The Day Boat was a narrow boat form almost unique to the Birmingham Canal Navigation. It evolved in response to the need for a simple, strong boat able to survive the rigours of the system with minimum fuss or maintenance. Hauled by horse or tug or manhandled around basins by steerers, thousands of these simple, elemental boats once served the canal-side industries of Birmingham bringing raw materials to the city and then distributing the finished product.
Of that once enormous fleet very few day boats remain in anything like original condition. Many were cut up as industries turned their back on the waterways; others were ignored and left to rot where they lay; whilst others were crushed and buried, as basins were drained and infilled. A number, such as as our day boat Eileen were motorised and converted to pleasure boats, often being cut to a shorter length in the process.
Happily a group of like-minded enthusiasts, based at the Black Country Living Museum, have over a twenty year period gathered together what might now be called a ‘National Collection of Canal Day Boats’.
It’s through the passion, commitment and shear hard work of enthusiasts like Bernard Hales & Partners that these unconverted ‘open’ and ‘cabin’ day boats have been saved. They once again grace the museum arm and provide the restored tugs which gather there every two years with a meaningful load to haul once more.