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Tooley's Boatyard

A Place in History: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2011

Hugh Potter

Hugh Potter discovers 220-year-old history in Banbury’s modern shopping centre

There was much distress and outrage in the waterways world when the historic Tooley’s yard was subsumed into the Castle Quay shopping centre at Banbury. The plan was for the boatyard, an English Heritage scheduled historic monument, to be preserved as a working boat dock within the modern complex, something that many thought could not work. But it has. Visitors today can travel back in time over 200 years when they walk out of the typical modern shopping centre straight into the 18th century boatyard beside the Oxford Canal. Built before the canal was even completed to Oxford, the yard has operated since the 1780s, most famously in the 20th century by George & Herbert Tooley, who docked Tom Rolt’s Cressy prior to his seminal voyage that he recorded in his book Narrow Boat. Today it is run by Matt Armitage, appropriately trained as an archaeologist, who offers all the usual modern boatyard services. But you can also still see the historic features. The dock and blacks…

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