domingo, 15 de fevereiro de 2009

Cabin Furnishings on Canal Barges

One curious thing is the amount of people that regularly select the posting I wrote on Gypsies and their caravans, I am not sure what is in the title that draws their interest but as a further note to this I was remembering the canals in Birmingham and how much the river and canal trade made the indutrial revolution pssible. There was no fast road system before the middle of the 20th century and any volume of goods, especially if they were heavy poads such as coal, metal or timber, could not be moved other than in small quantaties, by cart and horse and the railways did not cover great areas. It was from around 1700 that the became a need for better in land transport, with the building of new and larger sea docks ( 1715 in Liverpool followed by Manchester) that pushed forward the need for cutting canals into the rural areas of England( Cheshire salt towns and the Wigan coalfields between 1732 and 1742)
The Sankey Canal to St Helens started the building of wide canals which linked Liverpoolto most of Lamcashire (mills) and Yorkshire by 1820. The traffic on these canals was a huge volume and despite the the competion from the railways it was not until 1961 that the last barge was built. An example of this haulage by water, was that one and half million tons of coal and 700,000 tons of salt, were carriedto liverpool in 1852. It is not surprissing then, that these cities grew with great wealth and from these docks traded to the very far outposts of the new commonwealth. Also giving rise to the exploration and navigation of the world at that time.

This advance and the need for more canal transport, gave rise to the boatman needing to be on borad his craft for more than one day, often with an assistant mate or with is wife and family, this in turn led to anart form in furnishing and decorating the barges and long boats. The pride of these water boatmen would be shown on the inside and outside of their barge, the style of furnishing and painting being very similsr to that which the gypsy caravan had adopted but the interior had slightly more space for the craftsman to create a very comfortable and pleasant ambient. They could install the small cooking range ( I did have a full collection of fire places before leaving Northumberland which included three small cooking ranges and two pot belly stoves, sadly I have no photos) with sink, table and benches and built in cupboards for storage, no doubt some what smoky, as all houses possiblt were at that time. I am also reminded of my potter friend at Ritherithe, London, who shared with me on of the old Victorian flour wharehouses and we shared as neighbours, the liter-barge repair workshop( the steel barges still used on the Thames for transporting waste) , along with the noise of the numatic hammers and riveter. My friend bought one of these barges and spent many years trying to make a comfortable conversion and a home for himself and his girlfriend, I found the barge extremely cold during the winter but this was largely due to the all metal construction and lack of finance to insulate the interior, this did not apply to the all wood barge and its all wood interior.
The barge had an almost standard layout ( with no great desire tobe individual) going back to 1772 ( the date of the building of the 'Daresbury' which stayed afloat until 1957 and almost the identical layout of the 'Oakdale' which was launched in 1950). Cabins measured between 9 and 6 feet long and the full width of the boat, becoming curved as they approached the the stern. Height varying between 6 feet in the sailing flat and 5 feet in the Liverpool and leeds canal barge. Accesses always on the port side, through a small square hatch and vertical ladder which was fixed to the bulkhead partition, which in turn had in its centre, a small range or stove.

There was a 'tidy-betty' ( a rack to support the pan and kettle; remember these vessels would not be subjected to the swell of the sea), often a brass mantle shelf to support an oil lamp and a brass fender for the stove to catch the ashes, preventing them marking the well polished and frequently painted floor boarding. In the Leeds and liverpool barge the borders were painted with a one and half inch line in red lead. This was extended to all the lockers and benches, which had hinged tops to accomodate storage within ( the one nearest the stove would be used to store coal for the fire).

On each side of the boat, enclosed above the benches, were bed spaces, the Weaver flats had sliding panels to enclose them , whilst the Liverpool and Leeds had hinges doors, usually in three panels that split two to one side and one to the other. The later barges such as the 'Bacup' ( preerved at the Boat Museum, at Ellesmere Port) did not have these doors but opted for curtains or simply left the space open. Inside these bed spaces there would be a small shelf for personal belongings and a small suitcase to have at hand for ashore clothing. The interior may well be painted in cream or green and grain effect applied.

The stern had a large cupboard with three doors, the centre doo being hinged at the bottom in order for it to drop down and form a table, supported either by a diangle prop or single leg, or by a brass rod and hook that was attached to the deck beam above. Some barges had four panels with one as a folding table, whilst the Weaver flat had the cabin in the bow and a variation of one central and two side cupboards at 45 degrees to the central one ( this had a drawer above for the safe keeping of breakables). The side cupboard panels, the bed space sliding panels, and the two doors leading to the seperate captains cabin, were round-headed. cabin panelling was usually wood grained in two shades of colour and the moulding highlighted with a darker colour. For example the seat could be in dark green with crimson red sides and a dark red floor. The deck carried a 5 gallo water barrel, often brightly decorated, along with a dog kennel and barrel for the horses feed. All three brightly coloured and decorated with flowers or playing card symbols such as the 'club' or 'diamond'.
For more reference over this subject try and find the 'Mersey flats and flatmen' by M.K.Stammers,Lavenham,1993.

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