Waterways Books

Many thanks to Andrew Denny of Granny Buttons for the warm comments on my last blog.

When I looked at the comments left on Granny's site I noticed that a reader had left a comment about Bonthron's My Holidays on Inland Waterways first published in 1916. They had just obtained a copy of the third edition at last year's IWA National. My copy is also a third edition; that edition was published in 1919. There are obvious similarities between the Lloyd's Through England's Waterways and Bonthron's earlier book and this set me thinking.

I then realised that there are in fact two pairs of books here, Thurston & Bonthron and Rolt & Lloyd, and that they have interesting parallels.

In 1911 E Temple Thurston wrote about a voyage on a narrow boat that he hired (Flower of Gloster). Five years later, in 1916, Bonthron wrote about his motor boat (launch) holidays. At that time the canals were still relatively active and both authors travelled along the now closed Thames & Severn Canal. The Flower of Gloster has beautiful illustrations but My Holidays has photographs. Flower of Gloster continued to be reprinted until the 1980s but My Holidays did not.

In 1939 Rolt travelled in his converted narrow boat(Cressy) and changed the face of British canals when he wrote Narrow Boat. This was followed five years later by the journeys described by the Lloyds in Through Englands Waterways. Both the Lloyds, and more famously the Rolts, had great difficulties dealing with a waterways system that was in decay. Narrow Boat has the evocative illustrations of Denys Watkins-Pitchford but My Holidays has photographs. Narrow Boat is still in print and will probably continue to be so for many years, but Through England's Waterways is definately out of print.

Now I know it is dangerous to read too much into coincidences, but for me these four books together provide a fascinating insight into the waterways system at key moments in the last century with the less popular books by Bonthron & Lloyd providing the enthusiast with a complementary view to the much more famous books.