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BIBLIOGRAPHY: Recommended Books, Films, Videos and online items.


This is not intended to be a complete waterways book list, nor film/video list, but comprises only those specialised books relating to carrying, and travelling, by narrow boat and to which the reader/viewer is especially commended. For older/out of print editions, a specialist bookseller is recommended such as www.abebooks.com

Barlows, Samuel Barlow Coal co. S.E. Barlow. Blue Line C.C.C. by Alan H. Faulkner 1st.published 1986 by Robert Wilson designs Rothwell, Northants. The complex story of a canal carrying icon

The BCN in pictures. Published by Birmingham Canal Navigation Society 1982. Fascinating insight into the use of the lorry trailers of a disappeared age

Boatyards and Boat Building by Robert J.Wilson, 1st published 1974 60 pence. How and where it was done

Bread Upon the Waters David Blagrove (1984) J M Pearson & Son (Publishers) Ltd, Burton on Trent ISBN 0-907864-15-5 Description of some of the final days of large scale narrowboat carrying from an early enthusiast

The Canals of England Eric DeMare 1st published 1950. paperback edition 1991 ISBN 0-86299-418-7 An absolute classic - especially for the wonderful black and white photographs of every aspect of the waterways scene at the time

Claytons of Oldbury by Alan H. Faulkner published by Robert Wilson 1978. Some of the prettiest boats in the filthiest locations

Clinging On Gerald Box (2004?) Ambion ISBN 0 9545056 0 3 :110 pages, The Moria Cut, coal and the last days of carrying. The history of commercial carrying on the Ashby Canal from 1965 to 1980 - some of the most desparate efforts to keep large scale trade on the narrow canals, thwarted by officialdom in many places! This thwarting was paralleled countrywide in water transport generally, and continues in many ways to this day by myopic managers and politicians.

Come Canal Cruising R Hankison (1967) 1st edition 112 pages, Ward Lock 13 figures and maps (later republished in paperback as "Canal Cruising" (1974) Ward Lock ). Thoroughly rcommended guide to boating technique

Epilogue by Robert Wilson published 1977 by Robert Wilson. The final years of large scale canal carrying by narrow boat

The Flower of Gloster E Temple Thurston (1911) Williams & Norgate. Classic story of an early canal boat trip, illustrated by W R Dakin

Hold On a Minute Tim Wilkinson (1965) Republished in paperback (2001) ISBN 0 947712 39 9 :188 pages, M & M Baldwin. An absolute classic of an account of working a pair of narrowboats after the 2nd World War. A must for all carrying enthusiasts - or those who don't know why we bother....

Knobsticks (canal carrying on the Northern Trent and Mersey) by Robert J. Wilson. 1st published by Robert J. Wilson 1974

Life Afloat by Robert Wilson 1st published 1976 by Robert Wilson

Narrow Boat LTC Rolt. Probably the book that saved the waterways from abandonment and large scale obliteration.

Narrow Boat Painting by Tony Lewery. This is the definitive book on narrow boat decoration in which the author sets out for the first time his carefully considered thoughts on the origins and reasons for the style which became so distinctive. Subsequent publications expanded on this theme, but real enthusiasts of this artform need this book to understand what it is all about.

The Number Ones (story of the life of owner boatmen on Midland Canals) by Robert J. Wilson 1973

On The Canal by John Hollingshead published 1973 by the Waterways Museum Stoke Bruerne

The River Runs Uphill Robert Aickman (1986) J M Pearson & Sons (Publishers) Ltd, Burton on Trent ISBN 0-907864-38-4. Aickman's autobiography. Possibly an unlikeable hero, but Aickman's philosophy on life is compelling and pragmatic - and his logic unassailable. A fascinating and inspiring book

Roses and Castles by Robert J. Wilson. Published by The Waterways Museum Stoke Bruerne 1976. This has become the second most definitive text on narrow boat decoration

Severn & Canal and Cadburys by Alan H. Faulkner 1st published 1981

A Short History of the Narrow Boat by Tom Chaplin 1st published 1967. reprinted 1985 by Shepperton Swan Ltd. ISBN 0 906986 01 X.

