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W H Cowburn & Cowpar Ltd

This section contains details of the eight narrow boats originally operated by W H Cowburn & Cowpar Ltd, both those now owned by members and others that we know of. We are always looking for more information to add to our archives so please contact us if you have information that does not appear in this section.

The WHC&C boats were built by Yarwoods at 70ft 6in length, with wooden cabins. 

All 8 boats were fitted with a Gardner 4VT.  Rated at 12bhp at 450rpm, the 4VT is a single cylinder two stroke semi diesel engine. Only three of the eight boats still have their original Gardner engines - Skylark, Stork and Swan. The engine is started by pre-heating a bulb on the cylinder head to almost red heat with a blowtorch.  The flywheel is equipped with a spring loaded peg, and is pulled over using a piece of rope placed over the peg, the engine then firing on the re-bound (hopefully!). All eight boats had electricity generated by a dynamo driven by the Gardner, a novelty on northern boats at the time.

The bird cut outs on the engine room panel were a novelty not seen on any other carrying fleet.  Another unusual aspect of the C&C fleet is that some of the boats had slightly pointed sterns, Skylark being one of them.

The first two boats built in 1933 (Swan and Swift) had steel composite hulls, with a beam of 7ft 1in and draught of 4ft 2in. 

The other six boats built from 1934 to 1936 (Swallow, Stork, Skylark, Seagull, Snipe and Starling) were slightly narrower at 7ft 0in beam, and shallower at 3ft 11in draught, and had all-steel hulls with rounded chines.

The main cargo carried was carbon disulphide, but other products carried to the Courtaulds sites included acids, solvents, acetone and oils carried in drums or glass carboys.  Salts and lime were carried in hessian sacks and caustic soda was carried in drums.  Return traffics tended to just be empty containers and carboys. The hazardous nature of carbon disulphide led to the introduction of pairs of cylindrical steel tanks being fitted to some of the boats between 1935 and 1936. When the tanks were put in, all boats were equipped with a flood valve in the fore end port side to enable the boat to be sunk quickly in the event of fire. The tanks were kept full of liquid at all times and the carbon disulphide was displaced with water under pressure on delivery. After discharge the boats returned to Trafford Park with the tanks full of water.

In 1951 the Courtaulds traffic to both Coventry and Wolverhampton came to an end and after that the only cargoes carried by the fleet was coal to Trafford Park and Broadheath. 

The fleet stopped trading in 1956, most of the boats having already been sold off by then.  Swan, Skylark and the butty Ethel were the last boats to come out of service and be sold in 1956.  Swan was sold to Gordon Waddington and Skylark and Ethel to Jonathan Horsefield Ltd of Runcorn.

(Thanks to Alison Smedley for the above information)