Flowers Afloat by Tony Lewery


The colour and verve of painted narrow boats – swags of roses, romantic castles, and bold geometric design – represent an extraordinary nineteenth-century flowering of popular art. Passed down through generations of painters, it has an enduring beauty and drama which remains fascinating and captivating two centuries on.

The eternal popularity of roses and castles is a testament to the chord they strike in the heart of post-industrial man, an achievement which lifts them beyond the merely decorative to an artform worthy of its place in history.


The origins of the art of roses and castles lie firmly in the emerging industrial age; yet its strength and continuity is due to the artisan system of master and apprentice, the older painter passing down his years of skill and experience to the younger man. From the Nursers of Braunston to the Atkins of Polesworth, the story is often one of generations of a family employed in the trade, each artist developing his own distinct and distinctive versions of the basic ‘pattern’.

Fascinating period photographs show these men at work, both on the boats and on land, and remaining examples of their skill have been captured in beautiful colour photography. Tony Lewery’s vivid account of the painters’ lives and fortunes, together with a colourful explanation of the various designs and motifs which dominate the paintwork, complete this comprehensive and beautiful book.


Flowers Afloat is available online from Canal Book Shop.

Canal Bookshop –
THE website for new and used canal and waterway books, maps and DVDs. Or come and browse everything canals at Audlem Mill on the Shropshire Union Canal.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. No unauthorised reproduction.

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