Early days

The narrowboat Nutfield was built by Yarwoods for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Co., her first owners and instigators, and was launched on 22nd July 1936. Her engine was a water cooled National DM2 no. 46644, coupled to a Brunton gearbox, no. E/7976/1.

The original Yarwood’s riveted cabins were not popular with crews, mainly because they were damp due to condensation as a result of poor insulation and the vast majority were replaced with wooden ones. Blue Line fitted a brand new Lister HB2 before the boat entered traffic with them, which is what she has now. It would appear that she is remarkably unaltered from her final working form.

Coal Carrying

In 1968 Nutfield took over the task of towing Raymond which had previously been done by Roger. The once prosperous carrying trade had already dwindled due to competition by road (the railway at Braunston had already come and gone!). Now just two pairs plus a single motor were carrying coal from Atherstone to the Kearley & Tonge jam factory at Southall.

In October 1970 they arrived with a load and were told that it would be the last – it was the last “Jam ‘Ole Run”. Nutfield (like Raymond) was sold off by Blue Line. Over the ensuing years a number of different owners took care of Nutfield until in 2003 she came on the market and we were lucky to be able to buy her.


Before the actual purchase was completed, a thorough survey showed that the bottom under the hold and part of the chine needed urgent replacement. In fact someone poked their finger through the bottom during the survey and this had to be temporarily repaired before she could leave the dry dock! Until this work is done she will not get a Safety Certificate.

David Thomas (Boatbuilder) agreed to do the work and so by mid-August 2003 Nutfield was being hoisted from the cut for its journey to Dave’s Boatyard – a distance of about 50 yards!

Soon the old bottom (under the hold) was a heap of scrap metal and the new sheets had been ordered. We were able to do some of the easy but boring jobs; this saved us a lot of money.

The next job was to tilt the boat on its side to enable the rivetting to be carried out. When all the rivets had been put in, the boat was tuned over again so the the other side could be done.

And so the day came (8 June) to relaunch Nutfield with the new bottom firmly rivetted in place. Barbara Ripley, our Chairman, performed the launching ceremony in the traditional way of the old boatmen by breaking a bottle of cider over the bows.


There is no doubt that David Thomas, our boatbuilder, has done a good job.

BUT … on 11 June she had to come out again because there was a leak in the stern section probably due to the extra stresses put on the hull while being turned over. While this problem was being dealt with, helpers put the new flooring into the hold. This was supplied & sponsored by J.K. Timber & Packaging Ltd. Lawford Heath Lane, Rugby. We are very grateful for their help.

By 21 June the leaks had been cured and, with lowering skies above but happy hearts on the wharf, Nutfield was craned back into the water.

Nutfield (fully functional again) proudly towed Raymond out of the Wharf Arm at the start of the parade at the Working Boats Festival at the end of June, 2004.

The weather spolt the evening dinner-cruise. But the food was eaten on board Nutfield under shelter in the Wharf Arm.

In September 2004 a party of enthusiasts, led by Mike Harlock, spent four days doing some work essential to keep the boat in good condition…

Everything that had been stored in the hold was removed including the shuts (wooden flooring). These were given a thorough coat of
wood presevative on both sides. Meanwhile sparks flew as rust was removed and rivet-heads polished Finally, two coats of epoxy resin were applied to the floor.

What happens next?

Nutfield’s Boat Safety Certificate ran out at the end of 2006 and our previous Examiner told us that work on the stern costing about £10K would be essential before a new Certificate could be granted. In December 2006 new Examiner told us that the stern was good for another five years providing we did not carry heavy loads (since the main object is to tow Raymond, this is really no problem). There was essential work to be done – there were some weak places that urgently need patching and many of the rivet-heads under the engine room and cabin were worn. These were “ring-welded” to prevent them from working loose. The wooden cabin top also needed attention to seal the leaks (using fibreglass) and a total re-paint.

At the start of March 2006 Nutfield was taken to the Warwickshire Flyboat Co (at Stockton) for the rivet-heads to be ring-welded which meant she could be used for the 2007 season.

During the Autumn (2007) she was taken back to Stockton for more work to be done on the bottom under the engine-room and cabin.

Restoration has continued more or less continuously – see: