On the water

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The New Dawn Project was first conceived in about the year 2000. A few members of the Chesterfield Canal Trust decided that it would be a good idea to build the first new Cuckoo boat, unique to the Chesterfield Canal, since the 1930s. The last surviving one, which had just rotted away, was called Dawn, hence the name for the project.

New Dawn

Since then, it has gone from this model .....

..... to this - Worksop Water Day, where it was named Dawn Rose.

Below we detail the start of the story, plus a few photographs taken during the construction. At the bottom of this article are links to various other articles about the project. The most recent articles are first. Please note that there are not just 10 articles, they carry on to a second page.

If you would like to help to finance the boat by becoming a Friend of Dawn Rose, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will forward a form to you.

The New Dawn Project

Working to create a full-sized working boat of the type unique to the Chesterfield Canal. Supported by the Chesterfield Canal Trust and the Chesterfield Canal Partnership.

The project was launched by an article our our magazine, Cuckoo, in Spring 2004. An appeal for money to buy the wood followed and then it was stored to season in a secret location for several years.

Serious work finally started in January of 2011. It was led by David Bownes who has a vast knowledge garnered by talking with working boatmen the Chesterfield Canal. He was involved with working on Cuckoo boats as a young man, so he was one of the very few people alive - possibly the only one - with real working knowledge of their construction. As a result of this build, there will now be several others who are picking up this knowledge.

March 2011.

May 2011.

January 2013. (Photo © John Lower)

February 2013. (Photo © John Lower)

May 2013.

May 2013.

June 2013. (Photo © John Lower)

July 2013. (Photo © John Lower)

April 2014. (Photo © John Lower)

September 2014.

The Historic Narrowboat Python is owned and operated by the Chesterfield Canal Trust.

Python has two primary functions within the Trust. Firstly she is used as a publicity vehicle to promote the work of the Trust. Her volunteer crew, who are known as Pythoneers, engage with members of the public and boat owners at canal side events throughout the season. In recent years she has attended festivals as far apart as Northwich in Cheshire and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire. A record of the season’s activities can be found in the blogs, click here to see them.

Python’s second function has been to assist the Canal & River Trust in maintaining the Chesterfield Canal on a volunteer basis. In May 2013, volunteers from the Chesterfield Canal Trust assisted C&RT staff in clearing offside vegetation that was causing a problem to navigation; click here for the full story. Further volunteer activities were planned but have been postponed due to Python needing major works to preserve the integrity of her hull.


To make a donation to help keep Python afloat, click here.


Python’s History
Python came into the custodianship of the Chesterfield Canal Trust in 2009 after a lengthy period of neglect when she was surplus to the requirements of her former owners, British Waterways. Through the work of a dedicated group of volunteers and sponsorship she was soon transformed from an unloved relic into a very respectable looking boat.

Python is one of only four Josher narrowboats still in the format of a shortened British Waterways workboat. She is registered on the National Historic Ships register; click here for details.

The Trust is currently researching Python’s history and would encourage anyone who has any information about her or was involved with her in any way, to get in touch by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Python was built in 1929 by W.J. Yarwoods to fulfil an order for “2 steel Canal boats of copper bearing steel” placed by Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd. She cost £366. The second boat built was called Panther and is now owned by Coventry Canal Society; click here for details.

In 1949, she was sold to the British Transport Commission (later to become British Waterways Board) and used in the South East Division Carrying Fleet before being transferred to the Engineering Department in 1961 for use as a canal maintenance boat, based at Bulls Bridge in London. During the 1980s she was shortened to 53’ and the cabin was rebuilt to the current format of rear engine room, crew cabin and forward store.

Into the new millennium with more modern, purpose built vessels taking the place of some of the old boats, Python became surplus to the requirements of British Waterways and fell into disuse for a number of years before coming to the Chesterfield Canal Trust in 2009. Initially this was on a five year lease, but the move was made permanent in 2011.

The Future
Python is currently being repaired in order to ensure that her long-term future is secured. This will enable her to continue her valuable work engaging with the public and maintaining the Chesterfield Canal. This project will also interpret the rich history of Python and share the stories of those who operated her over the decades.

Please see below for some of the articles about Python that have appeared on this website. The most recent articles are first. Please note that there are not just 10 articles, they carry on to a second page.

Python with butty Fazeley at the Co-Op Wharf, Banbury in 1955. The man with the hat on is the steerer of Python at that time who was known as Jack Boswell (Samuel John Boswell).

This postcard of Python is courtesy of Little Venice Cards.

Python attracting interest at Rickmansworth. (Photo by Paul Ost)

All our articles relating to navigation of the Chesterfield Canal are available below. For more information on moorings, slipway access, stoppages etc. please check the relevant section from the menu at the top of the page.

The Trust operates four trip boats: the John Varley, the Seth Ellis, the Hugh Henshall and Madeline.

The John Varley is based at Tapton Lock in Chesterfield and provides trips on the five miles of restored waterway from Tapton Lock to Mill Green at Staveley. The John Varley is equipped with a wheelchair lift.

The Seth Ellis is based in Retford and can offer a variety of trips from its base in Retford either towards Kiveton - the current head of navigation, or towards West Stockwith and the junction with the River Trent.

The Hugh Henshall was designed from the outset to be wheelchair accessible. Additionally, the Hugh Henshall is equipped with a state of the art hybrid drive system. Based at Shireoaks, this boat is able to offer a range of cruises along the scenic top pound of the canal in some of most beautiful canal scenery this country has to offer.

Madeline is the Eckington School boat which we use to run walk-up trips from Hollingwood Hub and occasional charters.

The John Varley, Seth Ellis and Hugh Henshall also run seasonal Santa specials on the run up to Christmas. Click on one of the links below to find out more about each of our boats

For information relating to booking any of the Trust's trip boats, you'll find information on the respective pages (below) or on the Contacts page.