Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Two New ‘Uns’.

dave the barge boy301

‘Dave the Barge Boy’   1909 Paperback.

One of the downsides to collecting old books is their often poor and tatty condition. So trying to obtain replacements which will have – a dust wrapper that isn’t torn or defaced, pages or illustrations that are not grubby or missing or better still (for diehard collectors)a copy that has been signed by the author can be a thankless task. Often, with the oldest & rarest books, this can take some time and sometimes is next to impossible. This is especially so with children's books ( Some of you may already be starting to yawn here). However as I have said before I make no apologies for collecting kids canal books as often ideas and even prejudices are formed when young minds and reading matter meet.

Discovering a book that you have never seen or heard of before and that isn’t mentioned in any canal bibliography is quite exciting. But to discover TWO such is for me at least, quite unparalleled.!dave the barge boy304

The Boy Barge Owners and Dave the Barge Boy were written by Sidney Floyd Gowing under the pseudonym David Goodwin and published in The Boys Friend Library series of pocket size books published by Amalgamated Press. The series ran from 1906 to 1940 when it ceased publication due to the German invasion of Norway and a consequent shortage of woodpulp & paper. This library series had many famous author contributors (W E Johns of Biggles fame for example) and was mostly reprints of stories that had been issued in earlier boys comics in the Amalgamated Presses stable from 1895 on e g  - Magnet,Boys Friend,Robin Hood &Hotspur.

This was true for both these 1909 & 1910 books which had previously been published in The Boys Friend comic in 1903. This makes them some of the earliest children’s canal adventure stories to be published in the UK and with their coloured period illustrated paper wrappers,seem to be, quite unique. I can think of only one earlier book and this was Aboard the Atlanta a full length hardback novel published in 1877.


The stories ….. As might be expected the stories are typically of the Edwardian schoolboy ‘Spiffing Yarn’ variety. ‘Dave the Barge Boy’  is set at Ware in Hertfordshire before progressing down the Lee Navigation and Bow Creek. The locations are authentically described as are descriptions of the boat and navigational details. Exciting adventures involving a lost inheritance and unscrupulous aristocrats are enjoyed before the Thames barge voyages up some of the east coast rivers.

Similar themes are found in ‘The Boy Barge Owners’  but the author seems to have lost the plot a bit in terms of locations and topographical details. The barge is described as being a flat bottomed craft which again travels the Thames and East coast rivers & creeks as well as making occasional forays to the inland waterways of Holland & Belgium. A trip up ‘the canal’ to Bristol is also thrown in for good measure. Some place names are real enough whilst others are invented and the latter day reader is left wondering quite what kind of craft could have made the journeys described.

A final note – There may be more of these early children’s stories out there  so if you know of any I would love to hear of them.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Some recent Canal ephemera at auction.

The sale rooms have been quiet of late but readers of this blog may find the following few items of interest.
Engraved glass inscribed ‘Success to the canal’  c1800.
Standing at 12cm high this piece of commemorative glass ware showed signs of age with a few chips round the base but was in generally good order. A rare survivor it was amazing that this item was given away for just £12. What a buy!!!
tea pot
Measham tea pots come and go and are never hard to find. The example above fetched just over £100 which seems to be about average.
Not so with the double spouted teapot shown above and dated 1893 which fetched £1,019 recently showing that rarity is one of the key influences on prices. Strangely enough another one of these ‘double spouters’ was auctioned at almost the same time last year (see my Nov 2011 post) together with two other rare items - a chamber pot and a vase.
Greetings postcard from Severn & Canal Co Xmas 1932.
Apologies for the poor reproduction of the  card above. It shows a fleet of the canal companies boats being towed by tug on the River Severn and is a very rare example of a Canal postcard issued by a carrying company. Auctioned for £30.
idle wom356
 ‘Over There. A story of Canal Life’  An extremely rare Victorian Moral Tale from 1889 .        
There have been quite a few rare books on E Bay recently  and the above is probably one of the hardest of all the Victorian Moral Tales to acquire.I have no idea why this should be so but a small print run could be the answer. Of course non of these little books are easy to find now and a complete collection could take a few years to form. This particular example is for auction on E Bay at the time of writing and is exceptionally rare in my experience.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

(2) ‘The Architectural Review’–Barbara Jones, Eric De Mare and Neo Romanticism (1930–50).

