End of an era at Brentford

Time and Place: NarrowBoat, Summer 2016

We look at a photograph of Brentford Gauging Dock in 1930 that epitomises the decline in canal carrying in the first half of the 20th century. The image features the boats of the canal-carrying company Emmanuel Smith & Sons, which was formed in 1922.

In this image of a sunny July day beside Brentford Gauging Dock in 1930, an era of canal-carrying has just come to an end. All three boats in the centre are owned by Emanuel Smith & Sons Ltd of Ham Wharf, Brentford, which, on 23rd June, received a High Court order for compulsory liquidation. This brought to an end several generations of canal-carrying by various members of the Smith family. Emanuel Smith & Sons Emanuel Smith Junior was formally from Braunston and worked his own boats in the coal trade, like his father before him. Following the detrimental effects on canal-carrying resulting from the opening of the Weedon-to-Leamington branch of the London & North Western Railway in 1895, he relocated to Brentford, setting himself up as a carrier, coal merchant and publican at the Lord Nelson Inn. His business and fleet expanded with the purchase of boats, barges and steam tugs, and he started specialising in river towage and lighterage. At the same time, his narrowboat f…

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