St Michael's Bereavement Support Group 

 November 2017 Group Meeting

 The November meeting of the Group was given a talk by John Benson on the National Waterways Archive which is held at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum. The collection is housed in a strongroom containing all the documentary collections which started back in the 16th century, this early documentation is mostly related to the land ownership on which the canals were constructed in the 1800’s. The collection was originally started at Stoke Brewin on the Grand Union canal before being transferred to Gloucester. In 1970 all the records were transferred to Ellesmere Port into a specially constructed storage space. The collection now contains all known documents and images relating to the history of the canals. These include Acts of Parliament covering the working conditions of all the canal boat people, for their living conditions and limits on the numbers of people allowed per boat including children (quite often ignored). There are also records of all transactions and boat loadings and destinations covering the whole network. Together with the plans and maps this information is now extensively used by people searching for family history and tracing their ancestry.

We were also shown three short films covering the start of Ellesmere Port with the founding of The Wolverhampton Corrugated Iron Works by a Mr Jones of Wolverhampton, This showed the very difficult conditions endured in the production of that very well known product “Corrugated Iron”, the component materials being transported here by canal. ( I was personally working in the original buildings until I retired in 2003 and it brought fond memories). The second film was of the disastrous fire that destroyed the Flour Mills based on the canal basin, again being located to bring in the grain by canal. The final film was entitled “My Town” which was a description of the growth of Ellesmere Port through the eyes of children. This included their re-enactment of canal life on the Shropshire Union canal complete with the use of horses pulling the boats with the children dressed in clothes of the era. They concluded with a tour of the town with the Mayor showing the development of the Civic Centre and the shopping centre and market pre Port Arcades.

In conclusion we were shown pictures by an artist FRANCESCA MILLICAN SLATER and her friend who between them have compiled a photographic record of then and now on the canals. All of these images are available on the website  canalrivertrust.org.uk/archive   .This also gives the opportunity to leave comments on the images. It can also be used to trace family history of boat people.

Mile Webb