Canal Arts, 'Roses and Castles' decoration, narrowboat & barge signwriting and painters
written and illustrated by Tony Lewery.
folk arts of the English canals are unusual because they were apparently
born without clear historical ancestors, the origins of part of this
traditional culture still remain a mystery.
The folk arts associated with the 'narrow boats' of the midland canals
presumably cannot predate the boats themselves, and those boats were not in
existence before the middle of the eighteenth century when the narrow canals
were built. That is quite recent in art history terms. The first written and
pictorial references to bright colours and painted roses and castles on
canal boats do not occur until even later, in the mid nineteenth century.
This was, therefore, an extraordinary flowering of a new folk art at a time
when many other old trades and traditional ways of life were withering away.