Canal Boat Registration – Canal Boats Act, 1877
Canal Boat Registration - Canal Boats Act, 1877
When campaigners were pushing the Canal Boats Act through parliament in 1877 the improvement of the cramped and often poor quality accommodation found on canal boats had been their major motivation. Particular concern had been expressed for the sleeping arrangements and impact on the moral welfare of women and girls. There were also concerns that children living on a travelling canal boat were not being given a proper education, as would a child living in a house. Registration was mandatory for the owner of any canal boat carrying commercial cargo on which persons slept overnight. After passing inspection the vessel was registered and a certificate issued to the owner which had to be carried onboard the vessel and produced on demand.
The following extraordinary illustrations by the late Edward Paget-Tomlinson appeared in Humber Keels and Keelmen (1988) by Fred Schofield. They are reproduced here with the kind permission of the publisher but our attempts to contact Edward’s widow for her permission have proved unsuccessful.
This image shows the aft cabin of a typical wooden keel drawn from what Paget-Tomlinson described as an “impossible position above the stove” being the only way to show the complete layout.
This image shows the forward cabin from the bulkhead separating the cabin from the cargo hold. The canal boat inspector would measure the width, height and length of these cabins to compute the cubic capacity of space available to any family living onboard. He used published tables to establish how many adults and children were then legally allowed to inhabit that amount of space. The cabin dimensions and allowed numbers of persons were entered on both the register and certificate of registration given to the owner.
- Initials rather than full first names are often used providing a challenge to the genealogist.
- Where the master was not also the owner, his address was usually omitted.
- Changes of master were seldom advised to the registration authority.
- The sale of a vessel and its re-registration with a new authority more convenient to the new owner was rarely advised to the old authority in a timely manner.
- Scrapping of vessels was rarely advised at the time but tended to be recorded years after the event.
- Some “observations” by the canal boat inspector class as “nuggets” which have the potential to add much colour to family history research.
- Unexpected information may be found, for example, when and where a vessel was built.
- Other documents – correspondence and registration certificates – are rare but may be found.
- “Memoranda of change” turn what was a point in time record for a vessel into its history through time.
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Alternatively if you want a little bit of reassurance before you dip your toe in the canal, so to speak, click here, and you’ll be shown what to expect.