A ‘National Collection of Canal Day Boats’…


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.

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The Story of Eileen: The ‘Imagined’ Yard


In trying to uncover (or navigate) the lost history of our old Birmingham Canal Navigation iron day boat Eileen it’s been necessary at times to rely on creative leaps of imagination to help bridge the current gaps in my knowledge.

For some time I’ve been thinking about the yard where she was built by Eli Aston around 1903. Contemporaneous maps provide a tantalising blank canvas. The yard seems to have been little more than a huddle of sheds on flat land adjacent to the canal.

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The Story of Eileen: ‘Aston’s Iron Boat Dock’ (2.)

I’m still in search of the elusive essence of a canal bankside boatyard. What would the Iron Boat Dock, where our day boat Eileen was built in 1903 have looked like? Do these photos of locations around the Birmingham Canals,  gleamed from various sources (see captions) get me any closer?

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The Story of Eileen: ‘Imagining Aston’s Iron Boat Dock 1.’


Previous research into the history of our old Birmingham Canal Navigation (BCN) day boat ‘Eileen’ built in July 1903 had revealed that she was manufactured by iron boat builder Eli Aston at the Iron Boat Dock, Alexandra Road, Tipton. To date I’ve been unable to source any images of the dock beyond the tantalising outlines of buildings shown on the 1904 map reproduced by Alan Godfrey.

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A bit of a treat…

After a frantic pre-Xmas day of tree-hauling and decorating I was enjoying what felt to be a well deserved ‘stubby’ of Sainsbury’s own brand continental lager and internet browsing when I came across a set of stunning images of 1950’s & 60’s Birmingham taken by Phyllis Nicklin whilst she was working for the Department of Extra Mural Studies at the University of Birminham. Following her death the university kindly made the collection available to download and redistribute for non-commercial research or private study purposes. I love the evocative quality of the images and her wonderful eye for details, more of the collection can be found HERE.