Shropshire History

Shropshire

Boat Building

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The River Severn was a major communication route up to the 19th Century and many boats were needed to carry materials between the Ironbridge Gorge and ports downstream such as Gloucester and Bristol. Not much information has survived about local boat builders but there were some. The Broseley Local History Society website Boal Building in the Ironbridge Gorge is a good source and is acknowledged for the details below. Some of the information comes from the Chepstow Ship Registers, maintained between 1786-1882. The boats were mostly trows, described as being from 30-40 tons, with a main and top mast, about 30 feet high, with square sails and some have mizzen masts.  They were generally from 16-20ft wide and 60ft in length.

 

1787 - John Wilkinson constructed an iron narrow boat called “The Trial”. 

 

1788 – a further three iron boats were built.

 

1789 – a trow called “Brothers” was built at Ironbridge. It had 1 mast and was 76 tons, 69 ft 6inches in length, 15ft 7 inches in breadth and 15ft 7 inches in depth.

 

1790 – a trow called “Joseph” was built at Broseley by John Jones. It had 1 mast and was 60 tons, 65ft 2 inches in length, 14ft 5 inches in breadth and 4ft 7 inches in depth.

 

1794 – a trow called “William” was built at Benthall. It had 1 mast and was 70 tons, 66ft in length, 15ft 6 inches in breadth and 5ft 7 inches in depth.

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1795 – a trow called “John and Mary” was built at Broseley. It had 1 mast and was  63 tons, 65ft 4 inches in length, 14ft 9 inches in breadth and 4ft 8 inches in depth.

 

18th Century – boats were being built at Bower Yard in Benthall, several sites in Jackfield, Rovings in Barrow and 3 yards in Bridgnorth.

 

Bower Yard in Foreground

 

1801 - reference to Bower Yard in Coalbrookdale "Here is a yard for building and repairing vessels".

 

1810 – a barge called “Abbey” was built at Benthall by Francis Stoat. It had 1 mast and was 36 tons, 54ft 8 inches in length, 12ft 1 inch in breadth and 2 ft 4 inches in depth.

 

1819 – a trow called “Sisters” was built at Bower Yard by F. G. Gother. It had 2 masts and was 33 tons, 63ft 5 inches in length, 13ft 7 inches in breadth and 4ft 2 inches in depth.

 

1824 – a trow called “Fanny” was built at Coalbrookdale. It had 2 masts and was 103 tons, 73ft 4 inches in length, 18ft 2 inches in breadth and 4ft 9 inches in depth.

 

1838 – a trow called “Monmouth” was built at Ironbridge by James Williams. It had 1 mast and was 23 tons, 67ft 8 inches in length, 12ft 8 inches in breadth and 2ft 3 inches in depth.

 

During this time, there was also 13 trows built at Bridgnorth.

 

1851 – only two boatbuilders were left, Edward Gother at Benthall and William Oakes in Bridgnorth.

 

Currently there is only one remaining boatbuilder in Shropshire :-

 

S Jackson and Sons Narrowboat Builders Ltd - Newport