1910 wooden canal boat saved!

Posted by Chris Graham on 18th January 2022

Colin Wareing reports on the chance discover, rescue and on-going restoration of a wonderful, 1910 wooden canal boat.

1910 wooden canal boat

1910 wooden canal boat saved! Photographed in July 2020, narrow boat Conway passes the disused locks at Appley Bridge on the Leeds & Liverpool canal. Having been unloved for a while, it’s recently been bought by a chap from the Liverpool area, and is seen here on its way to Litherland, for restoration. (Pic: Colin Wareing)

Back in 2018, a wooden canal boat that started life as a butty in 1910, was noticed languishing in a sunken state on the Grand Union canal at Braunston by a lorry driver from Liverpool, who happened to take a wander down the canal’s towpath which on a break from the cab.

1910 wooden canal boat

Conway moored at Burscough Wharf on a sunny October morning in 2021. The boat was rescued from a watery sunken state in Braunston, on the Grand Union canal in Northamptonshire, back in 2018, and taken to Litherland near Liverpool after being pumped out and made waterproof enough to make the trip. (Pic: Colin Wareing)

The driver, Glynn, had a hankering for a new project and a long-held desire for a wooden boat, so he decided to rescue Conway. After pumping the boat out and refloating it, making it watertight and getting the engine going again, he and a mate took it further north, to a mooring in Litherland, on the Leeds & Liverpool canal, near Liverpool.

1910 wooden canal boat

The back cabin roof and hatch cover on Conway, seen here with the boat at Burscough wharf, on the Leeds & Liverpool canal in West Lancashire. (Pic: Colin Wareing)

Over the past two years, much restoration work has been undertaken on the boat, which has included replacing a lot of timbers in the hull, re-blacking it, replacing the wooden cabin, plus fitting a replacement engine and gearbox. Glyn is now working on the internal fit-out.

Conway’s former cargo-carrying hold is being converted to two bedrooms for leisure use; a far cry from how things were when the boat was working on the canals in the Midlands, around Birmingham. (Pic: Colin Wareing)

The boat started life as a butty in 1910, being built for Thomas Claytons of Oldbury, and becoming No.19 in its fleet. It was sold to ICI in 1949, and was shortened from its original 70ft length to 60ft, and motorised with an engine. After that it was mainly used as a tanker boat carrying oil and chemicals.

The ‘new’ engine in the ‘new’ engine room aboard Conway. This Saab engine replaced the Ailsa Craig unit that was in the boat when it was rescued from Braunston. The owner is restoring the boat and will build a new engine room around this engine, then a traditional, boatman’s cabin in the space beyond. (Pic: Colin Wareing)

The boat has now been moved to a new mooring on the Bridgewater canal, where work will continue on the engine room fit-out, the installation of a bathroom and the inclusion of a traditional boatman’s cabin. The area that was the hold has started its transformation into the sleeping area, and will remain with a clothed-up covering.

A lot of hard work has gone into the project so far and the boat’s already looking great. Hopefully I’ll be invited back again to see the finished project.

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