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Isabella Salt's Chest

Canal Curios: NarrowBoat, Spring 2019

Sarah Henshaw

A decorative boatwoman’s box has museum staff scratching their heads. SARAH HENSHAW finds out more

“The mystery,” says Zofia Kufeldt of Ellesmere Port’s National Waterways Museum, “is why the chest is inscribed with that date – July 1891. We originally thought this could have been the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary, but the dates don’t quite add up.” She’s referring to the wooden chest once belonging to boatwoman Isabella Salt, which now forms part of the museum’s collection of traditional canal art. It’s an unequivocally beautiful object – the lid hand-painted with one of the colourful castle motifs found on many canal craft of the time, while a village scene adorns the front face, complete with babbling brook. Floral decoration fills up the other two sides. Inscribed on the front edge is the name ‘Isabella Salt’, while on the back is that date, July 1891. From Banbury to boats Thankfully, it’s much easier to piece together other parts of Isabella’s life. Research undertaken by on…

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