Horseboat Vixen was horsedrawn by Bilbo Baggins from the Rochdale Canal Summit to Todmorden over two days on Nov 12 and 13. An overnight stop was made at Walsden by the famous Grandma Pollards Fish & Chips and Pie Shop. A member of the crew had to go ahead cutting saplings down before the arrival of the boat as they have not been removed in recent years and we had struggled with these saplings in August when travelling up the locks to the Summit. They varied from 5 to 15 feet tall.
Vixen then took part in the arts event of the Valley of Lights which was funded by Calderdale Council. It was devised as a celebratory event after the flooding in the valley during the summer months which did substantial damage to homes and businesses. The event was linked to the annual Christmas lights switch-on but was on a much larger scale to show residents and visitors that the valley towns were up and running again, ready for trade for Christmas.
The Horseboating Society was honoured to be involved as only 4 boats took part, but HBS did not receive any funding so it was decided to work closely with the Rochdale Canal Society and take motor tows from Todmorden to Hebden Bridge to Mytholmroyd, sharing crew together. At each of the 3 towns, Vixen had a display on her roof of home-made paper lanterns of a horse pulling a boat, lit up with LED wire and lights. Inside she had window displays of stars, snowflakes and rocking horses. The other boats were decorated with inflatables made by the arts group Space Cadets. Our hand-made lanterns were admired by many people who visited the boat displays. The lanterns were on display on Vixen on Saturday Nov 24th at Todmorden, Thursday Nov 29th at Hebden Bridge and Saturday Dec 1st at Mytholmroyd.
Vixen will be moored in Hebden Bridge again for the winter. A horseboating passenger boat business ran here from 1987 to 2004 and Vixen was brought to the Rochdale Canal in 2010 to be used for occasional passenger work to continue horseboating activity on this canal.
Light display on Vixen at Mytholmroyd. Photo: David Ormerod, Bronte Boats
Trent and Mersey at Stone
The unpowered narrowboat Ilford was horse-drawn along part of the Trent and Mersey Canal in October to arrive at an informal gathering of working boats at Stone.
The Horseboating Society commemorated the centenary of the bovine feat of Buttercup the brown cow who swam through the mile long Foulridge Tunnel on September 24th, 1912.
On the exact date, a hundred years later in 2012, the horseboat Elland was legged through the Foulridge Tunnel and a storyline was developed. As the boat made its way through the tunnel, it came across a cow called Buttercup swimming through the tunnel. She was offered a ride on the boat which she gratefully accepted. Emerging at Foulridge, Buttercup was safely on board the boat but still needed reviving with alcohol after her long swim, just as in 1912. Unfortunately Cow's Rum could not be found so Lamb's Navy Rum was used instead!!!
Official opening journey with special guests. Photo: Rick Muir
Timothy West and Prunella Scales cut the ribbon from the bows of "Alder". Photo: Rick Muir
Horseboating in September and October
See our September Newsletter for information about the range of horseboating and related activity planned. Crew needed!
Ilkeston on the Grand Union and Regent's Canals
Historic horseboat Ilkeston was horseboated on the Grand Union Canal at Rickmansworth and on the Regent's Canal on its journey from Ellesmere Port to the London Canal Museum. Read more about this and see photos here.
Photo: Lawford Thomas
Vixen on the Rochdale Canal
The passenger horseboat Vixen (built in 1990) was used during the Rochdale Canal Festival in August 2012. She was started from Hebden Bridge to go to Sowerby Bridge for the start of the festival. She then travelled over several days from Sowerby Bridge to the Rochdale Canal Summit level, carrying passengers on various occasions.
An enterprising idea, from the Rochdale Canal Development Officer Lucy Rogers, was to invite poet-in-residence Winston Plowes to hold poetry workshops on the horse-drawn boat over two days. The result was an exchange of words and vocabulary, culminating in a poem written about the horseboating from Todmorden to Walsden.
