Black Boy, 2007 - Following-up on NB Lion

Because we were passing through Knowle on a wet Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend we decided to follow-up on Ken Tremain's 1960s photographs of NB Lion moored up outside the Black Boy. Several features of the pub look similar but the building has been much altered and the gardens are very different. Still what do you expect after 40 years!

The moorings opposite, for members of the Black Boy Cruising Club look very much improved. Unfortunately we couldn't gain access to off-side so we couldn't re-create Ken's camera angles; however it was interesting to re-discover his old haunts.

Narrowboat Lion - Story of a 1960's working boat conversion

We recently came across some photos and a notebook that belonged to Maggie's uncle, Ken Tremain. He was an early canal enthusiast who converted part of a working boat and lived on it for over 20 years near Knowle on the Grand Union.

Ken purchased the stern section of the former Birmingham Canal Navigation boat Lion from HW Ollis for £100 in 1963. The boat is thought to have been originally been built by Harris Brothers of Bumblehole, Netherton and is typical of the riveted boats they produced for use on the BCN.

Lion as purchased

Because the original boat was an unpowered butty the stern section of the "barge", as it was described on the bill of sale, was easily converted to the bow of the boat. A transom was welded onto it and stern gear fitted. The boat was 32ft in length and powered by a Wolsey 10 engine converted to run on paraffin. Ken built the cabin and fitted it out from 1963 until 1967.

Bill of sale for Lion

During the fit-out the boat was kept near the Black Boy pub near Knowle. Ken kept meticulous financial and technical records in a small notebook. Design outlines, sketch drawings, lists of components and details of all expenditure were recorded in the notebook. In all he spent £489 3s 6d during the build. This included £100 for the hull, engine and stern gear. Even details such as the screws and varnish used were recorded.

Ken Tremain during Lion's fit-out

Accounts for Lion
The notebook has suffered from water damage.

Lion moored at the Black Boy

Ken lived on Lion until his death in 1987. Lion was then sold by the family. Most of the time he lived afloat Ken moored on the Grand Union near the Black Boy. He had a ginger cat appropriately called Leo. Working boats occasionally passed to and from Birmingham.

Lion with sleeping cat, tunnel light, fuel can, and club flag
The original BCN decoration can be seen on the bow (formerly the stern).

BW working boat Banstead on its way to Birmingham passing the Black Boy and Lion
A butty is obviously in tow. It may have come from the Oxford area.

An empty working pair from Birmingham passing Lion and breaking ice

During our recent trips along the Midlands Canals we looked out for Lion. In August 2004, whilst travelling along the North Stratford canal near Kings Norton, Steve noticed the characteristic bows of a BCN riveted boat and spotted the name Lion on a boat moored up on the off-side. Because the owner was on board, Steve stopped Albert and asked the owner, who by then was wondering why a boat had come alongside, if he knew the history of his boat. "Yes it is part of an ex-BCN boat converted by Ken Tremain" came the answer. It appears that after a short period with some other owners, Lion had been purchased by Ken Bromidge who used her since as a live aboard.

Lion on the North Stratford Canal 2004
The windows are now portholes and the rear deck has been changed.

During our mid-canal chat Ken B told us that he been recently refitting Lion's cabin and had discovered a letter addressed to Ken T behind some pine panels. It had been sent to Ken T shortly before he died and been mislaid. We were able to give the letter to Mollie, Ken Tremain's sister (Maggie's mother). Sometime later we were also able to take Mollie over to visit Lion. It brought back memories of her brother.

NB Albert meets NB Lion

For more details and photographs of Lion please enter our web album where you will find a collection of scanned images of Ken Tremain's notebook and pictures taken by Ken Tremain of Lion during the 1960s.

If you have any information regarding Lion we would be pleased to receive it. Our email is below.