Heritage Working Boat Bramble

Working boat Bramble

A potted history of Bramble

Working boat Bramble was built for canal carrying company, Fellows Morton and Clayton in 1934. There is photographic evidence of her working on the Grand Union Canal between Brentford and the Midlands for many years, carrying coal, steel bars and other goods. Fellows Morton and Clayton were the ‘Eddie Stobarts’ of their day, working all over the country.

Like many motorboats, Bramble travelled with an unpowered ‘butty’ boat, for a long time this was Bascote. The Husson family and later the Powell family lived aboard the boats full time, living and working, always on the move between London and Birmingham.

During the Second World War, when the canals were nationalised, Bramble was taken into the Inland Waterways carrying fleet and later became a British Waterways Board maintenance boat. Sometime in1960, she was shortened to the length of a tug and continued to work on the Midlands canals.

In 2001, British Waterways began to dispose of many of their large fleet of old working boats and she was leased by Richard Brindley, who did a considerable amount of work on her at Ian Kemp’s yard at Stourbridge, re-lengthening her to 68ft.- not quite her original length, probably around 72ft.

Sadly Richard passed away and the boat was returned to British Waterways (now the Canal & River Trust) who sold her to Stourport Forward for £1 on condition that she is used for educational purposes. Stourport Forward is a not-for-profit organisation that works for the benefit of Stourport on Severn – unique in being the only town in Britain developed as a result of a canal being built.

Bramble comes to Stourport

In 2006, a local newspaper, the Shuttle launched an appeal to carry out further works to build a cabin and fit out the hold of the boat for use by schools and groups. Volunteers undertook the work, materials were donated and over £5,000 was raised to get the project underway. Jim Amos led the volunteer group works in an inspired project to make the boat useable – this was quite a challenge! Councillor Dave Little and Mike Freeman did much of the heavy work to re-install the Lister engine. Cabin work was done by Tim Lewis, the Village Carpenter and Tim Ellis of Stourport Forward, along with his enthusiastic friends!

In March 2015, Bramble was beautifully sign-written by boat painter Dave Moore. She was ‘re-launched’ by Stourport Town’s Mayor, then Cliff Brewer and Maggie Smith, landlady of the Hollybush, a longterm supporter of the project. Richard Parry, chair of the Canal & River Trust, Marcus Hart, chair of Wyre Forest District Council and many of Bramble’s advocates, supporters and followers were present.

Bramble was used for school and group visits to promote Stourport’s heritage and opened at events throughout the year. In October 2015, Martin Brookes, boatbuilder and Joe Hollingshead, retired boatman, began work to service and repair the engine and Bramble was moved under her own steam that autumn for the first time in many years!

From early 2016, our plan was to involve Bramble in school and group visits and more than 1,250 children have visited the boat this year to find out about Stourport’s past and working waterways. Our volunteers have joined Canal & River Explorers and can offer fantastic, free visits for 7 – 11-year-olds.

Schools and groups can book by going to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/explorers and requesting a booking for a visit with Stourport Canal & River Explorers.

Other groups are welcome to contact our small team about visiting, by contacting: info@stourporttown.co.uk or leaving a message at 01299 822 827. We are always interested in welcoming new volunteers and would love to hear from you if you would like to be involved.

Councillor Chris Rogers kindly donated his charitable funds to providing barrels for ballast to lower the boat in the water and we are very grateful to the many friends who have donated items so far, to furnish the boat cabin and hold in 1930s style.

In May 2016, Friends of Bramble held a Fundraising evening at the Rock Tavern in Wilden, Stourport, raising almost £700 for winter works to the boat. We are currently fundraising for the following works:

  • replacement cloths (tarpaulins)
  • repair and replacement of boarding under the cloths
  • craning out and blacking the bottom of the boat
  • modifications to the cabin

If you would like to get involved or would like to sponsor Bramble we would love to hear from you.


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