Willow’s History: Not a Josher

A bit of digging and asking around has brought to light a few more details about Willow‘s working life both with Severn and Canal, and afterwards. We now know that it didn’t work for Fellows Morton & Clayton so it was never a josher!

As part of the Canal Boat Act, all boats which were used as dwellings had to be registered as such  with the local authority under the name of their owner. Willow was first registered on 18th February 1935, soon after it was built, with Walter Tonks registered at the steerer. Under the same Act, boats could also be subject to random checks, to make sure that they were still complying. We’ve been supplied with information showing that Willow was inspected  33 times by the Gloucester Sanitary Inspector, with various names being listed as steerer, and the last inspection being in June 1949.

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Prior to seeing this, we knew that some of the Severners were leased to work for Fellows Morton and Clayton up in the north and wondered if Willow was one of them, but this new evidence shows that Willow remained in the south west working on the Severn until 1950, so it wan’t one of the Severners which was temporarily a Josher!

We now also know that Willow passed into the nationalised fleet of boats owned by the British Transport Commission (Docks & Inland Waterways Executive) – British Waterways’ predecessor – on the 1st October 1948. At this point, its health registration should have been transferred to the D&IWE but for reasons unknown, it took until February 1950 for this to happen, and it was still in Gloucester when it was re-registered.

So it was after 1950 that Willow was transferred to the D&IWE North Western (Southern) Division, which was based in Northwich. We don’t yet know whether it carried for a while first, but at some point, it became a British Waterways maintenance boat, and had the crane fitted in its hold which was still evident when it was photographed at Hayhurst Yard in the mid 70s. Other boats which were part of the North West Maintenance fleet include the famous steamer President, as well as our friends’ boat Ariel (now a coal boat) and Shad, one of the boats on display at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.


Close up of Willow at Northwich.

Shad (picture from the Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port)

So the next steps for us are to go to Gloucester where we’ll hopefully be able to find out more about Willow‘s design from the drawings in the archive, and perhaps its cargos. We’ll also be allowed into the hold of Oak, as long as we sign a form saying that it is at our own risk!

Then at some point, we hope to visit Ellesmere Port, where the National Waterways Archives are held, in the hope that we can find out more about Willow‘s life as a BW maintenance boat.

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