Day Boat Working Practices 2.

This is the second in a series of posts that use archive photographs to illustrate how, and in what environment, BCN day boats were used.

1912, Salvage Turn on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, close to Gas Street Basin. Much of Birmingham’s refuse used to be carried away by canal. After being collected by horse and cart, it was transferred to day boats at a cobbled wharf like this. The image above shows a loaded cabin day boat and an empty cabin day boat awaiting it’s load. Chains have been used to secure the boats to the wharf. It was often the case that day boats didn’t carry their own ropes, and were either left to float freely in basins, or held to the wharf wall by chains. The chains were pinned into the wharf at one end and held something like a 50lbs. weight on the other end. The weighted end would be lowered into the hold of the day boat. The benefit of this method was that as the boat was loaded and settled more deeply in the water mooring lines didn’t need to be untied and re-tied.
A cabin day boat under way. Whatever’s in the hold must have been very heavy as the boat’s lying deep in the water. The towing mast and line can be clearly seen, as can a group lads sneaking a dip in the cut on what must have been a hot summer’s day!
The companion image to the one above. Although not brilliant quality in this image you can just make out, on the left hand edge of the image, the horse walking along the towpath, and in the middle foreground weed dangling from the tow line to the boat.
Even after the introduction of tugs on some sections, the vast majority of day boats continued to be manoeuvred by one of two methods, horse-drawn hauling or brute force – as can be seen here at a loading dock near Anglesey Wharf, Chasetown – where a boatman is shafting boats in the confines of the wharf, and marshalling them in preparation for the horse or tug to link up with them. This timeless shot was actually taken as late as 1953.

More images to follow…

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