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ALL ABOARD: Homage to narrowboat life at Batchworth Lock

 Published on: 18th May 2024   |   By: Sophia Sheera   |   Category: Uncategorized

Following the cancellation of the 2024 Rickmansworth Canal Festival, organisers from the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust have turned to widening their impressive educational repertoire to make up for lost income.

Keen to make use of the opportunity this April were two dozen children from Bushey and Oxhey Infant School, who enjoyed a full day’s heritage experience at the Batchworth Lock Education Centre. Their visit included a tour of a historical working boat, named Roger, and a chance to operate the lock itself.

Back when South Hertfordshire was known as an industrial hub famed for its paper mills, the Grand Union Canal was once abuzz with narrowboats carrying cargo to and from industrial sites across the country. In fact, one of the last remaining narrowboats to grace today’s waters is moored at the Batchworth Lock. RickyNews joined our new friends from Bushey and Oxhey in peering down into Roger’s stern cabin, before taking it in turns to take a tentative step onboard.

Built for a coal merchant in Aylesbury in 1936, Roger is not only able to carry 25 tonnes of goods, but can even house a small family onboard. From 1941, Roger was captained by Arthur Bray and his wife, Rose, who were one of the last working families to preserve the industrial canal boat way of life. Pulling out the small fold-down bed, table and coal-fire stove, the schoolchildren were amazed to think that a family could live in such small quarters, never mind that the small room behind the main door – which they originally thought was an en-suite – turned out to be the engine room.

Roger is one of the most important heritage attractions at Batchworth Lock, and his second life as a floating historical site is woven into Rickmansworth’s history. In 1992, a group from Rickmansworth Residents’ Association decided to mark the 200-year anniversary of the Grand Union Canal by restoring an old narrowboat that had fallen into disrepair. The residents formed the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust, rescued Roger and established the first Rickmansworth Canal Festival to fund Roger’s restoration.

Roger was crane-lifted back into the water during the festival in 2000, following repairs that totalled around £80,000. Since then, the retired working boat has been conserved for operational use at the Lock Centre, preserving a glimpse of a lost way of life for future generations.

The Rickmansworth Waterways Trust continues to go from strength to strength. In 2017, the trust received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for activities spanning across the education programme, the Canal Centre, the annual festival, and conserving Roger. In 2019, a bespoke Education Centre was built by the canal to provide Rickmansworth with an additional community and educational space. Meanwhile, Roger is still going strong at 88 years old.

Photo Credit: Rickmansworth Waterways Trust 

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