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Award-Winning £62k Restoration Brings Rare Boat Back to Life

Photo of Birchills

10 April 2015

Birchills, an extremely rare Joey, or ‘day boat’, has been repaired and re-docked at BCLM following an appeal which raised £62,000 worth of charitable donations. One of the most important and vulnerable objects in our collections, Birchills is considered one of the last surviving boats of its type. 

Birchills was built in 1953 by Ernest Thomas of Walsall and worked on the run to nearby Birchills Power Station. Built at a time when traditional narrow boat building was in fast and terminal decline, Birchills was one of the very last wooden day boats to be built. It is the only example surviving with a day cabin and represents a way of life which has long since past. These types of vessels were once the ‘workhorses’ of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, a network which criss-crossed the Black Country and Birmingham areas. These canal networks are widely regarded as the life-blood of Victorian Birmingham and Black Country, facilitating the rapid expansion of industry within the area. 

The boat’s restoration received an industry award for its ‘distinctive restoration’ last month. Specialists were required to undertake a substantial programme of work which involved both reconstruction and cosmetic work. In order to float the boat and preserve its form, invasive conservation was carried out including the replacement of a rotten stern post and planking. Care was taken to preserve evidence of traditional construction techniques.

Visitors can now see Birchills docked in our canal arm.

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