Panel I – Narrowboats and People

This heavily-laden boat, awash almost to the gunnels, is occupied by what appears to be an extra-large and well-dressed crew. All appear to be wearing their 'Sunday best' and there are two ladies and a young girl aboard. Why were they all aboard and what were they celebrating?

It is quite likely that the destination for this boat was the Brunner Mond Alkali Works at Malkins Bank near Sandbach. Records show that a round trip, 40 miles each way and 76 locks in total, were often completed in 4 days with the fastest, by a boatman called Archer, taking only 3 days, and this in the cold, dark days of November 1903. These boats were horse-drawn and the crews not only had to load and unload by hand but had to care for the horses as well as themselves.

A boat, part-loaded with burnt lime, waits beneath the limeshed possibly waiting for more lime to be loaded. A family of boat people are on board presumably posing for the photographer, perhaps whose son stands on the wharf to the right. To the left and standing near to the wall are a ghostly couple who probably moved away during the time taken to expose the film. The design of the boat indicates that probably originates from the Runcorn area.

The order note shown above is one of 45 donated by a former resident of Canal House, David Wilde, and which were found there when the family moved there in the 1950s. The notes cover a two-month period, during November to December 1903, for a total of 47 boat loads of limestone. At 25 tons per boat, some 1175 tons of limestone were transported to the Brunner Mond Alkali Works at Malkins Bank.

Malkins Bank works on the Wheelock flight of locks, Trent and Mersey Canal, near Sandbach