Too Many Boats (British Waterways Narrow Boat Carrying Fleets - a History) by Robert Wilson, published by Robert Wilson 1980

Voyage into England by John Seymour. A 1960s family canal trip at a time when few cared about the canals but some realised their potential for leisure. At the cusp of the boom. An excellent read.

Walkers of Ricky John Walker. The definitive history of this important boatbuilder

Waterways Postcards, 1900 - 1930 by Hugh Mcknight. Published by Shepperton Swan Ltd, 1986 ISBN 0 906986 04 4

W. J. Yarwood & Sons Ltd., shipbuilders of Northwich, 1896-1966: a brief history Clive Guthrie. Northwich & District Heritage Society, [1996]. pp. 17. 62 photos, map. 30 cm. Clive's tantalising glimpse into his massively researched and documented history of this major boat and ship builder. This work is of interest to the armchair enthusiast but real anoraks are still waiting for the posthumous publication of Clive's major work...


(Sources for many of the more obscure titles: Waterways World, October 1980; Andrew Boucher.)

Film and TV items in my possession are marked with a '*' and I would welcome copies, or the opportunity to copy, other items not marked. Failing that, we would be grateful for pointers as to where to obtain copies. Please email the webmaster at the address at the foot of the left hand menu.

Historic Films

The Bargee* In spite of its title, and cliched love story, this is a fabulous film showing the last days of large scale regular canal carrying by narrow boat and plenty of real boating shots.

Barging Along Post WWII by Devalto Film Services. Early commercial narrow boat footage

Barging Through London 1924 John Huntley

The Boat People 1953 Rank Film Library. "It dates from 1956 and features Ron Hough with the" Banstead" and "Feltham" and his future wife with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Powell who had the "Belfast" and "Argus" at the time. Scenes were shot all over the place,and continuity not very good. I got mine and a copy for the Hough's from the British Film Institute" AB.

Breakthrough National Trust 1960. On the restoration of the Stratford Canal

Canals into England R Ainscough. A narrow boat journey

The Gentle Highway Transport and Travel Film Library 1969. With Johnny Morris

Ice Breakers on the Grand Union Canal 1911 John Huntley

Last of the Cut Confusingly not the John Huntley one - this made about 1969 with good action shots of Blue Line boats and BW lime juice boats

Look at Life Ron Hough was involved in the making of a Rank short in the "Look at Life" series featuring a trip to Birmingham with barrels of tamarinds in 1960

The Jason: Regents Park Canal British Film Library 1956

Jean's Plan Rank Film Library 1960. Story of a thwarted group of thieves set around the canals

Journey of the Grebe Darvill Associates - a trip along the Grand Union

The Last of the Cut John Huntley 1964

Liquid History Shell 1932. A trip on a Shell craft through London

Looking at Britain: Manchester Ship Canal Central Film Library 1962

The Maggie EMI, Ealing Comedy 1954. The story revolves around a Clyde Puffer on the Crinan Canal

Narrow Boats British Film Library 1954

North Walsham & Dilham Canal David Cleveland 1966. A review of the canal and the wherries that travelled on it

Painted Boats* Ealing Studios 1946. EMI. The last days of horse boating. Post war 'flag waver' for modernisation

Port of Manchester Guild Sound and Vision 1962

Prendergast File John Huntley 1963. The story of a civil servant who catches the canal bug

Saving the Basingstoke 1913? John Huntley. The first (and unsuccessful) attempt to save this canal from closure

Sheffield - Humber R Ainscough. A barge journey

Take Me High EMI film 1973 with Cliff Richard with the story set around the BCN

There Go The Boats 1951 Transport and Travel Films Library. A bit of a classic

The World of Waterways Transport and Travel Film Library 1960s


Modern Films (ie post 1970s revival)

Caldon Canal: A Cut Above the Rest John Tibbit 1970s on the canal's revival

The Fanatics John Huntley late 1960s. Canal restoration on the Cheshire Ring

The Kennet and Avon Canal John Huntley. British Cine Society

The Maritime Link Travel and Transport Film Library 1980. Promotional film for BW waterways

Navvies John Huntley 1973. The story of the Droitwich Big Dig

Operation Ashton John Huntley 1972. The story of the first of the volunteer 'Big Digs'.

