Canal Clearance Work

‘Panther’ on clean-up duty

Throughout the early days of the Society members started regular canal clearance work parties using Bert Dunkley’s boat ‘Prince’ to pull a mud boat loaned to the Society by British Waterways. This activity continued for many years with different motor boats culminating with Brian Saunders, the then chairman, with his boat ‘Outlaw’. When the mud boat eventually gave in to old age the Society, looking for a “proper boat” became aware of a B.W. heritage boat ‘Panther’ which was being decommissioned.

‘Panther’ was built by W.J.Yarwoods at their yard in Northwich Cheshire in 1929 as a full length motor of composite construction, with iron sides and an elm bottom with a 15hp single cylinder Bolinder engine. Most of her life was spent in the fleet of Fellows Morton & Clayton, one of the most famous commercial carrying contractors of the time. Eventually she came into the hands of British Waterways and due to problems, possibly with the hull, was shortened to her present length of 53feet. Whilst this work was carried out at the Bulls Bridge yard, the bottom was renewed in steel and the standard fleet cabin installed. The current 2 cylinder air cooled Lister diesel was also fitted at that time. Interestingly ‘Panther’s’ sister boat, ‘Python’, underwent similar modification and can now be seen in and around Tring. In the early 90’s ‘Panther’ became surplus to B.W.’s requirements and lay redundant.

‘Panther’ collecting rubbish

In 1993 the Society heard of her plight and negotiated a long term lease with B.W., finally purchasing outright in 2003, as the canal clearance and promotional vessel. During the autumn and winter of 2004 Panther’s hull and superstructure were given a thorough overhaul and painted out in her original Fellows Morton & Clayton colours.

‘Panther’ is out on clearance duties every month throughout the year manned primarily by moorers from Wyken. In 1994 the society received a “Queen Mother’s Award” by the Tidy Britain Group at a special ceremony in London for the continuing work on the canal.

If you are interested in this type of voluntary work please contact the society who will forward details of the years programme, pickup points etc.


As mentioned in the text, Panther and Python were built together in 1929 at the yard of WJ Yarwood in Northwich Cheshire.This photograph was taken by Gareth Davies at the London Canal Cavalcade in 2004.