Boat Detective Work

We’ve always said that one of the things we’d enjoy most about historic boat ownership would be the research aspect. And although it has been sidelined recently due to actual work on Willow, we’ve now got to a point with the fitout where although there is still loads to do, we can take a bit of a breather and get stuck in to the research.

We’ve decided to try and find out everything we can about all eight of the Charles Hill Severners. This is partly because if we focused solely on research into Willow‘s history, we’d probably not find all that much, but also because they are unique and interesting boats and we’d like to know more about them. We’ve been given a great head start by Willow‘s previous owner, and we have a basic idea of the history and location of seven of the eight. But we think that there is more to be found. What we know about Willow is here.

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Pictures: L Hogg (with permission). Willow at Hayhurst Yard, Northwich.

These are the only photos we have so far of Willow, prior to purchase by the previous owner (Willow is the boat with the crane in the hold). I have been in touch with the Railway and Canal Historical Society who hold a fair few photos of Severn and Canal Carrying craft, so there’s a chance that there may be more.

Additionally we are planning a trip to Gloucester in October, to the Waterways Museum where Willow‘s older sister Oak is currently deteriorating. We may be allowed in to see the boat, but I expect it will be depressing. More promisingly, the County Archives in Gloucester hold Charles Hill’s drawings of the Severners, as well as records of all ships passing through the Gloucester docks, which will include details of Willow, its crew and cargos. The majority of the waterways archive once held at the Gloucester Waterways Museum is now at Ellesmere Port, but from what I gather, most of the Severn and Canal Carrying archive has always been held by the County, not BW/C&RT.

My third line of enquiry is via Cadbury’s, who used Willow and the other Severners to transport goods to and from their factories. I am hoping that they may have some photos/records of the boats in their company archive.

So far, it’s been really enjoyable, this boat detective work, and if anyone has any idea about who/where to go next, do let us know!

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