Wonderful Britain

Another foray into reviewing old waterway's magazines rather than books.

Wonderful Britain was published in 1929 as a fortnightly series of magazines which could be bound into a four-volume set. The magazine sold for 1s/3d each and the bindings cost 3s/- each. It was published by The Amalgamated Press which was founded by Alfred Harmsworth (Viscount Northcliffe) who published the Daily Mail. The diverse articles in each edition were heavily illustrated; not unlike the National Geographic magazine but with monochrome illustrations.

The particular edition that caught my eye, when browsing ebay, was Part 26 published on February 27th. It included articles on Prehistoric Roman Roads, Monuments to Heroes and Things to See Around Newcastle. Crucially it also included an article by Ladbroke Black entitled "Our Inland Waterways".  Being a single unbound edition I got the magazine in the auction for £2.50 including post.

Grand Junction Canal, Cassiobury Park, Watford

Grand Junction Canal, Leighton Buzzard

The heart of this article, and the magazine, are of course its illustrations. Although black and white they are of good quality. Some come from Frith. Most feature canal subjects but rivers are also covered. The text by Ladbroke Black is very readable and strays from the usual canal history. I was perplexed by his reference to the abandoned Wendover Junction Canal being used by Alfred Rothschild to raise water-fowl until I found out that the author lived close by.

There is a long description of the Wey and Arun Canal but much of the article is made up of a description of life on "monkey boats" and their decoration. The description tends towards the idylic and he notes that "the pay is good, especially if the skipper has a large and active family".  He does, however, mention the lack of education of the children of boating families and the role of the Brentford Institute.

Grand Junction Canal, Aylesbury

One interesting section, describing the Roman canals around Peterborough, describes how a motorist should find Car Dyke. The directions include road numbers. Since this is before the 1936 Trunk Roads Act they are not the usual A,B,C or D with a number. Labroke Black refers to Road 15 from Peterborough and then Route 1177 to Ripingale station.

Denver Sluice, Great Ouse

Regent's Canal, passing by London Zoo

To me the most interesting are those showing horse-drawn narrow boats on the Grand Junction and Regent's Canals and the trio of images of the Barton Swing Aqueduct. The latter location has family memories for me, and I have posted about it before, but one of images in Wonderful Britain was particularly fascinating. The swing aqueduct allows the Bridgewater Canal to cross the Manchester Ship Canal without restricting the air draught of ships. The photograph (below) shows horses on the aqueduct towpath (Bridgewater Canal). The towpath of the aqueduct is supended some height above the channel of water, presumably to save constructing a wider bridge.

Barton Swing Aqueduct, Manchester Ship and Bridgewater Canals
 - showing horses on the elevated towpath

Barton Aqueduct in operation