Aspects of Wooden-Boat-Building
Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Winter 2016
Christopher M Jones
Chris M. Jones examines the small boatyards that produced and maintained large numbers of working craft.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, there were generally three types of boat-builders operating on the canals: privately owned businesses, often by an individual, family or partners; boatyards owned by carriers to serve their own fleet but taking on outside work; and large manufacturers, such as boiler-makers or timber merchants, building boats as a sideline. Of these it was the latter two that were in the most secure financial position, as they were subsidised by carrying activities or their stock-in-trade. The privately owned yards dedicated entirely to boat-building were always subject to the vagaries of the carrying trade and the wider economy.Independents Small boatyards were generally set up and run on the tightest of budgets. Buildings and sheds were sometimes constructed from old boats and other recycled timber, with old wooden beams laid on sloping banks to create slipways so that boats could be hauled out by hand-winches. Most of the costs of setting up such enterprises went…