Boaters' Working Rules

Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Winter 2021

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones explores several documents that set out working rules for employed boatmen

The original Acts of Parliament that enabled the construction of canals included detailed descriptions of the company rules and regulations regarding the navigation of boats on their respective waterways. Some of these were printed on posters to be displayed on towpath noticeboards at toll offices, wharves and locks, and were amended as and when necessary. In addition, there developed a series of customs, both local and national, surrounding the practical running and management of boats, that were generally accepted by boaters across the generations. These customs were unwritten, except when they coincided with those of the canal companies. In the 20th century, several of the larger canal-carrying companies issued their own printed booklets which set out working rules for their boatmen. The Grand Union Canal Carrying Co published one in March 1937 titled ‘Constitution – Revision of Boatmen’s Wage Rates Agreement and Working Rules’ by the company’s Concil…

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