Braunston 2013

We spent the weekend at the Braunston Historic Boat Rally.

We’ve been going for several years now, and this spectacular gathering of up to one hundred old boats never fails to deliver. This year, we were staying on the Josher butty Vienna (renamed Verbena in 1914). The butty was paired, for the weekend at least, with Sarah E’s Lamprey.

The Braunston show is never very commercial – it’s much more about the boats, with two parades per day. We paraded with Lamprey and Verbena twice on Saturday, and then with Chertsey on Sunday. It was lovely to catch up with boaty friends, enjoy looking at the wonderful array of boats and best of all, to talk about our historic boat. Even  though getting Willow there was a logistical impossibility with James unable to take time off work during term, there’s a subtle difference in attending as an owner rather than just an onlooker.

On Saturday night, Sarah E conjured up a fantastic curry on the back cabin range in Lamprey – enough to feed eight! Of course, it was chicken rogan josher!

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Photo: Tim Lewis


Categories: History, Out and About | 1 Comment

Willow at Little Venice

The other day I received an email from a relative of Willow’s previous owner, telling me about his memories of a trip on the boat some 15 years ago, whilst the boat was moored near London. He included this lovely photo, of Willow at Little Venice.

It looked quite different then, most notably the colour was a deep burgundy instead of the bright blue it is now. It was also signwritten with “Harmonium Emporium” above M.B Willow* and had its location, Langley Mill written below.

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This photo, from 2004, shows the signwriting better (taken from the HNBC website, photo by C Deuchar)


* Willow was known as a “Motor Boat” when it worked for Severn and Canal, and all the Charles Hill Severners were signwritten with M.B before the name.

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Other Severners: Ash

Ash was another of the “tree class” motors, and has a very interesting history – which has led to confusion.


Ash with Vienna, FMC butty, at Norton Canes.


Ash and GU motor Barnet


Ash and Barnet. The T-studs on the pointed counter are the features to look out for that distinguish “tree class” Severners.

Ash, along with Oak, were the first two Severners to be built by Charles Hill, and they had wooden cabins rather than the metal ones given to Willow and the later boats. We’re still researching what happened to it during WWII, as we’re trying to research which five boats were leased to Fellows Morton and Clayton in 1940, and are not currently sure whether Ash was one of them.

However we do know that Ash was, in 1948, not nationalised (along with two other Severners) and was owned by John Harkers, a tanker firm on the Severn. In the 1960s it was lived on as a houseboat (it had no engine at the time). At the HNBC AGM this year we met the lady whose lived in it and she has promised to send some photos

It eventually found its way to Norton Canes, on the northern reaches of the BCN, in the late 1970s in the ownership of boatbuilder Malcolm Braine. He also had Willow at the yard in 1979. Ash was rebottomed with elm in 1980, and is still at Norton Canes today, now with a steel bottom .

This is where the personal connection comes in. In 2011, when we did the BCN challenge on Yeoford, we moored at Norton Canes right next to it.

Little did we know that, in three years time, we would own one of Ash’s sister ships!

The confusion comes from the fact that, when it was nationalised, the severner Alder was renamed Ash probably because there was an ex-FMC motor called Alder in the fleet, so the renaming was to avoid confusion – but has caused it 60 years later!

Photo Credit: S. Edgson

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Willow’s History

A series of prearranged commitments next weekend and the following one mean that we won’t be able to continue work on Willow for what feels like far too long!

So, we’ll spend time planning and researching. We’ve just uploaded what we know about the boat so far to the page linked on the top bar called Willow’s History if you are interested, and over the next few weeks, we’ll populate the rest of the tabs too, and post about it to let you know. We’ve been looking forwards to this aspect of historic boat ownership for ages, and it is wonderful to learn and gather what we can about the boat’s 78 years of history!

Willow’s History

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Introducing Willow

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Welcome to the blog for the 1935 Severn and Canal Carrying Company motorboat Willow. Clicking on the links above in the top bar will bring up historical information about Willow’s career with S&CCCo, and the subsequent use as a maintenance boat and as a liveaboard residence for 30 years. Other information about S&CCCo will be added shortly, along with information on our future plans for the boat.

Willow’s interior has been removed almost completely for recent rebottoming works, and so is being refitted. At 72′ long, this is a massive project that we’ve just embarked upon. Forthcoming posts will show some interesting photographs of the boat in drydock, and  others will show the start of the fit out.

Categories: Fitout, History | 8 Comments

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