Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Night Steam

We're off to jolly England tonight to join a flotilla of STEAM narrow boats!

Fellows Morton & Clayton Ltd was, for much of the early 20th century, the largest and best-known canal transportation company in England The company was in existence from 1889 to 1947.

Boats moored outside the Fellows Morton and Clayton basin in Nottingham
The company started in 1837 when James Fellows, an agent for a canal carrier, decided to start his own company. James was 32 and based in West Bromwich. His first boat was called "Providence". In January 1839 he was allowed toll credit on the Warwick and Napton Canal as his boats were working down to London so frequently. He expanded rapidly and moved his operation to Toll End in Tipton in 1841. His business was as a "Railway & Canal Carrier" even though his rail activities were minor. James died in 1854 aged 49, and his widow Eliza carried on the business until their son Joshua was old enough to be an official partner. By 1855 he was transporting 13,000 tons of iron castings between London and Birmingham each year.
In the late 1850s a new boat-building facility was built at Tipton and by the early 1860s the fleet had grown to some 50 boats. Long-distance carrying was the mainstay of the business during these early years.
In 1876 Frederick Morton brought with him investment capital to expand the business, and the company name was changed to Fellows Morton & Co. This new company continued to absorb smaller traders, so expanding with new boats and also with acquired vessels.

Formation of the company

In 1888-1889 William Clayton of Saltley, who operated a special fleet of liquid cargo boats as well as traditional loads, became the third partner. William died before the companies merged formally but his son, Thomas, took his place. Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd. was formed on 3 July 1889.
The three managing directors appointed at the first meeting of the new company were Joshua Fellows, Frederick Morton and Thomas Clayton, on salaries of £600 (equivalent to £60,000 in 2015), each. The new chairman of Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd was Alderman Reuben Farley the majority of shareholders being family members of the directors of the company.

At the time of formation the general cargo fleet amounted to some 11 steamers and around 112 butty boats. The tank boats were transferred to another new company which was called Thomas Clayton Limited of Oldbury.

The headquarters and basin at Fazeley Street, Birmingham
The company's first results for the 18 months ending 30 June 1890 showed a net profit of £7,497 (equivalent to £740,000 in 2015), Trading had not been easy to start with - a dock strike in London had caused a serious financial loss and an epidemic of Russian influenza amongst the horses had caused many deaths. However, as there was new traffic, a new basin and headquarters were completed at Fazeley Street in Birmingham. The headquarters were by the builder, Edwin Shipway. Also the company had acquired the interests of a rival carrier, Fanshaw and Pinson. The capital then stood at £84,620 (equivalent to £8,400,000 in 2015),; barges, boats and steamers were valued at £20,852 (equivalent to £2,070,000 in 2015)]and horses at £4,000 (equivalent to £400,000 in 2015)].

last known working boats in existence

currently there are only 29 of these boats still in existence 6 of which are still in use to this day the last remaining boats of this type are in the National waterways museum there are 12 recorded sink-ages and there are 2 currently in restoration the condition of the rest is currently unknown any information to improving this section is welcome

Steam-powered boats

1909-built FMC steam narrowboat President, preserved in working order, based at the Black Country Living Museum
In the new boatyard at Fazeley Street they built five steel-plate steam-powered boats. After an initial period of use they were found unsatisfactory because of the excessive wear on the hull's steel.
In 1896 Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd tried iron in the construction of their boats. The boat had an elm bottom and iron sides. This proved much more effective and 3 of the 5 original steel steamers were rebuilt.
Between 1898 and 1899, 8 more iron composite steamers were produced from the Saltley dock and 9 more between 1905 and 1911.

The steamers were known as fly-boats or express-boats and kept mainly on main-line long-distance routes. On the timetable, a trip from London (City Road Basin) to Birmingham (Fazeley Street Depot) would take around 54 hours. It was a non-stop service and the crew of four would change shifts along the route. The main drawback was the lack of carrying space on the boat due to the size of the engine and boiler. The boats picked up coke at preset points along their routes.
President survives and is owned and operated by and from the Black Country Living Museum.


Source: From Wikipedia


  1. Cool little boats. Beautiful scenery in the video. Liked the yellow iris too. I noticed the brick path running alongside the canals. Wonder if they used draft animals to pull the boats at one time. Reminded me of the C & O canal that ends in Washington D. C.

    1. We had the Morris Canal here in Joisey. Can still see parts of it!

  2. Wonderful! Boats and steam, got me hooked. We used to have remnants of the old
    Erie Canal near where I grew up in NE Pennsylvania.
    Yes, Terry the tow path was used by either mules or draft horses to pull the barges along the canal prior to steam power.

    1. ♬♬ "Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal" ♬♬

  3. Steam Punk Boats!!! Gotta love it.

    I have read about people living on this type of canal boat. Suppose it is a lifestyle similar to those here in the States who live full time in their RVs.

    1. My Step-Grandfather owned a marina in the late 30's (one his many, many endeavors) and they all lived on a houseboat there. My Dad worked for him and that's how my parents met! :o)