The Water Highway Shell 1980. The waterways revival

Waterways: Our Heritage Travel and Transport Film Library 1980


Television Series (and programmes with waterways as a central theme)

Birds Eye View BBC documentary series overflying the UK with a helicopter in the 1970s. One episode featured highlights of the waterways

The Flower of Gloster* Granada TV 1967. Children's series of 13 episodes of a journey from Wales to London on board the boat of the same name. (This was what got this author interested in canals!) Now released on DVD, Available from Amazon etc!

Joshua Jones 1992 BBC rival to Rosie and Jim for children's attention but never quite had the same popular appeal despite much better content. 12 (or 13?) ten minute episodes only. Some released on video

Locks and Quays* Ongoing documentary series (3rd in 2008) made by ITV on inland waterways. Similar, but possibly more nitty gritty version of Central TV's Waterworld series. Worth watching/downloading.

Maidens Trip 1976 BBC TV version of the book based on the lives of the wartime women trainees. Originally made as three episodes but later (1980s?) contracted into one for re-showing.

The Narrow Boat Men BBC (?) documentary 1970s. Interviews with the old working boatmen. BBC simultaneously released a 12" LP record "Narrow Boats" containing similar material. Both fabulous.

Rosie and Jim 1990s Long-running ITV Children's series aimed at the very young as an introduction the waterways - including water safety. Some good material in there despite being almost unwatchable by sane adults.

Still Carrying On 1983 Central TV documentary on the Mikron Theatre Company directed by John Thorneycroft (he of the former Narrowboat Cinema on board NB Duke). Shows a Mikron performance at Long Buckby. (Film Trivia - from 'Carry On' to 'Mikron': Mike Lucas appeared in Carry on Camping and gets in a brief clinch with Barbara Windsor in an early scene at the girls school!)

Travelling Man 1980s ITV fictional series in which the central character has numerous 'thriller' styled adventures involving guns, burglars, explosions, fires etc (Much parodied previously by the Day Star Theatre Company!)

Voyage Between Two Seas 1983 BBC2 production of about 5 episodes of a trip from Liverpool to Hull via Leeds & Liverpool and Aire & Calder Canals

Waterways 1992 Channel 4. Five or six part travelogue of a trip through the Royal Canal (Ireland) by bolinder-engined barge M45

Waterworld* Central TV documentary series ongoing (series 9 2008?) featuring lots about people fitting out/buying/living on modern narrow boats. Worth watching for the occasional historic gem but can tend to get wishy washy and 'rose tinted'.  

The Wench is Dead 1998 ITV 'Inspector Morse' mystery solved 140 years after the event of the notorious 'Oxford Canal Murder', by the late John Thaw in the series title role, whilst ostensibly recovering in hospital.


Online Film/Videos/Photographic Resources


Canalside Camera - excellent, highly photographic site including historic and modern photos.

Science and Society Picture Library

Yorkshire Film Archive - lots of fascinating footage.


Specific items

Mary Ann Trent To Soar 1948 - 50 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnbGLi169lc
An OUCS entry of moving a cruiser from Kings Lynn, via the Trent to a new mooring on the river Soar. Fascinating footage of commercial barge traffic - especially on the Trent.

Is Rotherham A Seaport Town? (1959) http://www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com/film/rotherham-seaport-town
Yorkshire Film Archive footage (YFA 521) of a journey by working barge, and then pleasure boat, from Sheffield to Thorne. Lots of classic footage of working craft.


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