jpg

City of Gloucester b.JPG

David Fletcher did not live at Bulbourne.   Terry Riley  the local waterway manager did.  Caroline Clark, one of Rileys successors  lived in the house at the top lock.

 

David Fletcher moored his boat, circled in your pic at Bulbourne for a long while, including after he ceased to be BW CE

N

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50 minutes ago, Ogwr said:

 

The volunteer works of the 60's and early 70's on BW waterways was concentrated on the remainder waterways such as the lower Peak Forest and the Ashton, ,and the Nine locks up to Dale Street on the Rochdale. 

Although the Rochdale Nine were not BW.

Edited by David Mack
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1 hour ago, Ogwr said:

If I recall correctly there was a report  about 1965 that was titled The future of the Inland Waterways signed by Sir Reginald Kerr but largely written by Charles Hadfield  (of Historical Books Fame). This highlighted the lack of commercial long term future for transport on the narrow canals. It also went into costings of filling  in and disposal, the drainage problems expected by infilling etc. and loss of water sales. Versus the leisure revenue potential long term. I think it was this report that produced the Transport Act 

1968 Giving us the commercial , cruiseways and remainder waterways,

The volunteer works of the 60's and early 70's on BW waterways was concentrated on the remainder waterways such as the lower Peak Forest and the Ashton, ,and the Nine locks up to Dale Street on the Rochdale. 

Sir Reginald Kerr retired on 31st December 1962 but was retained as an 'adviser' for 12 months. He moved to the south west and from what I can gather his only connection after that was occasional letters to the BW house magazine.  He was obviously very attached to the waterways and his appointment had been (for him)  much more than a 'job'.  However despite his best efforts the losses mounted during his term in office.  There was an interim report in 1963 which might have had his name attached to it (I don't have a copy to hand) but the 1965 report 'The Facts about the Waterways' was in the name of the board, headed by chairman Sir John Hawton.

To what extent the Board influenced the 1968 Act is difficult to say but it probably welcomed the clarity it presented,  and would have been relieved by the loss of the Right of Navigation.  The IWA campaigned hard, but fruitlessly, for the retention of this right but did manage to get the maintenance duties included, no doubt against the Board's wishes as it had been the intention that this be entirely a matter for the minister.  The minister can, by Order in Council, upgrade or downgrade waterways, and change standards generally, but this would be subject to scrutiny in view of the standards laid down in the Act.  

Although I said that pleasure craft licences must be issued subject to certain conditions being met (BSS and insurance), no such protection appears to be in place for business users, and more recently the 2003 freight vessel registration and operating agreement terms don't provide for an automatic agreement from the Board (now the Trust).  So anyone seeking to open a marina or a hire boat business or a freight wharf or fleet could be prevented from operating because, for example, there isn't the funding needed to maintain the waterway to a standard which would allow the operation (water supplies, condition of locks, dredging etc) even though, in theory, that in itself would mean the Board (now the Trust) would be failing in its duty to maintain in accordance with the Act.

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On 20/02/2021 at 15:19, Mac of Cygnet said:

I hadn't realised that the indomitable Barbara Castle was so interested in the promotion of canals while Transport Minister.  Was her influence as great as was depicted in the documentary?

A bit about her here.

Barbara Castle.jpg

Edited by Ray T
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Evenin' all

 

I contributed to the Golden Age film - I did comment on the script, although naturally the film-maker followed his own view! Ignoring my own bit, I did enjoy the film visually without following the whole narrative. 

 

There was a  two-part Golden Age of Steam follow-up, which seems to have been much less shown. I contributed to the first of these, at Tywyn.

 

Some puzzling comments about the involvement of volunteers, something that we keep hearing about - I tend to agree with Rose and Fanshaft on this, but will resist the temptation to go on and on about this and other points raised! Unless people would like me to......

 

Barbara Castle was indeed a canal enthusiast in her own way - and she certainly related how the Treasury wanted to save some public money by closing any waterways that would have been more financially viable if they were water channeled or eliminated. She resisted this partly because she was a Blackburn MP, and because she had been on canal holidays! Had someone else been Minister, like her predecessor, the former Scottish mineworker Tom Fraser, it is likely that the Treasury view would have prevailed. Sometimes, just sometimes, it matters exactly who is in the right place at the right time. (Sometimes, it is pretty irrelevant, but not here). 

