The Usual Style: 'Roses & Castles' narrowboat painting

Art of the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2006

Christopher M Jones

Christopher M Jones take as a look at some possible origins of the distinctive ‘Roses & Castles’ narrowboat painting

“The General Painting is to be Carried Out in the Usual Style Liked by the Bargee.” This is an actual quote from the hand of Frederick Spiller, Traffic Agent of the Oxford Canal Company in 1926, and was made when he submitted an order for painting a new canal boat. The vessel was being built as a long distance cabin boat to be let out on hire to boatmen contractors on the Oxford Canal. This is the only reference I have discovered during my researches in canal company records that refers directly to canal boat painting. This article is my personal view on how the distinctive decoration of narrowboats, known today as Roses & Castles, came about and flourished, and shared many similarities with contemporary popular art of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras. It also considers how the growing numbers of independent boatmen contractors during the 19th century, with their Number One boats, provided the ideal surface to apply this popular form of decoration.Tradition …

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