Boat Building at Braunston 1796 to 1958

Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Summer 2019

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones looks at the long history of wooden boat building at the famous canal village

The wooden boat Raymond was built by the Samuel Barlow Coal Company at Braunston Wharf in 1958, and has the distinction of being the last in a long line of commercial carrying boats to be constructed at this famous canal junction. At the time, Barlows was the latest in a succession of boat-builders based at Braunston over 162 years. Boat-building was a precarious occupation, dependant on the vagaries of the canal-carrying trade, fluctuating patterns of transport and commerce, and the country’s economy. All these factors affected boat-building at Braunston and at other yards alongside the Oxford and Grand Junction canals.The early years Boat-builder Thomas Hughes had begun constructing boats before the Grand Junction Canal was built, and had worked at a yard on the Oxford Canal at Enslow. He married in 1791 and, together with his young family, relocated to the canal company’s Braunston Wharf in 1796. As well as becoming the tenant there, he ran a beer house called the Ship…

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