Part Two – The Wider Social Scene & Tom Rolt.
narrow boat
‘Narrow Boat’  L T C Rolt. First Edition 1944.
Pride of place in any canal book collection should probably go to ‘Narrow Boat’  and even though my own battered first edition copy with a far from intact dust jacket is signed by him, I have to admit that it is not my favourite book. Even so, like most people, I do recognize its importance.
So how did this book that raised a new realisation that our canals still existed and which prompted the formation of an organization to protect and preserve canals and thus usher in a new canal age, come to be written? This new awareness produced too an ever increasing number of books and articles such as the two described in Part 1 of this blog – ‘The Rose & Castle’  by Barbara Jones and ‘The Canals of England’  by Eric De Mare.
Tom Rolt’s book appeared in 1944 and was an immediate popular success story. To a public weary of the war it offered an escape to an older more peaceful time and as such it seems to be part of a movement that had existed in Britain since the end of the First World war.

Chalk Paths’  by Eric Ravelious. Watercolour on paper. 1935.
Neo  Romanticism –1930 –55.
The Depression years of the 1930’s saw a conscious movement in the arts away from the ugliness of the industrial revolution towards a simplified vision of a bygone era. The British Landscape as seen in the paintings of Eric Ravelious and John Piper for example shows a typically nostalgic and pastoral vision in simplified decorative terms.
‘Tithe Barn, Great Coxwell, Berkshire’  by John Piper.Watercolour.1940.
This new movement was not confined to painting but embraced most of the arts including literature, poetry, music, film and photography. At the same time and partially due to the depression years of the early 30’s there was an increased awareness of the Landscape and the countryside with its heritage and structures to be explored and enjoyed. Thus rambling became quite a vogue for a time to be especially enjoyed by those with no work & little money.
The uncertainties that the Great War and the depression unleashed, manifested themselves in an anxiety about increased urbanization and industrial development in some quarters and this was reflected in a nostalgic regret for the more simpler creations of the hand made and the artisan. 
Promotion & Film still from ‘ A Canterbury Tale’ 1944.Directors-Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger.
What are we fighting for’ ?
With the arrival of war in 1939 and the threat to Britain’s very existence in question, the government sought to boost national morale with a series of propaganda films such as ‘A Canterbury Tale’ . These tended to celebrate positive virtues in the English character – stoicism,liberalism etc. and especially an identification with the English pastoral landscape. Thus the English village, its lore and its characters were portrayed in a very romantic manner and in a setting that had remained relatively unchanged for centuries.
‘Recording Britain’   (1940 – 45.)
In tandem with the war time propaganda films the Government also sought to boost morale by employing artists to record and celebrate the country’s natural beauty and architectural heritage. This resulted in over 1500 paintings and drawings which sought to preserve the English landscape under threat from invasion or from ‘progress’ –development and road building etc. Rural industries under decline and their disappearing craftsmen found especial favour. So it is no coincidence that Barbara Jones was employed on this scheme and that her interest in everything quirky & esoteric in English working class art ,no matter how humble, should eventually find her drawn to the decoration of the Narrow Boats and thus the production of her article in the 1946 ‘Architectural Review’.            
   2 girls on a barge illus3300

