In this 600th post I’m in the process of trying to get to know a little more about BCN 18686’s maker, Eli Aston.

I’m finding that both the 1901 and 1911 England Census are fascinating reading, slowly the Aston family are coming to life!

Eli Aston 1911 census
The 1911 Census

Although I’ve not read it for myself as yet Alan Fincher has very kindly provided the following data drawn from the 1901 England Census which lists the following persons resident at 42 Waterloo Street, Tipton, Staffs

Eli Aston, Head, Married, Aged 53, Boat Builder (Employer)
Phoebe Aston, Wife, Married, Aged 47
William Aston, Son, Single, Aged 20, Boat Builder (Worker)
Gertrude Aston, Daughter, Single, Aged 17
Edith Aston, Daughter, Single, Aged 15
Maud Mary Aston, Daughter, Single, Aged 13, Scholar
Ella Aston, Daughter,  Aged 12, Scholar
Eli Aston, Son, Aged 9, Scholar
Joseph Aston, Son, Aged 4

All are show as born in Tipton, Staffs

The 1901 Census obviously provides the data closest to 18686’s build-date. However, it’s fascinating to compare this data with that drawn from the 1911 Census which lists the following persons resident at 50 Waterloo Street, Tipton, Staffs (a six room residence):

Eli Aston, Head, Married, Aged 63, Iron Canal BoatBuilder (Employer)
Phoebe Aston, Wife, Married, Aged 57 (it’s sobering to note from the Census record that Phoebe Aston, by 1911 married to Eli Aston for 39 years, had 13 children, 5 of whom had died and 8 surviving)
William Aston – is not recorded as resident in the household by 1911
Isaiah Aston, Son, Widower, Aged 28, Canal Boat Riveter – though not listed as resident in 1901, is recorded in the household in 1911, along with his two children (see below)
Gertrude Aston, Daughter, Single, Aged 27
Edith Aston – is not recorded as resident in the household by 1911
Maud Mary Aston – is not recorded as resident in the household by 1911
Ella Aston, Daughter,  Single, Aged 22
Eli Aston, Son, Aged 19, Articled Clerk – auctioneering
Joseph Aston, Son, Aged 14, Canal Boat Rivet Heater
May Aston, Granddaughter, Aged 9, scholar
Horace Aston, Grandson, Aged 9, scholar (Horace’s age has been altered from 7 years to 9 years) – were he and May twins?

Even this level of data provides a vivid picture of the family, and yet there remain so many questions I’d love to find answers to. Not least:

  • what happened to William, Edith & Maud Mary?
  • what was the circumstance of Isaiah Aston’s return to the family home, did his wife die in childbirth having twins?
  • The reason for the move from 42 to 50 Waterloo Street – a larger property?

The journey continues next week…



7 thoughts on “‘The Story of Eileen: ‘A Boat Builder & Family’

  1. Hi Sarah,

    Yep that’s what I’d like to think, but I suspect a little more archive trawling through the registers of births, deaths & marriages will help provide the definitive answer.

    I’m finding this journey into the history of the boat absorbing – in a period when I’m unable to spend much time actually using her – and, in a powerful sense, it’s increased my sense of association with, and connection to, 18686/Eileen.

    best wishes



  2. Hi, I’ve recently discovered your article on Aston’s boat dock and the Aston family. I am a grandson of Maud Mary and could fill in some (but not all) of the details and questions you have. If you are still interested in this topic drop me an email.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Michael
      This is wonderful news, I’d be delighted to know more about the family and the business. I’m currently tied up with work, but if it’s OK I’ll try to drop you an e-mail in the next couple of days.

      Thanks so much for getting in touch,



    2. Dear Michael

      Again, thanks so much for getting in touch offering to fill in some of the gaps regarding the history of Eli Aston’s family and his work at Iron Boat (Aston’s) Wharf. As you’ll know from reading the posts my interest has been sparked by the makers plate on our old Birmingham Canal Navigation day boat which identified Eli as the maker, in 1903.

      The 1901 and 1911 census have provided tantalising glimpses into your family, however I’d love to know more about the family, so any information you might be able to provide would be very much appreciated.

      In particular I’d love to know more about the dock, who worked there and what happened to it, and anything at all about Eli’s life and times. I know it’s a long shot but any photos from the period would be of huge interest in helping me to understand the circumstances under which the boat was built.

      I’d also love to know more about the family, and again anything more you might be able to add with regard to their life and times would be fascinating.

      My e-mail is:

      very best wishes



    3. Hello Michael-

      I am the owner of a beautiful 1896 narrow boat that I believe may have been built by Eli Aston ( your great-grandfather?). Sadly I don’t have her BCN plates. Her bow is very similar to Eileen’s. My beauty is called Aspen. I wonder if you have any advice on how I can get further with my search for her history? Does the family hold any register of the boats Eli built? One defining feature is that her knees are embossed with ‘Harts Hill Iron Co’. Do you happen to know if Eli worked with Harts Hill/ used components built by them/ or maybe built boats for them?

      I have so much to learn and very little experience of researching so I’m grasping at straws to try and get a lead. I do hope you don’t mind me contacting you.
      Very best wishes
      Rachel Leonard.


      1. Dear Rachel,

        Michael’s the name of the Aston family member who kindly got in touch with me to share memories of his family. We were in e-mail communication, unfortunately the family doesn’t hold records of Eli Aston’s business at Iron Boat Dock. You might find references to the company and the boats he built at the Dudley Archives which are located next to the car park of the Black Country Museum and all boats working on the Birmingham Canals would have been recorded in the gauging tables kept by the BCN, however without the original index number finding out your boat’s early history is likely to be very difficult. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

        Good luck with you search, I’d be fascinated to hear how you get on.

        Best wishes



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