Digging around the C&RT Digital Archive

C&RT has recently digitised many of its photographic archives, and amongst the collection I’ve found several interesting images. None that could be positively identified as Willow, I don’t think, but certainly a fair few photos of boats which are definitely Charles Hill “trees”.

The first one I found was the above photo of an “unidentified British Waterways motorboat” taken in the 60s or 70s (it is undated). It looks tantalisingly similar to the photos we have of Willow when it was abandoned at Hayhurst Yard, but we can’t be sure if it’s the same boat, only that it’s definitely a “tree”. It doesn’t have the crane seen in the Hayhurst photos, but perhaps that was a later addition?

There is a lovely early promotional vignette of Ash, possibly outside the Severn and Canal Carrying Co warehouses in Birmingham, captioned “Very latest type of 30 ton all welded canal boat fitted with Petter 10hp engine”. I’m intruiged as to why the steerer is using a shaft, although it looks like the boat is reversing so perhaps he’s using it to keep the stern end pointing in the correct direction.

This photo of Gloucester Docks, sometime in the late 30s, shows Severn & Canal Carrying narrowboats including Motorboat No7 and the horseboat Hadzor moored outside the Severn & Canal Carrying warehouse. Two of the boats (on the far side and on the outside of the four breasted up in the foreground) are definitely “trees” so there’s a 25% chance one of them is Willow!

However, by far my favourite photo is this one taken in October 1957, showing Oak travelling along the Trent and Mersey canal near Colwich, during its days when, like Willow, it was part of the BW North West maintenance fleet. It’s such a beautiful, evocative image, and I’ve asked C&RT if I can have access to a higher quality version so I can frame it.

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