Function & form. Eric de Mare’s photograph from ‘The Canals of England’ 1950.
Eric de Mares photographs are justly celebrated as being some of the finest ever taken of Britain’s canals. They were the first to celebrate the function and form of the canals in an artistic and professional way. They are above all, romantic and extremely nostalgic and fit the neo romantic profile perfectly.
Tom Rolt
I have tried to show how a backward look to a peaceful pastoral past, craftsmen, the handmade, ruralism and a love of country were all qualities craved for in an era dominated by the depression and the threat of war. These qualities were possessed in full by Tom Rolt and articulated in his book ‘Narrow Boat’  published in 1944. A complex character - Rolt was a strange mixture of Engineer,Philosopher and Romantic. In his writings,amongst other things, he decries industrialization and its soul destroying effects on the worker and looks back and praises the artisan and the hand made and in doing this he was yet another voice in a a chorus of others who had been saying much the same thing in the years before the war.
When I first ‘discovered’ the canal world in the mid 60’s I like many others was smitten and wanting to know more, discovered that there were few books available for enlightenment. ‘Narrow Boat’ having been in more or less continual publication since it was first issued was one of the few available and again like many others was struck by the authenticity of the authors voice and the strength and passion of his thoughts.So consequently I had tended to think that Rolt’s book  was the lone voice of a man who had discovered and fallen in love with the canal world and who wanted above all to preserve the indigenous way of life that he found there. This was the impression that I had and is the impression that is commonly given to this day. So it wasn’t until I had collected a few of the older books on the subject and become aware of the social background and artistic movements of Britain in the years before the war that I began to realise how much the germination of Tom Rolt’s ideas depended on the ‘times’ & it seemed to me that they were just part of a social,philosophical and artistic movement found in pre war England.
All the early canal voyagers – Aubertin, Bonthron, Thurston,Neale etc. were praising the virtues of the canals for leisure and pleasure use from the first world war period on, and by 1933 , William Bliss in his ‘The Heart of England by Waterway’  was adding the warning that they were fast disappearing.However the time wasn’t  ripe for the message to be listened to and it wasn’t until Narrow boat with Rolt’s message of a way of life that was under threat was published during the war that the message had a positive popular public response.  As I have shown, It was at this time too that Barbara Jones was becoming interested in the folk art of the canals.
So the message might not have been quite as original or as new as we are led to believe but that it was immediately and popularly successful there can be no doubt ( the first edition in October 1944 sold out by Christmas and was immediately reprinted in January 1945). Tom Rolt had written ‘Narrow Boat’  several years before but had failed to find a publisher but after several years of war it was a different story.
Tom Rolt, it seems, was the right man with the right message at the right time.

Monday, 11 November 2013

(1)‘The Architectural Review’, Barbara Jones, Eric De Mare & Neo Romanticism in Britain 1930–50.

Part One.....'Gaily Painted Barge buckets'.

Many of the early explorers of our waterway system described their adventures as if from some newly discovered foreign and exotic land and this was particularly so when they encountered the working population of the canals who are usually given an all too brief mention. Likewise early descriptions of the indigenous folk art of the canals - the 'Roses and Castles' of the narrow boats are rare and usually dismissed with a few words such as 'the gay decoration of the barges' or referring to Buckby cans as 'Gaily painted Barge buckets
Many of the early explorers of our waterway system described their adventures as if from some foreign and exotic land and this was particularly so when they came across the canal working population who are rarely mentioned. Likewise early descriptions of the indigenous folk art of the canals –‘The Roses and Castles’ of the narrow boats are rare and usually dismissed with a few words such as ‘the gay decoration of the barges’ or  referring to Buckby cans as ‘gaily painted barge buckets’.
This was all to change however with the publication in 1946 of ‘English Popular & Traditional Art’  by the historian Margaret Lambert & Enid Marx who was an artist/designer. They had been collecting examples of early English folk or popular art as it was sometimes called since the early 1930’s. In particular they had collected many examples of English Narrow Boat decoration and these items and much else were bequeathed to the museum at Compton Verney, Warwickshire where they can be seen to this day.
English popular and Traditional ArtPublished 1946.
It is to another artist however that we owe the honour of being the first to describe the ‘rose & castle’ decoration of the narrow boats in detail. An article published in the ‘Architectural Review’ in the same year as Marx & Lamberts book contained 8 pages of a first hand detailed verbal description of boat decoration together with drawn illustrations by the artist Barbara Jones.
Title page of Barbara Jones article in ‘The Architectural Review’ Dec 1946.

