Documenting the Decline

Last Traffic: NarrowBoat, Summer 2018

Tom Chaplin

Tom Chaplin discusses photos showing the latter days of canal-carrying, which feature in his recently published history of narrowboats

Early in 1967, my first book, A Short History of the Narrow Boat, was published at the price of 3/6d (17.5p). Fifty years later, I signed a contract to write my fourth book, Narrow Boats, which appeared late last year. Back in the ’60s, the phrase ‘cut and paste’ was an accurate description of the publishing process, involving scissors and glue, with black-and-white photographs being so expensive to reproduce that they had to be kept to a minimum. The new book has 90 images, mostly in colour, and I no longer had to rely on description to convey processes like loading, unloading and sheeting up, as a picture really does tell a thousand words. Happily, this meant there was more scope to put narrowboats in the context of the Industrial Revolution and to examine in greater detail the causes of their demise. Birmingham & Midland Canal Carrying Co Looking back, it seems extraordinary that when I was writing A Short History of the Narrow Boat in 1966, most people expe…

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