On Friday August 24th, Vixen was used to give public trips on the Rochdale Canal Summit amidst spectacular Pennine scenery which the passengers enjoyed in glorious sunshine. The resident lock-keeper is keen to see Vixen used again for horse-drawn passenger work on the Summit, even including some limited lock use.
Elland has made a journey along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal during 2012, taking part in various events along the way.
August 14th: Arrival at Liverpool's Pier Head
Elland arrived in Liverpool and was the first ever horse-drawn canal boat at the city's canal link. Follow link to see Bay TV's video of Elland being towed at Pier Head and interview with Sue Day.
August 10th: Pier Head's mane attraction!
Liverpool will be taken back in time next week, with the arrival of the first ever horse-drawn canal boat at the city's canal link. The special visit, organised by the Horseboating Society, marks the completion of a 128-mile journey which began on Leeds canal in April, to mark the year of the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee.
The history-making horse is Bilbo Baggins, a 15.1hh cob type stallion. He will be drawing the 150-year-old, 60-foot Yorkshire narrowboat Elland onto the Pier Head on Tuesday 14th August at approximately 2.00 pm.
The arrival of the horse, pulling the brightly adorned, wrought iron hull, will give people a rare glimpse into yesteryear, when working horses were a part of everyday life at Liverpool's docks.
On-board will be volunteers from The Horseboating Society and Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society, as well as local community groups. They will be joined by the city's World Heritage Officer, John Hinchliffe; and Sue Day, who is Chairperson of The Horseboating Society and owner and trainer of Bilbo Baggins.
The £22 million Liverpool canal link, connecting the Leeds and Liverpool canal opened in 2009. Although there is no towpath at the site, Bilbo will use his five years' boating experience to complete a horse pull of the boat to the canal link. He will then go on to meet the Carters' Horse statue, erected at the Pier Head in 2010 in honour of the horses which worked to and from Liverpool's docks.
World Heritage Officer John Hinchliffe said:
"This will be a fantastic occasion for Liverpool, and the arrival of a horse-drawn canal boat at the Pier Head will be a sight to behold. Horses were a common sight on our waterfront from the 18th century, right through to the 1960s. They maintained the vital link between the docks and the rest of the city and were instrumental in placing Liverpool as one of the world's most prominent and prosperous ports.
"This visit, the first of its kind at our canal link, will help to give meaning to some of the historic structures on our waterfront and will give people a rare opportunity to see a working horse in action. And it will provide a fascinating insight into our past and the activities that historically took place at our World Heritage Site, before they were superseded by advances in technology."
Bilbo and Elland embarked on their journey from Leeds canal on World Heritage Day, 18th April, heading to Saltaire's World Heritage Site, before moving on to Skipton, Blackburn and Burscough. They will leave Litherland on 13th August and will travel down Stanley Locks before completing their journey in front of the Three Graces on 14th August at 2pm approx.
The Horseboating Society hopes to promote heritage education and community involvement throughout the route. They are marking the Olympics by giving the journey the theme of a 'b(o)aton relay', with the canal boat being passed from one community to another along the canal, and token cargoes being taken on-board en-route.
Further links to the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics are provided by the decoration of the boathorse harness with Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games brasses and red, white and blue paintwork, while the boat chimney chain is adorned with brass diamonds.
The canal boat is also decorated with red, white and blue wool and cotton bunting, as a reminder of the importance of the textile trade on the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
The completion of the journey in the city will mark a Diamond Jubilee triumph - because as well as being the first ever horse-drawn boat to arrive at the city's canal link apart from Maria arriving from Manchester in 2007, it will be the first to arrive in Liverpool from Leeds during the reign of the Queen, with the last such trip taking place 68 years ago. The Liverpool leg of the journey is supported by the city council and other local organisations including National Museums Liverpool and the Mersey Heritage Trust.
August 8th: Horsedrawn Journey from Leeds to Liverpool nears completion!
