Around St Pancras
Picturing the Past: NarrowBoat, Spring 2014
Photographs from the late 1950s show the change from working boats to pleasure boats on the Regent's Canal
Also on the same day, a British Waterways pair (butty Bordesley) is about to enter St Pancras (outside) lock with a fairly deep load. This was unusual by this time. Some cocoa waste in bags was coming south from Cadbury’s at Bournville, but the boats appear to be unsheeted, ruling this commodity out. They seem to have been carrying something heavy, such as metal, which was more likely to have been coming upwards along the Regent’s Canal. They may have been bound for the River Lee via Sir George Duckett’s (Hertford Union) Canal. A feature of the Regent’s Canal in those days was that each lock was manned daily from Monday morning until Saturday midday, after which all was locked up for the weekend. Some of the lock-keepers had fixed windlasses on the paddles, as may be seen here. This would undoubtedly cause uproar today with health and safety considerations, but nobody seemed to worry then. The white workshop on the left became the clubhouse of St Pancras Cruising Club. The building with the large roof in the background was St Pancras Goods Station, not to be confused with the passenger station, now the Eurostar terminus.
By now the British Waterways pair has almost descended the lock and the empty barge Loch Aline has entered the towpath (inside) lock. The lock-keeper can be seen on the island between the double locks strapping the barge in. The motive power, a tractor, is on the far right, with the towline cast off. The smoke billowing in the background is from Kings Cross locomotive depot, known to ex-LNER railwaymen as ‘Top Shed’.
The basin at St Pancras had, by 27th July 1960 when this final picture was taken, become solely the preserve of pleasure boats, the sign proudly calling it a ‘Yacht Basin’, but the main line station was still served by steam locomotives. Today, as then, the basin is the home of St Pancras Cruising Club, which had been founded in 1958. The white workshop became the clubhouse; it is also seen, from the opposite (canal) side, in the top photograph on the previous page.