Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Off to Audlem

We haven't really planned a big boating trip this year, but there are a few events we're planning to get to instead. One of these was the Droitwich gathering, which was a great success, and there's something to be said for the idea of short trips, in good company, to interesting events and gatherings, as opposed to a solo marathon. We're still hoping to go to Braunston, water levels permitting. A lot of people are planning to give it a miss this year - either because of the hassle of getting there, or because they feel that last year it really had got too big. It hasn't yet lost its magic for me though, and I'll get there if I possibly can.

Another definite though is the Audlem Festival of Transport at the end of July. Just up the Shroppie from us, so not hard to get to. I've not been before but it sounds a great event. We were invited to go last year, but couldn't because Chertsey was being painted - and anyway, wasn't really fit to be put on display at that stage.

Anyway, in case anyone is interested, here is the potted history of Chertsey that I've written for the festival organisers:

CHERTSEY

Chertsey was built for the Grand union Canal Carrying Company (GUCCCo) by Harland and Wolff at their North Woolwich shipyard, and delivered in January 1937. This was as part of the last big expansion of the Grand Union fleet, eighty-six pairs of boats, built at Woolwich, Northwich and Rickmansworth, with a deeper (4'9”) hold than their predecessors, and Chertsey is therefore known as a Large Woolwich motor boat. The names for these boats were, legend has it, selected from a railway gazetteer, and they are sometimes referred to today as 'Town Class' boats.

Chertsey would have carried a variety of loads for GUCCCo, between London and Birmingham, the East Midlands, and also to Northampton and beyond onto the River Nene. When waterways transport was nationalised in 1948 Chertsey passed into the British Waterways South Eastern Fleet, and continued carrying into the early 1960s.

Chertsey was sold into private ownership in 1962, and for a while was registered as a houseboat, although there is no evidence that the boat has ever been converted. During this period she attended a number of rallies, and apparently had an organ in the hold, which was played at gatherings.

In 1969, Chertsey was purchased by Richard Barnett, who owned the boat until his death in 2009. Under his ownership, Chertsey undertook some short term carrying contracts, including being one of the last boats to bring coal from the Ashby Canal to John Dickinson's paper mill at Croxley on the Grand Union Canal. From the 1980s however, Chertsey was more or less abandoned at Valencia Wharf, Oldbury, although Richard Barnett was never willing to sell her.

It was following a chance conversation that the current owner, who had long been seeking a Large Woolwich, was able to buy Chertsey in July 2009. Since then, we have had repairs carried out to the steelwork, particularly the knees; fitted a rebuilt engine identical to the one she had, which was seized; had new oak gunnels, cants and other woodwork fitted, and had a new set of planks and cloths made, and had the boat painted and signwritten.

Chertsey's engine is an air cooled Petter PD2 as fitted by British Waterways in 1960 to replace the original raw water cooled National DM2. Chertsey's unusual livery represents the brief transitional period between British Waterways taking ownership of the Grand Union fleet, and the development of their own distinctive yellow and blue colour scheme a year or so later.

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