Not all outdoor activities are included in the Olympic Games so the Horseboating Society (HBS) decided to mark the special year of the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee with a special journey of their own making. Hot on the heels, chasing after the last Olympic events, the horse-drawn boat which set out from Leeds is due to arrive in Liverpool on Tuesday August 14. The project is well on track, having arrived on time to attend events en route. The start date was World Heritage Day on April 18. The first port of call was at the World Heritage Site celebrations at Saltaire. Working up the Bingley Five Rise locks, the boat was negotiating one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. On next to the canal festival at Skipton. Crowds turned out to see the horse-drawn boat pass over the Burnley Embankment, another of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Then to Burscough for the Canal Heritage Weekend. By this point the journey had passed the 100 mile mile-post. Still the rough length of a marathon to complete, to achieve the goal of Liverpool with its World Heritage Site at Pier Head. If the journey is completed, it will be a Diamond Jubilee triumph, as the horse-drawn boat will be the first to arrive in Liverpool from Leeds during the reign of our Queen.
No bronze, silver or gold medals await the horse-drawn boat. So instead the Horseboating Society is celebrating with the shine of horse brasses and boat brasses! The boathorse harness is decorated with Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games brasses commissioned for this year. The boat chimney chain is adorned with brass diamonds. The red, white and blue paintwork on the horse harness matches the livery of the blue boat. Textile bunting of wool and cotton in red, white and blue is a reminder of the importance of textile trade on the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
The World Heritage Officer of Liverpool wrote to the Horseboating Society - "I thank you for your interest in bringing the horse-drawn boat into Liverpool's World Heritage Site (WHS). I am always keen to take opportunities such as this to remind residents and visitors of activities that historically took place in the WHS but which no longer do due to changes in technology. Such activities as a visit by a horse-drawn boat help to give meaning to historic structures such as the canal, especially as the canal links another WHS (Saltaire) with our WHS. It would demonstrate the historic connections between Liverpool's role as a port and Saltaire's role as a textile village.
The horse-drawn boat could also provide a rare photo opportunity for a working horse, especially at the new canal link through the Pier Head and adjacent to the Carters' Horse.
Regards, John Hinchliffe"
One of the horse brasses shows the logo of the 5 rings of the Olympic Games. It is so appropriate that the horse making this journey from Leeds is called Bilbo Baggins, of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. He deserves his medals of his brasses! At Pier Head, Liverpool, there is no towpath as such but Bilbo will attempt a horse pull of the boat here - the first ever. Then he will go to meet the Carters' Horse, a statue erected in honour of the horses which worked to and from the Liverpool docks.
Team GB won gold medals on the water and with horses. Let the HBS win their goal!
June 21st: Leeds and Liverpool Landmark!
On Thursday 21st June, a landmark was achieved when horseboat Elland reached Wigan Junction, being the first horsedrawn boat to make the journey from Leeds to Wigan in more than 60 years! For the rest of the journey to Liverpool Elland will be following in the wake of the journey made by Maria in 2007.
Leaving the bottom lock at Wigan. First horsedrawn boat from Leeds to Wigan in more than 60 years. Photo: Philip Dowe
June 11th - 12th: On Monday, June 11th, we crossed the halfway point of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal marked on the ground just before Church Kirk Changeline Bridge 112.
Since Burnley, we are struggling en route with trees between the towpath and the water which have not been removed as promised by BW. They are 10 - 20 feet tall, some needing a chainsaw to remove them. One crew member goes ahead clearing what he can with ratchet cutters and we are having to disconnect the line regularly where trees are too large to remove ahead of the boat. Our progress is slowed down and crew do not enjoy this lack of care of the towpath and lack of support and preparation by BW for our journey. They had two years notice, and especially in the year before we set out!
Safely arrived at Blackburn on Tues June 12th. Boat moored at Eanam Wharf. Bilbo stabled for the first time on this journey, tonight at the Thwaites Brewery Stables for their Shire horses.
June 10th: Elland was towed by Bilbo from Reedley Marina through Burnley.
Elland is making a journey along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal during 2012, taking part in various events along the way.
After a start from Leeds in torrential rain, .
Demonstrations of horseboating were given at Saltaire to link with the World Heritage Site Celebrations there. It worked very well, with good audiences at the harnessing demos, especially in the afternoon when we had a sizeable crowd. The towpath was never too busy so we could operate with a horsedrawn boat fine. It was much appreciated by many people.