 

A lot of points raised here, but I'll leave it there for now. 

 

Stay safe, everyone 

 

Joseph   

 

 

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On 22/02/2021 at 14:51, fanshaft said:

Sir Reginald Kerr retired on 31st December 1962 but was retained as an 'adviser' for 12 months. He moved to the south west and from what I can gather his only connection after that was occasional letters to the BW house magazine.  He was obviously very attached to the waterways and his appointment had been (for him)  much more than a 'job'.  However despite his best efforts the losses mounted during his term in office.  There was an interim report in 1963 which might have had his name attached to it (I don't have a copy to hand) but the 1965 report 'The Facts about the Waterways' was in the name of the board, headed by chairman Sir John Hawton.

To what extent the Board influenced the 1968 Act is difficult to say but it probably welcomed the clarity it presented,  and would have been relieved by the loss of the Right of Navigation.  The IWA campaigned hard, but fruitlessly, for the retention of this right but did manage to get the maintenance duties included, no doubt against the Board's wishes as it had been the intention that this be entirely a matter for the minister.  The minister can, by Order in Council, upgrade or downgrade waterways, and change standards generally, but this would be subject to scrutiny in view of the standards laid down in the Act.  

Although I said that pleasure craft licences must be issued subject to certain conditions being met (BSS and insurance), no such protection appears to be in place for business users, and more recently the 2003 freight vessel registration and operating agreement terms don't provide for an automatic agreement from the Board (now the Trust).  So anyone seeking to open a marina or a hire boat business or a freight wharf or fleet could be prevented from operating because, for example, there isn't the funding needed to maintain the waterway to a standard which would allow the operation (water supplies, condition of locks, dredging etc) even though, in theory, that in itself would mean the Board (now the Trust) would be failing in its duty to maintain in accordance with the Act.

Charles Hadfield was indeed a member of the BW 1963 Board which was made up of the 'great and the good' with a token female. He may have at least helped to write either or both of the reports.  Robert Aickman was not a fan of Hadfield's dry style of writing. Other members of the Board were Admiral Sir Frederick Parham (vice-chairman), Mrs J Dower, Hon Alexander Hood, J Matthews,  and (Arnold) Allen who was General Manager.  A later Chairman, Sir Frank Price, reveals much of the machinations and politics in his autobiography. Sir Frank was very much in the public eye and in particular worked hard to promote freight on the Commercial waterways, and especially the modernization of the SYN.  Today's CRT Board of Trustees, all volunteers, is probably rather more diverse and less 'old school tie'. 

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12 hours ago, IanD said:

I think the Golden Age of Steam films were what I was getting confused about when I said there was a series...

:offtopic: 

There was also a good series on the BBC called "The Train now Departing."

 

 

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Charles Hadfield was also involved in The IWA Inland Shipping Group and later returned to the IWA Council .

Sir Frank Price political skills were honed in the Birmingham City council and definitely 

worked hard to 'sell; the waterways.in the corridors of power. 

The Fraenkel Report was under his watch, not forgetting the notorious Tring summit scheme. He was also involved in the fight to prevent the the BWB waterways being fragmented into the Regional Water Authorities by the the then Environment  Junior Minister Eldon Griffiths and another treasury ply to get the canals off their accounting books

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2 hours ago, Ogwr said:

He was also involved in the fight to prevent the the BWB waterways being fragmented into the Regional Water Authorities

Although if that had happened, presumably by now the former BW waterways would all have been reunited under the Envirinment Agency!

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15 hours ago, David Mack said:

Although if that had happened, presumably by now the former BW waterways would all have been reunited under the Envirinment Agency!

Probably still with the under funding problem for navigation?

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18 hours ago, Ogwr said:

Charles Hadfield was also involved in The IWA Inland Shipping Group and later returned to the IWA Council .

 

He also went into partnership with David St John Thomas in about 1960 trading as David and Charles. They published a whole series of very good books on canals and railways.

 

Tam

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