2 girls on a barge illus3297
‘Interior of cabin’. Illustration from Barbara Jones article.
2 girls on a barge illus3296
Cabin top, ‘ellum’ & rams head decoration by Barbara Jones.
This 1946 article was reprinted & given a chapter of its own in a more general survey of British Folk Arts by Barbara Jones entitled ‘The Unsophisticated Arts’  published in 1951. This covered such things as fairground art, tattoos,seaside art and all things humble & hand made by the working population. Barbara Jones remarks in her book that all these things were fast disappearing and that  she didn’t think that more than a handful would survive the next few years. It’s a fascinating book quirky and full of the most obscure information and it has recently been republished with a contribution from Peter Blake the artist.
Architectural Review. Canals Issue.Eric De Mare 1949
‘Special Canals Number. The Architectural Review’  July 1949.
Well there he is – old Joe Hollinshead, retired boatman, staring out at us from the front cover of one of Britain's most prestigious professional magazines in July 1949. The whole magazine was ,most unusually for the time, devoted solely to Britain's canals – their history, development, present state and future. The article had been written by a freelance architect and photographer – Eric De Mare with the assistance of the newly formed Inland Waterways Association and in particular its members Tom Rolt of ‘Narrow Boat’  fame and Charles Hadfield (Canal Historian).
Architectural Review.Title Page.Canal Issue 1949
Title page of ‘Special Canals Number’ 1949.
De Mare also a member of the IWA had in the previous year (1948) completed a 600 mile journey along the canals in a converted ex army pontoon and as an accomplished photographer  had taken what have subsequently been acknowledged as some of the finest photographs ever taken of Britain's canal heritage & its architectural structures and  working population.
De Mare Illus (2)
2 girls on a barge illus3299
Eric de Mare’s photographs from ;The Canals of England’  First Edt’n 1950.
Like Barbara Jones article, Eric De Mare’s photographic essay was subsequently published in book form in 1950 under the title of ‘The Canals of England’. Justly acclaimed as one of the four pivotal books of the new canal age it has been through many editions and is I think still in print to this day.
After reading these two articles I wondered why was it that these two articles each producing notable and landmark books appeared suddenly after a period so long devoid of any interest in Inland Waterways.? The immediate answer would obviously seem to be, that in Eric De Mares case, his interest was kindled by his involvement in the early years of the IWA. This organization was in itself a product of two individuals interests. They were of course Tom Rolt & Robert Aickman..
In Tom Rolt’s case the publication of his classic and immediately  popular book ‘Narrow Boat’  had fuelled an interest in waterways & ultimately the emergence of a new leisure age for the  canals.
So how did ‘Narrow Boat’  come to be written ?. Was it just the product of one mans interest & obsession or were there other factors which influenced the production of this book ?  Was it just this one book that initiated a new canal age?
In my next blog I hope to deal with the wider social scene and the neo romantic movement which I think influenced the emergence of the books and articles discussed in this  blog.                      

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Victorian Enigma. (Two Girls On A Barge–1891).

two girls on a barge105
‘Two Girls On A Barge’  by V Cecil Cotes. First Edition 1891.

As far as I can find out  V Cecil Cotes restricted his literary output to just this one book which is a shame as it is well written and authentic in tone. Nevertheless Cotes unknowingly managed to produce a ‘first’ in the world of British Canal Bibliography whilst at the same time leaving an enigma behind for future readers.
The ‘First’  -----The book describes a journey up the Grand Junction, Oxford & Coventry canals by a couple of female Cambridge graduates, an artist and the author. The Narrow Boat ‘ Industrious’  had temporary cabins fitted in the hold and was fitted out for a leisurely cruise of some weeks.It is the first full length book to describe a journey by converted narrow – boat, although journeys had been made and described as long ago as 1858 when reporter John Hollingshead made a similar journey up the Grand Junction on a cargo carrying boat ( His report was published in Charles Dickens magazine ‘Household Words’  and is also understandably famous for containing the first written description of Narrow Boat art decoration).
2 girls on a barge illus1283
The journey is well described and authentically illustrated with 44 drawings by W H Townsend.
2 girls on a barge illus3285

The Enigma------When the boat was in the vicinity of Blisworth the party came across the canal reformer George Smith who having succeeded with his canal bill was turning his attention to the gipsy population. Smith joins them on their journey and in the course of their conversations his recently published book ‘Canal Adventures by Moonlight’  is mentioned. Subsequently the boat diverts to Watford locks so that the party may walk across the fields to take tea with Smith & his wife who lived at Welton. Smith walks 12 miles to Buckby wharf to preach before again joining the boat and travelling as far as Hillmorton. The strange thing is that throughout these prolonged encounters with the canal evangelist the author refers to Smith as ‘Mr Gershom’. Why is this? I dont suppose we will ever know now.2 girls on a barge illus2284
Illustration from the book showing ‘George Smith’ in conversation in the boat.