One person who saw the boat at Saltaire wrote:
"We so enjoyed learning about and seeing horseboating in action this afternoon at Saltaire. I then visited my 88 years old mother who remembered seeing horses pulling barges near her home in Dunkirk near Nottingham when she was a child. I would love to be able to take her to see horseboating in action in Bingley later on this month. Could you let me know dates and approximate times when boat and horse will be in action? Many thanks!"
Elland returned to Apperley Bridge for safe mooring, returning horsedrawn to Saltaire on April 20th and on to Bingley Five Rise on April 21st for more photo and filming opportunities.
We have been passing the b(o)aton (baton) from one community to another. At each travel day, we get a representative to hold the baton, which is a weaving shuttle. British Waterways in Leeds, Armley Mills Museum staff, Rodley resident boater etc. We are collecting a mixed cargo. Anything goes as they say!
• Leeds - horse's jousting caparison (rug) with Tudor Rose symbols, worn in Royal Armouries tiltyard.
• Armley - leaflets to give out of Thwaite Mills and Armley Mills Museums as we represent them on our journey
• Rodley - beer glasses with logos of owl (local brewery) and music symbols on them
• Apperley Bridge - ?
• Saltaire - ?
Elland will be towed by Bilbo from Bingley to Kildwick on May 2nd, Kildwick to Skipton on May 4th and will be present at the Skipton Waterways Festival from 4th to 7th May.
Maria on the Huddersfield
Maria has been travelling along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal again this month. Maria was legged through on Sunday April 22nd, with an all female team of leggers - six of them, presumably the first time in the 201 year history of the tunnel!
One at Tunnel End, St George with Bilbo slayed the dragon again this year to ensure safe passage for all boaters this season! We hope a dragon does not take up residence next winter but if he does, St George will be called on once again to slay it!
Photo: Martin Clark
Photo: Martin Clark
Hereford and Gloucester Canal
Boat horse Gypsy Queen had the chance to pull the tug "Alder" at the Over Canal and Beer Festival at the Gloucester end of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal.
The journey was only about 150 yards, but that's all there is there, at the moment! Still, that was the first horsedrawn boat on the H&G since 1881 (when the canal was closed and turned into the Gloucester to Ledbury Railway). There is a report of the event and pictures of Gypsy Queen pulling "Alder" here: Over Canal and Beer Festival.
Gypsy Queen is a heavyweight cob mare, 14.2hh. Born 2003. Had a foal Sonny Jim (black & white) in May 2007. Gypsy Queen is ridden and driven, as well as being a trainee boat horse and logger. She is owned by Rick Muir and Joanna Peck. Rick is the Southern rep of the Horseboating Society.
Gypsy Queen first did some horseboating in 2010 when she pulled "Angel" about one mile and down the lock flight to the Braunston Gathering of Historic Boats.
At the Over Canal and Beer Festival. Photo: Rick Muir
Elland at Diggle
Elland came into action as she was horseboated up the Marsden flight of the Huddersfield Narrow to Standedge Tunnel, in time for the national Heritage Open Days of English Heritage in September. Elland was legged through Standedge Tunnel while a guided walk was provided over the tunnel top, following boathorse Bilbo. The guided walk and tunnel legging were part of the Launch Weekend of the South Pennines Walk and Ride Festival. The walk was very well attended. When the boat emerged from the tunnel, we horseboated with Bilbo to the Diggle top lock so the walkers had the opportunity to see a horse-drawn boat. A walker said, "Thank you so much for it all. It's been a magical day."
Elland is currently moored at Diggle tunnel portal, along with other boats, ready for the final Standedge Tunnel bi-centenary event of the year on Sunday September 18. Helpers please, for Sunday!
Plans for what happens next have changed dramatically within the last days. Elland will work her way horse-drawn down the locks from Marsden to Huddersfield next week, in order to take a motor tow to Leeds on Thursday. It is essential that Elland leaves the Huddersfield Narrow quickly on the east side as the canal is being closed for months of major building works in Huddersfield. Please, please respond to the appeal for crew. CREW AND EVENT HELPERS ARE very urgently NEEDED.See details of dates and itinerary.
