Grand Union Canal Carrying Company

Famous Fleets: NarrowBoat, Summer 2009

Alan Faulkner

Alan Faulkner looks at the history of one of the best known carrying fleets, many of whose narrowboats survive today, whilst Chris Jones reveals the variation of liveries through 16 specially drawn cabin sides

When the Grand Union Canal Company was formed at the beginning of 1929, by bringing together five separate concerns (Spring 2009 NarrowBoat), it was committed to trying to improve the canal from London to Birmingham and Leicester and to building up traffic on the two routes. A programme was launched to widen the narrow locks on the Birmingham route, and a small carrying company – Associated Canal Carriers Ltd (ACC) – was taken over in 1930 and gradually built up. The widened locks up to Birmingham were opened in 1934, but the plans for the Leicester line had to be abandoned due to lack of funds. Even before the 1929 merger, an order had been placed for a pair of steel narrowboats, designed by a naval architect, for carrying between London and Birmingham. They were delivered in February 1929, the motor being named George and the butty Mary after the reigning King and Queen. Both were larger than the usual narrowboat, having an improved and modernised design to enable them …

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