This week I’ve been trying to take stock of where I’m at in terms of researching the boat’s history, and have been using the following timeline to identify the gaps and prompt new lines of enquiry:


Eileen/18686 Timeline

1805 Tipton Green Branch Canal, part of the Birmingham Canal Navigation, completed.

1829 Telford’s New Main Line cuts across the Tipton Green branch forming Watery Lane Junction with, to the west the Tipton Green branch and, to the East, the Toll End Communications branch.

1853 Benjamin Pearson born.

1866 Hickman family buy Springvale Iron Works and site, Bilston.

1882 Staffordshire Steel & Ingot Iron Co. set up by Alfred Hickman on the site to manufacture iron, and produce steel by the Gilchrist-Thomas process.
The Springvale steelworks occupy a long stretch of canal frontage extending north from the junction at Coseley to Millfields.

1899 Staffordshire Steel & Ingot Iron Co. and Springvale Furnaces Ltd. amalgamate to become Alfred Hickman Ltd.

1901 Census confirms Benjamin Pearson as Canal Carrier.

1903 (Sir) Alfred Hickman created a baronet

1903 An open iron (ie. no cabin) day boat is commissioned by Benjamin Pearson of Tipton from Eli Aston, Iron Boat Builder, working in Iron Boat Dock, Alexandra Road, Tipton on the Toll End Communications branch

1903 On 13th July an open iron day boat is weighed and gauged at Tipton and given BCN plate number 18686. The vessel was unnamed.

At an unspecified point after 1903 18686 is first leased to Birmingham Canal Navigation Co. and later to Alfred Hickman Ltd . who eventually purchase the boat from Benjamin Pearson.

1921 Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd. (S&L) acquire Alfred Hickman Ltd. during a period of rapid expansion. Hickmans becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of the company although retain a significant degree of autonomy. Hickmans continue to expand their internal transport systems across the Springvale site including an extensive internal rail network and numerous day boats.

1927 On 17th March 18686 is re-weighed at Tipton. Alfred Hickman Ltd. are named as the owners. The boat carries a Hickman fleet No. 105

A 40 year ‘lost’ period. It’s likely that 18686 remained part of the Hickman/S&L fleet and worked in and around the Spring Vale / Bilston area until it was sold. But how to prove it? More research into Spring Vale needed.

How did an open iron day boat end up 100+ miles from the BCN in Skipton in the ownership of Steve the Lollypop Man. Is there any link to the salt or colliery trades?

Why was the day boat cut down, where and by whom? Was it an aborted conversion for pleasure use?

c.1966 Sidney & Marion Merrall purchase a shortened ( 62’) and remodelled (stern altered in preparation for motorising) ex. BCN open iron day boat 18686 from a ‘Steve’ in Skipton (on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal). The tow it back to Beeston Wharf (on the Shropshire Union Canal) using their shortened Cowburn & Cowpar Ltd. motor nb.Starling.

1967 Hull repairs are undertaken including bottom plating and 12’ section of  knees replaced.

1968 Hull of 18686 purchased by Mick & Judy Vedmore who convert it to a working motor named Eileen. The cabin and engine room are constructed at Beeston Wharf and a Fowler engine is mounted on engine beds.

1968 Under its own power for the first time, Eileen/18686 moved to above River Lock Armley, Leeds where conversion to a working motor is completed. Eileen is painted out in ‘Vedmore & Patterson’ livery.

1969 Eileen moved to Timperley, Altringham on the Bridgewater Canal.

1970-74 Eileen moved to Bottom Lock, Braunston where the Vedmores split their time between selling painted canal ware and skippering pairs of converted ex.working boats as camping boats for Union Canal Carriers. Eileen is pressed into service as a camping boat and leased by UCC when orders required an additional boat. Eileen is skippered by Geoff Mason

1971-78 Eileen becomes, at times, the family home for Vedmore family

1974-78 Eileen moved to former Taylors Boatyard, Tower Wharf, Chester. Wharf buildings became a base for Vedmore’s  fledgling Canalware Supplies business

1978 In May, Eileen is returned to Braunston and in June 1978 is sold to an Australian couple, with a very young baby, who plan to explore the canal system before returning to Australia. Eileen is temporarily re-named Isis, but the new owners soon revert to Eileen.

Q. A full length conversion is added around this time, but where, and by whom?

Late 1970’s Within 18 months the now fully converted Eileen is up for sale, and purchased by Paul Pepperell from the Australian couple on Oxford Canal between Kidlington and Thrupp

1980 Eileen attends IWA National Waterways Festival on River Lee, London. Day Star Theatre present a performance from a stage lashed to the roof of breasted up Eileen and Day Star.

1981 Eileen returns to Leeds to attend the IWA National Festival and Waterside Arts Festival on Aire & Calder Canal as Day Star Theatre’s base for the festival as nb. Day Star was unable to make the journey.

Q. When was Eileen sold by Paul Pepperell? To whom? What happened next?

1988 Eileen, now owned by a K. Tomlinson, is a neglected and static houseboat on the Paddington Arm, at Highline Yachting, Greenford, London.

Winter 1988 Eileen is completely burn out from stem to stern, with serious heat distortion occurring to the hull.

1989 An engineless hull is purchased as an insurance right-off by Jim & Mig MacDonald and towed by nb. Elizabeth to Cassion Wharf, Watford.

1989-90 The hull is stripped out and a BMC 2.2 engine installed.

1990 Eileen is towed by nb. Elizabeth to Warwickshire Flyboat Co. Ltd. where the hull distortion eased, and a 16’ cabin, gunwales and foredeck added. The works re-create Eileen as a working motor for the second time.

1991 Eileen attends National Rally at Windmill End and is awarded runner-up in restoration category.

1992-95 Extensive cruising of waterways system under ownership of Jim MacDonald.

1995-2005 Eileen is laid-up for long periods at Cassio Wharf.

2006 Eileen surveyed for sale by Mike Carter

2007-2011 Purchased by Lisa Vallantine. Eileen motored from Cassio Wharf north to Great Hayward. A new hold conversion (the ‘Long Cabin’) is completed in 2009

Q. Where was the work done and by whom?

2011 Eileen is purchased by us, Nick & Claire Holt, from Great Hayward Boat Sales. Over the winter of 2011 the hull is blacked, bottom over-plated, basic services (water, gas & electric) reinstated and BMC 2.2 overhauled.

2012 During the Easter holidays, Eileen is transferred motored from Great Hayward to Braunston by Jim Mobbs and Vi Powell. And then we take over for the remaining journey to Eileen our first home mooring adjacent to Clattercote Wharf, Forge Farm, Claydon.

2012 In October, Eileen is moved to over-Winter at Hardwick Wharf, Banbury.

2013 In May, Eileen leaves her temporary mooring when a berth comes up at Grimsbury Wharf Banbury. In late July, new bunks for the children are added in the ‘Long Cabin’ by John Coombes and following a lot of research the boat’s booked in for re-painting Boat in a version of S&L colours in September 2013 by Jez Barrington.


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