Vixen on the Rochdale
The Horseboating Society has been very busy again, involved in the Rochdale Canal Festival, which lasts two weeks. We attended two of the three official days, at Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden. Passenger cruises on horseboat Vixen were made on the journey from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, then on two market days from Hebden Bridge to Todmorden and return. The latter journeys involved 8 miles and 12 locks on each day. Passengers booked a one way or return passage and all seats were sold and even over-subscribed.
June - July 2011
Maria at Marple
Maria was at Marple between 23rd June and 3rd July, close to the spot where she was built in 1954. She was on public display near Marple Top Lock during this time and was horseboated down the locks as part of the Marple Locks Festival.
At noon at the Top Lock, the boat was loaded with a few "vintage sacks of coal" which were taken down the locks to the festival site in the park. After a harnessing demo to the public at 2 pm, the boat continued to Samuel Oldknow's warehouse where the sacks were unloaded. After the flight of 16 locks, the boat crossed the high Marple Aqueduct before soon being legged through Hyde Bank Tunnel
On 23rd April 2011 we performed our St.George fun and frolics. Maria was legged through Standedge Tunnel, luring out the resident tunnel dragon, which has been attacking boats this spring. St. George and his horse (Bilbo the boathorse) saved the day by slaying the dragon, saving the princess and Easter bunny girl, and preventing the chocolate Easter eggs from melting in the dragon's fiery breath. As a result, boaters have safe passage for another year. Should any baby dragons grow into evil dragons, then St. George might need to come back next year to keep the tunnel safe for boats.
Everyone was able to enjoy the party outside the Tunnel End cottages without the unwelcome dragon. The Empire Brewery, sited at the guillotine lock in Slaithwaite, had kindly donated a barrel of beer, of a St.George brew. Or there was fiery ginger beer. Four cakes were rectangular, white with a red jam cross, like the flag of St.George. We could eat as many chocolate Easter eggs as we liked, all saved from the dragon's fiery breath.
There was a superb big report and photos in the Huddersfield Examiner of our antics.
In April 2011 the Horseboating Society embarked on a legging fiesta as part of the 200th Anniversary celebrations of the opening of Standedge Tunnel.
On Saturday 2nd April Boathorse Bilbo towed the historic wooden narrowboat Maria, built in 1854, up the Diggle locks. Maria was then legged by members of the Horseboating Society through Standedge Tunnel to Tunnel End, Marsden.
On Sunday 3rd April members of the Horseboating Society legged three horseboats through Standedge Tunnel from Tunnel End to Diggle.
On Monday 4th April the three horseboats, Maria, Elland and Vixen, were legged back through Standedge Tunnel from Diggle to Tunnel End.
Photo: Steve Bentley
Photo: Martin Clark
Maria carried a barrel full of beer through the Standedge Tunnel, an annual donation from the Ossett Brewery via the Riverhead Brewery Tap in Marsden. This year's brew was a special Bi-centenary Brew. The HBS records its thanks to the Ossett Brewery.
Christine Bergin made her annual contribution of a splendid cake for our celebrations, showing Maria at Tunnel End at Standedge, with a boatman, boatwoman, horse, boat, and lock and even the HBS round logo. Congratulations and thanks go to Christine! The beer and cake were shared with the public.
The event meant that an important achievement had been made. Three boats had been horse-drawn to the location of Standedge on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. This equalled our own record in 2001 to Uppermill, also on the same canal. However the boats travelled greater distances this time. Elland came from Manchester City Centre, horsedrawn for 32 miles on the Rochdale, 6 to Brighouse on the Calder & Hebble, 4 on the Huddersfield Broad, and 10 on the Huddersfield Narrow, making 52 miles. Vixen came on the same route from Hebden Bridge, totalling 26 miles. Maria came 10 miles from the Ashton Canal through Standedge Tunnel to join the other two at the Standedge Visitor Centre. Does anyone know when such a gathering of horse-drawn boats was last achieved? As far back as 40 years ago, eg 1971, or 30 years ago, or when?
