Holiday or daily living, canal barges offer accommodation ‘off the grid’. A friend of ours had one for about five years while he was living on his own. It was an old wooden boat, about seventy two foot long, and had a massive lifeboat engine powering it that was started with a huge starting handle like on an old car! It took many turns of the handle to fire up the engine.
His barge was a wooden Hull, so every year he took it into dry dock to recaulk the gaps between the wooden boards. If he didn’t the boats planks would let in water. It was lovely in the summer, but cold and damp in the winter, especially on foggy days.
The photo of a metal hulled boat was taken today on the Trent and Mersey canal.
Etruria is hosting varied events this weekend. There are plenty of wonderfully painted and restored canal boats and barges, and there were also some old and interesting lorries at the site which had hauled static steam engines to Etruria.
I’ve often wondered what it was like to live on a working barge and we recently had the opportunity to see the interior of an old boat that hauled coal, the cabin for a family was only about 6 or 7 foot by 5 ft. There were various adaptations, like having a table that dropped down and boards to put across to make up a bed. But the life was hard and must have been very difficult and dangerous at times.
One man I was chatting to had lived by the canal in the second world war. He said a bomb was dropped on the canal by aircraft trying to hit the local steelworks. It took the roof off a covered lock and blew down an old wall next to the canal. He also said that there is a lot of subsidence in the area and the land had sunk so much they had to build a new lock. They had dredged the canal then filled in the base. He had helped bring down new lock gates from the countryside down the cauldon canal. But when they got to Etruria the canal was too shallow as they had added too much clay lining to it. With the weight of the lock gate the boat grounded on the bottom and they were stuck on the barge until someone came along with a board to help them get off the boat.
There is so much history that we know so little of in this area.
Tomorrow , well actually later today, there is a classic car show at Etruria. Should be good.
The main art on canal boats or barges consists of old fashioned lettering, this then has shadows cast to make it appear 3 dimensional. See the photos above.
I tried to draw this canal rose pot to keep me occupied while I was at the canal festival.
What you regularly see is this castle and roses pattern on barges and canal boats. It consists of a landscape painted with a stylised castle, often next to a river, and roses and leaves will appear either around the castle or on a different part of the bucket, jug, pot, table, stool or whatever peice of equipment carried on the barge. These historical paintings are also often painted on the inside of the doors so that when they are opened against the side of the hull they are on view.
I think this style of art is lovely. It may be old fashioned, but its interesting.
To paint the roses you start with a filled in circle of paint, then the leaves are painted in, then the petals are added. These seem to be created using the brush shape and are simple but neatly done. Finally details like highlights and stamens are added.
When these barges were in use, the main part of them were used for hauling coal or pottery. Whole families might live in a space not much bigger than about 10 foot by 6 foot…., is it any wonder that the barges were decorated with these patterns to make them more like home?