Industrial Archaeology Recordings

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Towpath Encounter

Horse Boating on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

Towpath Encounter
Horse Boating on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

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Recording essential waterways skills and techniques

Two horse drawn canal boats passing each otherBackground

"Towpath Encounter" was a co-operative venture to record the techniques of horse boating in the days of commercial carrying on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

It is essential that the recording of these skills is carried out whilst the memories of those who actually worked on the boats are still fresh enough to correct and guide the efforts of those taking part.

All of those who took part did so as volunteers concerned to record these working memories as accurately and completely as possible Some of the methods used in the past and now recorded on film were always illegal or at least frowned upon by lock-keepers and the canal companies. But only by strapping gates and dropping paddles could the amazing speed and regularity of commercial carrying be achieved.

The choice of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal was a combination of several factors; a relatively unspoilt section of canal with most of its original canal furniture, local enthusiasm, a positive canal management team and the knowledge and support of Tom Mayo.

Tom had worked on the Severn and Canal Carrying Company horse boats as a lad with his father in the 1920s. He later became one of their most respected motor boat captains, and has never lost his interest in canal boats.

As unmotorised narrowboats are becoming rare and no Severn and Canal Carrying Co. horse boat survives, the two boats used in the recording are the "Gifford" from the Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port, and the "Northwich" from the National Waterways Museum at Gloucester.

Other volunteers and organisations involved and known as the "Sight Seen Partnerships" include: Mike Woodhead, Tony Lewery, The Boat Museum Society, Historic Narrowboat Owners Club, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society, the Godalming Packetboat Company and British Waterways. There were also many others who offered their help and support on the day.

Heritage Lottery Fund   British Waterways

Towpath Encounter


  • Written and narrated by Tony Lewery.
  • Music:
    • Concertina - Ian Goodier,
    • Guitar - Tom Browne.
  • Tunes:
    • "The Torridge and the Ribble" by Colin Bradford
    • "The Cradle Song" by J. Scott Skinner
    • "Mrs Saggs" by Chris Woods
  • £ 12.95 - DVD
  • Running Time: 18 mins.
  • Produced by I.A. Recordings for Sight Seen Partnerships
  • All prices include worldwide delivery.
  • 'PAL' and 'NTSC' versions available.


Please see the 'Sales' page for additional purchasing information.

For more information on the Sight Seen Partnerships Collection please email:
Sight Seen Partnerships email

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Copyright   © I.A.Recordings, Last modified: 19-Aug-2020