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Murrell narrowboats, Brentford Dock, 1973 & 1974

Peter Young took these photos at Brentford Dock, the first on 2nd May 1973 and the second on the 3rd March 1974, part of a collection of photos which show river traffic and people who worked on the waterways. If you are not familiar with the area a map from 1912 may help.

The narrowboats have signage 'T & D Murrell & Sons, Canal Carriers, Uxbridge'.

Di Murrell wrote in October 2018 with more information:

It was all such a long time ago but when those pics were taken British Waterways Board (BWB) still had the contract for delivering barrels of crude lime pulp and juice to L. Rose and Son who made Roses lime marmalade and lime juice. Their premises were at Hemel Hempstead - about 40 miles up the Grand Union Canal from Brentford.

The lime juice was brought to Brentford from the London docks by Thames lighters and stored there at the Brentford Depot. It was then steadily fed to Roses in 50 tonne loads by pairs of narrow boats loading at Brentford and delivering it to Hemel. Narrow boat carrying had virtually ceased and Rose's work was the last regular traffic left on the canal system. When the BWB boats were unable to work due to lack of maintenance the contract was put out to others to continue the work. It went to a northern based company Three Fellows Carrying but they were unable to take over due to other problems. We stepped in with our pair of boats and worked alongside Tom and Ellen Humphreys - who were the last 'born and bred boat people to work on the 'cut'. They continued to work a little longer for BWB with their pair of boats Stamford' and Bude'. Between us we delivered the 100 to 150 tonnes each week that Roses required. One pair of boats loaded some 50 tonnes and the journey took 121/2 hours up to Hemel loaded and 10 hours back empty providing there were no problems en route.

I guess these photos were taken on a Sunday as Tam is touching up the paintwork on the butty. We would expect to load on the Monday morning.

Although the work was very tough and required a lot of hard won skill to do properly it was a great time in our lives and we loved doing it.

If you want a flavour of what the life was like then do read my essay ‘Food on the Move’.

Editor: I can highly recommend Di's FoodieAfloat website and blog which has some great photos and writing including recipes, restaurants, ingredients from their travels.

The first of Peter Young's photos shows Towcester and Bingley; the second shows Towcester, registered at Isleworth, no. 144. Tam Murrell added the photos 'were taken fairly soon after we started with the job - the wooden barrels seen in the photo of Towcester on its own soon changed to be less attractive steel drums'.

Bingley & Towcester narrowboat at Brentford Dock
Towcester narrowboat at Brentford Dock

Full list of Peter's photos

Published July 2016; updated October 2018