The book was first published in 1891 with a second edition appearing in 1894. An American edition exists with the illustrated cover altered to show a wide beam barge.
As so often with many of the older books scarcity has elevated prices in recent years and this book is no exception. If you enjoy browsing and ferreting about in such secondhand bookshops that remain you can still be lucky. It is however one of the scarcest books to find and at the present time I can find only one copy for sale on the net and thats priced at £120.
Fortunately the British Library Historical Print Editions have reprinted the book and so it is available to one and all.
POSTSCRIPT ADDED 24/4/2014. ...... I have since discovered that V Cecil Cotes was actually the pseudonym of Sara Jeannette Duncan a Canadian Newspaper journalist and author of several other books. My thanks to the well known canal book author - Mr Hugh McKnight for this information which he published in an article on 'Two Girls on a Barge'; in the 'CANAL BOAT' magazine of 8th July 2010.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013



Everybody’s Magazine. 1955.


In the mid 1950’s the British Transport Commission were trying to abandon over 700 miles of the canal network including some of todays most popular canals e.g the Oxford & Peak Forest canals. The IWA were of course opposed to this and Sir John Betjeman, Britain’s most popular poet & a member of this organization published the above article in September 1955.

Interestingly the photographs caption reads ‘ Alfred Best has worked on Britain’s canals for  forty – seven years. Now he wonders if the future holds for them only stagnation.’

Myself and many others of a certain age will remember Alf Best on the local B W maintenance gang at Braunston and later he could often be seen in his retirement around the village.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

At the heart of the waterways.Five Northamptonshire writers.

At the heart of the English waterway system, Northamptonshire has been the home for several writers of the canal scene. I think that none of them can claim to have been born in the county but they have all in their separate ways been influenced by,  or come to reside in, the county because of the Grand Union canal.
There can be few people who enjoy reading canal books who will not be familiar with this author. Residing beside the canal at Stoke Bruerne David has for many years been a lover and passionate advocate for the canal world and its way of life. Diametrically opposed  to some modern authors who seem to see a canal as little more than a linear pleasure park, David Blagrove has always had the true interests of the canal and its boat population at heart. A man with his heart in the right place. A sentiment that is true I think of all the five authors chosen.
Of his many books ‘The Quiet Waters By’ tells of his early involvement with Narrow Boats & of his time on the Kennett & Avon canal & River Thames. ‘Bread upon the Waters’ (1998) moves the story on to an early life spent carrying cargo on the Grand Union Canal. He has also written interestingly about Northamptonshire's Waterways (1990) and about the canal and his home village (1972)and also that of the canalside village of Braunston amongst others – ‘At The Heart of The Waterways’ (2002).
All these books are readily available.
Our Canal Population – A Cry from the Boat Cabins with Remedy.1879.
Another man from another era but with the same campaigning zeal published his first pleas for a reformation of the boat peoples living conditions in the early 1870’s. By the time the second edition of his book was published in 1879 his parliamentary act had been passed but it had taken nearly 10 years and wrecked his health and impoverished him in the process. He was a resident of Welton a village close to the canal and near Daventry.
First or second editions in various conditions can usually be found (£50 - £150) or a facsimile copy was published in the mid 1970’s.
‘Canal Holiday’ (1957).                     ‘Cruise of The Susan’ (1958)
Already an extremely successful children's writer with many titles to her credit, Winifred Finlay moved to a village just outside Northampton in the mid 1950’s. She e seems to have immersed herself in the canal world immediately absorbing all the influences that she would need for her next two books. Canal Holiday follows the adventures of children on a Narrow Boat voyage from Northampton to Banbury & cannot be faulted for authentic detail. Likewise for The Cruise of the Susan which is again a narrow boat adventure set on the Nene.
Such is the demand from collectors for these two books that neither of them is found easily and are consequently quite pricey. They were never republished so £50 - £75 can be the price for good copies.
still waterstroubled waters
First Edition copies of ‘Still Waters’1982 & ‘Troubled Waters’ 1987.
Margaret Cornish worked as a bus ‘clippie’ in Oxford during the second world war before leaving to join the war time women trainees of the Grand Union canal carrying fleet. She wrote her memoir of this time ‘Troubled Waters’  whilst she was living on the converted butty Alphons on the Grand Union Canal at Stowe Hill, Northants.
Margaret Cornish will be remembered for two very authentic and readable books which are still available & which can still be found in first editions with dust jackets for the very modest price of £10 - £15.
Last but not least and published in 2002 is  John Thorpe’s account of his early years accompanying working boats and their families on their journeys  around the system. A Northampton schoolboy, his parents had bought a canalside cottage at Stoke Bruerne and it was in this close proximity to the boats that he got to know the boatpeople.
Authentic and very readable – Published by ‘Warerways World’ and still I think in print.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


