Heather Bell at Tipton

Picturing the Past: NarrowBoat, Summer 2012

Keith Hodgkins

Keith Hodgkins takes a closer look at a fascinating series of photographs of Daphne March at work in World War Two

The photographs of Heather Bell taken by the Ministry of Information in 1942 have become quite well known to canal enthusiasts over the years, but the locations of the images are probably familiar only to the more diehard canal explorer. All of the 26 pictures (19 of which are reproduced here) were taken at Tipton in the Staffordshire Black Country, some on the still open Old Main Line of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, others on the now defunct Tipton Green Locks section, and a final two on the Walsall Canal at Ocker Hill. They capture a day in the life of Heather Bell when she was engaged on the round trip from her home base at Worcester with a cargo of flour for Tipton. The unloading at Tipton Green is seen, then the start of the onward empty journey to Cannock to pick up a load of coal slack for Worcester. What makes these evocative images even more fascinating is the unusual nature of both the boat and its crew in the form of mother and daughter Margaret and Daphne March. Thank…

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