Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Narrow Boat 'Kildare', 1913

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'Kildare' is a typical, unpowered narrow boat which worked the country's waterways in the late 19th and early 20th century. They were narrow enough to fit down the canals and the locks used to climb or descend terrain, and featured a long cargo area with sheeting to protect the cargo, and a small cabin at the rear where the crew and his family would live, with sleeping accommodation and small cooking facilities. It was one of twenty-four 'butty' boats, built with an iron hull, built between 1912 and 1914 for Fellows, Morton and Clayton at Hilltop, West Bromwich by Braithwaite & Kirk. 'Kildare' was registered on 10th April 1913, and would usually have been pulled by a heavy draught horse such as a shire horse - the horse would walk on the towpath alongside the canal using a rope, with tunnels and bridges often having special arrangements to allow for the horse to continue to pull them through, or use other power (often human) to propel them. With the introduction of steam, then petrol and then diesel powered narrow boats, unpowered narrow boats would be towed behind the powered narrow boats, or be tied alongside a powered narrow boat, which was both faster and also made more sense as although the powered boats were faster, the space used for the engine and fuel had an impact on the amount of cargo that would be carried, so by powering another boat it made more economic sense.

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'Kildare' almost came to an end in 1940 when whilst in a wharf in Birmingham, a bomb from a German aircraft sunk it and three other narrow boats, however was refloated and repaired. In the 1970's, after being retired from working use, was used as a camping boat, still in mostly original condition but with camping facilities in the cargo hold. In 1992 'Kildare' was purchased by the Black Country Living Museum, and restored to original condition to work in conjunction with 1909 steam narrow boat 'President' featured previously on the blog. They are both seen together at canal events around the network, and in 2012 for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, with 'President' took part in the flotilla down the River Thames. For more information on 'Kildare' and 'President', see the Friends of President website here - http://nb-president.org.uk/

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