New Dawn, update June 16, 2007

Fresh Lincolnshire oak and boat-skin larch

Chesterfield Canal Trust’s project to construct a unique “Cuckoo” narrowboat took a major step forward on January 25th when members of the Trust took delivery of the bulk of the timber to build the boat. Seven and a half tons of fresh Lincolnshire oak and boat-skin larch was unloaded by hand at a private location in Chesterfield. The wood was carefully stacked in a ventilated pile: it will be stored for two years before construction can begin to give it time to season. Thanks to all the volunteers who came to help with the heavy work! The wood was purchased following an appeal in “Cuckoo”, which raised the £6,000 cost in just a few weeks.

New Dawn - Chesterfield Canal

Following the appeal for knees in the last edition of Cuckoo: I’m pleased to report that we have found some! John Baylis (IWA Region Chairman) spotted a complete set acting as ballast in a newly restored wooden narrowboat at Langley Mill. The owner Hugh Caldwell has agreed to swap them for scrap metal to the same weight. Fortunately the Erewash Canal Preservation and Development Association have dug up some old railway rails whilst restoring their part of the Cromford Canal, and are going to cut them into pieces as reparations. Terry Berridge and I collected them on April 10th and David Bownes is preparing to straighten then up in the forge.

Meanwhile, progress continues on gathering parts. Linings and floor boards keep arriving at our store, so far we have 200 of the 800 necessary. We have sponsors for caulking materials, tar and nuts and bolts.

New Dawn - Chesterfield Canal
New Dawn - Chesterfield Canal

So now we are on the scrounge for a stove. I have been told that the stove from the last “Cuckoo” to be broken up went to Clayworth. Ida was sunk at Worksop and was broken up to make way for the bi-centennial rally in 1977. The stove was allegedly stored for safety in the RWBC cellar. So does anyone know where it is now? Or if it went in a skip? Boatie Clark made a sketch of a stove as he remember it and Richard Allsopp measured the one on Ida: “It was coffin shaped approx 225mm at the top and bottom and 300mm at its widest with the length being approx 750mm.”

Construction should begin in 2008, fifty years after the last commercial wooden narrowboat Raymond was built and more than seventy years since the last Cuckoo. Further funding and donations of money or materials are still being sought: in particular, a further £500 is now being sought to purchase the remaining oak required to make the deck and fittings. If you can help, please contact John Lower.

John Lower

As announced in previous editions of Cuckoo, the aim of the New Dawn Project is the re-creation and operation of an accurate, full-sized wooden boat of the unique type that carried cargoes on the Chesterfield Canal.

Towed by a horse, the boat will promote the canal and its restoration, be a means of studying the handling of such craft, and act as a focus for a wider understanding of the past. For school visits the cargo-hold will be capable of transformation into a floating classroom. The boat will also play a central role in a research project, based on the 1840s – finding out the cargoes carried, the sources and destinations, and the boatmen who formed the usually two-man crews.

To build the boat, money is required. If we can raise the funds by own methods it will avoid the time delays and uncertainties inherent in approaching national funding bodies. It would also follow the lead of past centuries – throughout its history people associated with the Chesterfield Canal have ascertained what needed to be done, worked out how to do it, and just got on with it locally.

The building of the vessel will be undertaken by an experienced boat-builder with personal knowledge of such craft, but assisted by volunteers who wish to obtain the knowledge and skills involved.

The first priority is to raise £8,000 to purchase the timber, ironwork, fitments and hull coatings. The timber will then have to season for two years before it can be used. Extra funding will be necessary for insurance cover, tools, cargo items and packaging, licences, educational items, research costs, promotional work, horse hire and general running costs.

The plan is to raise the money by asking for donations equivalent to parts of the boat, starting at only £5. Also available will be “nominal shares” valued at one-twelfth of the timber total, that is £670 each. We already have takers for two shares, totalling £1,340. Donations will be via the accounts of the Chesterfield Canal Trust, which will accrue Gift Aid taxation benefits. A way of displaying the names of those who contribute to the scheme will be devised, possibly on a tarpaulin covering the hold, or as addressees on the various items of cargo.