Shill, R. (2002) The Birmingham Canal Navigations Tempus Publishing ISBN 0 7524 2767 9
Now this is more like it! After my disappointment with ‘Boats, Smoke, Steam & Folk’ etc. this was a cracker!
Ray Shill examines the industrial archaeology of the BCN network, looking at maps, structures, trade, work and craft… It’s an examination that leads him down some pretty obscure byeways, such as Chapter Three’s detailed exposition on The BCN Cottage Numbering Scheme! However, this is not to distract from the otherwise wealth of fascinating information contained in the book; often in the form of extensive captions to the many b/w photographs that illustrate each chapter.
I particularly enjoyed Chapter Five Narrow Boat Variety as, for me, it’s that intense inter-relationship between man, boat and environment that holds the greatest interest. The images here brought the BCN to life, and animated even the most informative and erudite of text.
After reading this book, I felt I’d begun to understand a little more clearly something of the complexity and the magnificence of the BCN system, its engineers, environment and boatmen.
It filled in something of the background history of day boats too (my particular interest, see BCN 18686) and made me want to explore the remaining BCN network as soon as possible.