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Nuneaton - History


Built in the mid-1930's as part of a massive expansion programme of the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company (G.U.C.C.Co.). 186 pairs of boats were built, designed to carry 72 tons of cargo per pair on a draught of 4ft 3ins at a speed of 6 miles per hour, but the canals were never able to take boats with that load, typically 50-55 tons were carried.

Once commissioned, Nuneaton was fully employed carrying many different loads mainly between London Ports and the Midlands, with backloads of coal from the Coventry coalfields. In 1948 a large part of the canal system came under government control - the British Transport Commission (Docks & Inland Waterways Executive). Nuneaton now became part of the nationalised narrowboat fleet operated by the B.T.C.(D.& I.W.E.), though the daily routine of boating remained the same. It passed to British Waterways (B.T.C. (B.T.W) in October 1953, and continued to carry goods much as it had done originally with G.U.C.C.Co. Ltd.

During this period Nuneaton had its original steel cabin removed, and replaced with a wooden cabin similar to those on the Harland & Wolff boats; this was done to several of the boats due to heating and condensation problems.

In about 1960 Nuneaton's National engine was removed and replaced with a Petter PD2 air cooled engine.

Shortly after the formation of British Waterways Board in 1963 the nationalised carrying fleet was disbanded. Many boats' carrying careers ended, but Nuneaton was hired along with about 67 other narrowboats to the newly formed Willow Wren Canal Transport Services Ltd. Due to the good maintenance routine and hull renovation carried out by B.T.W. some of these boats were able to continue working until 1970.

Nuneaton was returned to B.W.B. in 1970 after 34 years of continuous work, being one of the last narrowboats employed in long distance canal carrying. B.W.B. had no work available for Nuneaton, so she was stored, along with several other boats returned at the same time, on the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal. They remained here for about 18 months during which time 'enthusiasts' scavenged anything of interest, and engine parts were stolen to keep other boats running.

Sold to the Narrow Boat Trust, restoration of the boat was put in hand, using mostly volunteer labour. Forty eight years later Nuneaton is still working, and maintenance, as with all other working boats, is ongoing.


In the winter 2000/1 the temporary wooden cabin was replaced with a steel one in the style of the original, and a number of other repairs were made to the hull and fittings.

The Petter engine was replaced with a Lister HRW2 in 2001, although The Trust still has an aspiration to return at some stage to a National-type engine, similar to that originally fitted.

2020: as featured on the boats main page, Nuneaton is currently undergoing major works on her hull, which had deteriorated to the point where she was no longer fit for carrying cargo. The work has been suspended due to the COVID 19 pandemic, and it is not yet clear when she wil be back in service. The repairs are costly. If you would like to donate to the Trust please get in touch.  

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