I've just printed another little batch of Chertsey information sheets. These started out as my A3 display 'boards' but I thought it would be nice to have something people could take away. It's also useful for quickly giving people information or contact details - or when asking for photos. And as it's been a while since I've posted any information about Chertsey and her history, I thought it wouldn't go amiss. The original has a photo, but you can just substitute the one from the blog masthead.
CHERTSEY (GUCCCo. 130)
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 with the fleet number 130. This was part of the last big expansion of the Grand Union fleet, eighty-six pairs of boats, built between 1936-8, at Woolwich (motors and butties), Northwich (motors) and Rickmansworth (butties), with a deeper (4'9”) hold than their predecessors, and Chertsey is therefore a Large Woolwich motor boat. All the large motor boats were built of riveted steel (although Woolwiches originally had wooden cabins) and all 86 are still extant in some form. It is likely that the names for these boats were more or less randomly 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. These would include coal from the Midlands to London, and imported raw materials such as timber, metals and grain which could be loaded directly from ships in the Regents Canal Dock (now Limehouse Basin). 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 she was ever converted. During this period, she attended a number of rallies, and apparently had an organ in the hold, which was played at gatherings. We would particularly like to fill in details of what Chertsey was doing 1962-69.
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 Gopsall on the Ashby Canal) to John Dickinson's paper mill at Croxley on the Grand Union, in August 1970. From the 1980s however, Chertsey was more or less abandoned at Valencia Wharf, Oldbury, although Richard Barnett was never willing to sell her.
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. One battery charged through a dynamo (rather than a modern alternator) powers the electric start, and lighting in the back cabin. The cabin was rebuilt in the late 1970s in solid oak (reclaimed library shelves) on the original frames, and later skinned in steel by Les Allen. The engine room is original as far as we know, and its roof shows the scars of previous exhausts and the G.U. toilet vent.
Since purchasing Chertsey in 2009, the following works have been undertaken to restore and improve the boat:
· Steelwork repairs to the hull (particularly the knees, chine angle and counter) and overplating to the back end/engine room baseplate by Keith Ball
· New oak gunnels, front cants, handrails, other woodwork, top planks and cloths by Pete Boyce.
· Paintwork by Martin O’Callaghan and signwriting by Dave Moore
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.
Chertsey has now retired as a working boat, and is used purely for pleasure. The hold is not converted with any permanent structure, but camping arrangements under the cloths provide plenty of flexible space for summer boating, which has evolved over time. Most recently we have built a platform in the cratch to provide additional sleeping/storage space and easy access to the fore end, and begun ballasting with concrete blocks rather than coal.
I have a number of photographs of Chertsey at various stages of her history which can’t be publicly displayed for copyright or other reasons – please ask if you would like to see the album. And if you have taken any nice or interesting photos of Chertsey – either recently or in the past – it would be greatly appreciated if you could share them by emailing to
– please also get in touch if you would like to know more about Chertsey in particular or historic narrow boats more generally.
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