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. She has attended festivals as far apart as Northwich in Cheshire and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire. You can read about Pythpon’s epic voyage to the Erewash Canal with Dawn Rose by clicking here.
Python’s other function is to assist the Canal & River Trust in maintaining the Chesterfield Canal on a volunteer basis. You can read how Python helped the Waterway Recovery Group in November 2016 by clicking here, cutting back vegetation in 2017 by clicking here and helping C&RT in a major vegetation cut in 2018 by clicking here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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.
In the summer of 2013, Python sprang a serious leak. This turned out to be really serious and very expensive repairs were need to her hull. Eventually Python was repaired by Paul Barber, thanks to grants from the Inland Waterways Association and National Historic Ship UK. Having been brought back to her home mooring at Shireoaks in October 2015, she was fitted out by the Pythoneers. That was completed in May 2018, enabling her to continue her valuable work engaging with the public and maintaining the Chesterfield Canal.
Other articles in this section tell the full story of Python’s time with the Trust.
The Pythoneers are inveterate bloggers about their adventures. To see lots of their posts, which are frequently very amusing, click here.
Python and her butty Fazeley.
Python at Little Venice Canalway Cavalcade. (Photo by Steve Manzi)
Python attracting interest at Rickmansworth. (Photo by Paul Ost)