Fellows Morton & Clayton carrying fleet
Prior to the nationalisation of the waterways in 1948 one of the largest canal carriers, and probably the most famous, was Fellows Morton and Clayton.
Parts of the company dated back to the 1830s and they had been one of the earliest firms to invest confidently in iron boats – steamers, horse boats and some of the earliest motorboats. They built many of them at their own dockyard in Birmingham, but they contracted work out to other shipyards and boatbuilders too. However, they always specified their own very recognisable style of riveted boat, slim graceful craft with a very fine entry through the water at the bows.
The forged bow plates flared out in a double curvature to meet the sharp inward slope of the top strake behind a strengthened guard iron at the loaded waterline. It was a powerful balance between utility and beauty, a characteristic shape that became a strictly guarded company style – virtually a trademark. These iron ‘Joshers’, as they were affectionately known (after the firm’s founder Joshua Fellows) were well built and well respected and many survive in good condition, most of them over eighty years old whilst several have reached their centenary.
F.M.& C. also had hundreds of wooden boats over the years, with a separate dockyard to build and service them at Uxbridge, but few now survive in reasonable condition. Wooden boats were built in the expectation that they would be worn out long before the ordinary rot of old age would get a grip. The fact that we have any at all over half a century after they were built is a surprising bonus, and they now require a very different order of maintenance and restoration to that with which they were built.