The Dust Jacket as we know it today is a relatively new idea, first appearing in the late 19th century. Prior to this some books had been issued with a plain wrapper in order to protect often ornate bindings. Later the first true wrappers simply stated the name of the book with no other adornment. With the advent of cheap colour printing in the 1880s/90s however publishers soon realised the value of a medium which could give some visual idea of the enclosed books contents and price. Within a very few years and realising the advertising value of a wrapper. publishers expanded the idea to print  not only a precis of the books contents  and its price but also to advertise lists of other books in their ‘stable’ and of forthcoming titles as well.

Caravan Afloat -Dust wrapper

The First? English Canal Book Wrapper. C.J.Aubertin’s A Caravan Afloat c1916.

Cary John Aubertin’s classic travelogue of a converted horse drawn pontoon’s journey along English canals was not the first English canal book to describe such a journey but it seems to have been one of the first to use photographic illustrations taken by the author and to be issued with a plain printed wrapper (no price & no advertising yet).


‘My Holidays on Inland Waterways’ by Percy Bonthron. First edition 1916.

Published in the same year ‘My Holidays on Inland Waterways’ takes advertising a little further with the books price printed on both the wrapper’s spine & cover, the latter also giving some idea of the contents of the book in written form and by means of 2 colour illustrations.$(KGrHqNHJEgFH8nygt5cBSCnrsqdy!~~60_12

‘The Flower of Gloucester’  Third Edition. 1918.

Publishers found too, that sales of cheap unillustrated editions of best selling  books could be further enhanced if the otherwise plain volume which gave no idea of the books contents was issued with a colourful wrapper. So with canal books we find that by 1918 the publishers Chapman & Hall had progressed to using a 3 or 4 colour wrapper on their cheap unillustrated edition of Temple Thurston’s classic.

Copies of most editions of Bonthron & Temple Thurston’s books can be readily found in 1st & later editions. A Caravan Afloat is harder but not impossible to find in its first and only edition, although a facsimile paperback was issued in 1981 by Shepperton Swan.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for copies with dust wrappers. My Holidays……. occasionally turns up with the battered remnants of a wrapper.clinging to it. Thurston’s book in first edition (1911) has a green cloth binding with a beautiful illustration of a narrow boat stamped in gilt on the cover.The second edition in a grey cloth binding has the same illustration in black on the cover but I have never seen either of these editions with a wrapper, so can only assume that they were issued without. It is the third cheap edition that has the wrapper but it is uncommon.

Rarer still and in over 40 years of collecting and buying and selling Aubertin’s book I have only ever come across it once on the copy in my own collection. In conclusion – Please let me know if you have earlier canal books with a  wrapper or indeed if you have any of the above editions with wrappers. My comments are obviously based on my own collecting history and observations and I would love to be proved wrong.

When it comes to Children’s canal literature – the first wrapper that I have found is on a 1933 copy of Theodora Wilson’s ‘Jims Children –A tale of Town, Country & Canal ’  which was first published in 1912 and set on the Lancaster canal. Intriguingly this fairly drab single colour wrapper covers a colourful 2 or 3 colour embossed Illustrated cover. Jims ChildrenJims Children (3)

Childrens book wrapper & embossed illustrated cover from 1933.Jims Children (2)

Title page & frontispiece.

Also from 1933 Mark Harborough’s  ‘Fossil the Scout’  is probably the first children’s canal book published in the UK  to have a wrapper.on its first edition.