The Waterways Action Squad recently ran a willow weaving workshop at the National Waterways Museum.
The young participants create but a near-life size willow horse, complete with boat and bridge arch!
Hazel Mayow of Waterways Action Squad said: "Seeing the finished sculpture I couldn't help but think of the Horseboating Society. The sculpture will stay there over the summer for the public, and hopefully if it roots, it will be semi permanent
(and increasingly green)."
Horseboating in Holland
Our one Horseboating Society member in Holland, Ron Le Poole, went horseboating in Holland in 2010.
Ron hopes to come to England in 2011 to join in some horseboating here.
After an absence of 6 years, horse-drawn passenger boat operation has returned to Hebden Bridge!
As part of the celebrations of 500 years of Hebden Bridge, the horsedrawn passenger boat Vixen has been brought to the town and is providing passenger trips this year as a trial to see if horse-drawn trips can be viable once again.
Horseboat Vixen about to pass Horseboat Elland. Photo: Ken Catford
First horsedrawn passenger boat in Hebden Bridge in 6 years. Photo: Ken Catford
Bonny the Boathorse
Bonny the Boathorse gave birth to her third and last foal on Sunday August 1st. A charming bay filly. Mother and daughter doing well. No name yet.
Photo: Ken Catford
Photo: Ken Catford
Photo: Ken Catford
Rochdale Canal Journey
In conjunction with the Rochdale Canal Festival, the Horseboating Society are travelling the length of the canal from Castlefield to Sowerby Bridge.
Boathorse Bilbo is towing the historic narrowboat Elland. Because Elland is only 60 ft in length, when the journey to Sowerby Bridge has been completed, it is intended to continue around the South Pennine Ring to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
On 21st July, Elland set off from Castlefield on a journey over the Rochdale Canal, the first stage of which included the section of canal running alongside Canal Street in Manchester.
The Waterways Trust supported the Horseboating Society in getting Manchester City Council to remove all tables and chairs off the towpath in Canal Street, Manchester so Bilbo could have a free passage to pull Elland up the Rochdale Nine during the Rochdale Canal Festival 2010.
However, note the posts which the council are refusing to remove which interfere with towline use. The posts have tiny notices at the top, warning people not to climb the new high railings!
This was probably the first time in ten years that a horse-drawn boat has had unblocked passage on the towpath of Canal Street, usually totally taken over by cafe and bar furniture. Thank you, TWT, for your support.
In June 2010, boat horse Gypsy Queen towed "Angel" down the locks on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston to the Historic Boats Gathering.
Braunston Locks. Photo: Rick Muir
Display in Stop House garden. Photo: Rick Muir
23rd May 2010
Horses at Work event
The Horseboating Society joined the Boat Museum Society and the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port to put on the first Horses at Work event there.
Bonny the Boathorse was pleased to be back in harness for two demonstrations on the day - a harnessing demo followed by the short pull to the winding hole and back to the museum.
Bonny has done little boating since 2008 due to having two foals. With a third foal due in August, the short journey was just right "to keep her hand (hoof) in". The third foal will be Bonny's last foal, so she will return to horseboating more fully in 2011. The photos show Bonny's rotund appearance as she proudly carries her foal. Nothing like getting her foals started early - horseboating while in the womb!
Note the period clothing worn with crew of Gifford. The boat was built in 1926 so Victorian clothing is inappropriate. Women wore a floral dress and a pinny.
Other work horses in attendance were a grey Shire mare with a dray of full sacks ready for unloading to a warehouse or boat, and a cob with a bread van . In addition there were horses and ponies from the Parkgate Horse Rescue Centre, reminding people that horses require much love, care and attention.
The event brought in visitors who came especially to see horses at work and to learn about the activity of horseboating, now so seldom seen. A coach party came from the North Counties Heavy Horse Society. Those able to walk the distance followed the horse-drawn boat to the winding hole and back. A great many photos were taken.