Fossil the scout DustwrapperFossil the scout 2048

Wrapper & one of the lllustrations from the book.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Blogging on old canal books.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have not blogged for a few months. The summer months have been so busy with repairs to an old Dutch Tjalk and boating with family and friends on estuary & canal which together with other external activities mean I rarely have time to sit & blog.
One or two interesting items appeared at auction during the summer months.
31 late Victorian photographs of the Upper Thames & the North Wilts canal made £143 at auction.
A 22 page booklet promoting the proposed Western Union Canal together with a sizeable map  (37x18cm)  was a bargain at £33 on EBay.The canal which was to run from the Thames at Maidenhead to Cowley was promoted in 1820.
Another large map, this time of the proposed Basingstoke Canal dated 1790 fetched £89.                                                                                                                          221240672392_1
Three documents & 3 large maps of the proposed Berkshire & Hampshire Junction canal  & dated 1826 made  £124.                                                                                                                      221240672341_1                                                                                                              
Two large maps (70x27 & 61x32cm) and dated 1783 &1784 of the proposed Thames & Severn canal together with a public notice promoting the canal made £112.                                                                                                       $(KGrHqNHJEgFH8nygt5cBSCnrsqdy!~~60_12
Finally a copy of the 1918 edition of this famous canal classic together with its rarely seen dust wrapper appeared recently at auction. For those interested in the publication history of this book & its many editions  I am republishing a revised and updated earlier blog of mine. (See the following bl.)og

Friday, 26 April 2013

Dig Out Your Windlass’s (More Canal Collectable Auction Results).


neales windlass

Neales No2 Windlass. (£75)

You might consider cashing your old windlass in if your short of a few bob as rare collectable windlass’s have been achieving some surprising auction prices on EBay recently. The ones to look out for are all single eye with the mark of a canal carrying company eg FMC or canal company eg GJC. Also highly prized are the windlass’s that were produced by canal side blacksmiths eg Neale or Cooke who worked alongside the cut at Wheelock (T&M canal).161008094709_1

Selwyn Jordan at Keays dock windlass. (£80).


Grand Union Canal Wartime Enamelled Badge (£76).

Very rare and seldom seen, this enamelled badge was given to the employees of the Grand Union Canal Co during the war. They were all individually numbered (This one No22) and reads ‘Grand Union Canal Carrying Co Ltd, On National Service).


Fellows Morton & Clayton coal bucket. (£99).

Another rare survivor this bucket is inscribed ‘F M C & Co. CANAL NAV’n.OLDBURY. 1921. I certainly have never seen its like before and it could possibly be unique.



221214837779_1 (1)

‘Canal Boat’  wood engraving No 66 of a limited edition of 70 by John O’Connor  c early 1960’s.

This lovely period print was good value at £36. John O’Connor is famed in  art circles for his unique wood engravings & in the canal book collecting world for his unique book  Canals Barges & People published in 1950. O’Connor visited the old Fellows Morton & Clayton dry dock at Uxbridge and fell in love with the people and boats of the cut, He included many of his engravings in the book in black & white and in conjunction with overprinting with lino cuts, – in colour, a revolutionary technique at the time. Because of the difficulties that the printers had in producing this book it was issued in an edition of only 1,000 which because of its appeal to both the art & canal worlds means that it is now a highly prized book commonly fetching  £100 and more. The print above was one of several that did not appear in the book and was printed later in the 1960’s. Look out for these as they can only increase in value. The book too is worth acquiring for both its art work and its intimate descriptions of the canal folk and their world. Prose that could only have been produced from personal experience.

£  236 windlass

 Ernest Thomas Windlass.

Finally a totally unique windlass changed hands recently for what must be a record price of £236. The windlass in question came from Ernie Thomas the well known BCN canal carrier. I feel privileged to be able to remember seeing one of his horse drawn boats in action in the 1960’s. Ernie was in the habit of having Windlass’s chrome plated and presenting them to friends and acquaintances. This one was presented to the landlord of the Boat Inn at Gnosall and lived over the bar for many years.   It is inscribed ‘To Stan Marshall with the compliments of Ernest Thomas of (Walsall) Ltd.’


So as I say ‘Dig em out’.