The General Manager of the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port is interested in repeating a similar type of event in the future. The HBS received the following thanks from organiser, Ken Catford, who is an HBS member and former BMS chairman.
"Thank you very much for participating in the Horses at Work event. We were very pleased with the day, with a good number of visitors over and above a normal Sunday. I think it met the objective of illustrating the importance of horses in the history of the canals, the docks and the local community."
Demonstrating traditional boathorse harnessing. Photo: Ken Catford
Demonstrating horseboating - Bonny sets off with Gifford. Photo: Ken Catford
Bonny the boathorse takes Gifford along the canal. Photo: Ken Catford
Period clothing for 1926. Bonny due to foal in August.. Photo: Ken Catford
Really Sad News - Obituary by Sue Day
Jayne Bradley's horse PRINCE, a Clydesdale at 16.3hh, had to be put to sleep on the morning of Sunday May 16th. Prince will be sorely missed by all who knew this gentle giant.
Prince was well known at the Black Country Living Museum where Jayne had been head horse-keeper for 8 years, and she worked Prince there in many ways, pulling a cart, dray, omnibus, or the ice-boat Ross. He gave the horseboating demo with Ross at the first Horseboating Society AGM at the BCLM in 2002.
Out of the museum, he had pulled both steamboat President and horseboat Kildare to a local yard for repairs.
He attended the Parkhead Festival every two years where he worked on the top lock, demonstrating the use of a pulley wheel to send a boat out of the lock in the opposite direction to the way the horse was walking.
Prince worked under the HBS banner in September 2009 when he pulled a loaded boat of the Coombeswood Trust to the Windmill Festival. Loaded with about 17 tons, Prince travelled 3 miles in a charity pull, comparing times with a bow-hauled boat (manpower) and a motorboat (motor power). The boat was legged through Gosty Tunnel en route. To Jayne's delight, Prince put in a winning time.
The report came to HBS: "Prince had been out in the field with Shire horses Toby, Polly and also Barney but had been unable to get up in the morning of Sunday May 16th. We got the JCB and lifting ropes and the vet and seven people but he just could not put any weight on his legs once hoisted up. We all tried and tried but in the end the vet said that there was nothing more that could be done."
Prince at Delph Locks in 2008.
Polly Booth, of the Waterways Action Squad (ages 16-25) wrote -
I signed up to help the Horseboating Society because I was very interested to see this old style of boating in practice. I wasn't sure what to expect before I arrived but I did imagine it to be very arduous for the horse. I was surprised that the boat glided effortlessly and Bilbo (the boat horse) didn't seem to struggle at all. There was a gentle silence to the boat, which is not possible with a motored barge, and when we weren't preoccupied with the locks it was relaxing to walk alongside it. I'd never operated a lock before so that was an experience in itself, some of them were quite easy but others were rusty and they posed a bit of a challenge.
When the narrowboat, horse and crew in (mostly) full Victorian dress passed through more urban areas the difference between old and new was striking and it made a nice image.
It was exciting to ride in the boat through a long, dark tunnel in Huddersfield, which had been especially built beneath a development to accommodate passing boats. There was no room for Bilbo who had to be taken along another route to meet us at the other side. Without the horse towing us members of the crew used poles against the side of the walls to push us along. I appreciated seeing this technique but I was quite glad we didn't need to 'leg' the boat through. 'Legging' involves lying on the narrowboat and pushing it along a tunnel with your feet using the walls or ceiling. I wasn't sure I was quite ready for the indignity of that!
It was an interesting day and I'd encourage anyone to have a look at horseboating in action if you get the chance.
April - May 2010
On 22nd April 2010 the Horseboating Society set off from Guide Bridge on the Ashton Canal to make a return trip to Huddersfield by way of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Standedge Tunnel.
Maria was legged through Standedge Tunnel on April 25th in a record time for the Horseboating Society of 2 hours 20 minutes. The return through Standedge Tunnel will be on Bank Holiday Monday, 3rd May. (See "Events")