Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 16:09 UK
Cadbury's Bournville works and the last narrow boat

Max Sinclair
by Max Sinclair
Life President - Droitwich Barge Canal Restoration Society

Narrow boat
Olive above the Blockhouse lock, Worcester for the Sinclair girls

In February 1961 the last 30 ton load of chocolate crumb left Cadbury's Frampton Milk Depot on the Sharpness Canal for Bournville, Birmingham.

It was a bitterley cold day, with dense fog over the River Severn, which was in full flood.

Deny Merrell, the Diglis Basin Lock Keeper, was therefore surprised when he heard a narrow boat approaching his office.

Narrow boat
These 'Severners' could carry the maximum cargo on the narrow canals

He found Charlie Ballinger's "Severner" motor boat "Olive" entering the top basin lock.

When asked why none of the river locks had telephoned to give notice of his passage, Lionel Tonks replied that he "had come over the fields" to avoid paying tolls to the lock keepers.

Although he only had a 9HP Petter engine, with his profound knowledge of the river currents and the back eddies, he had worked his heavy boat and cargo upstream.

He moored up for the night above the Blockhouse gauging lock.

Narrow boat
Bridget in Gloucester Docks with a very tired Mayflower Tug

Deny kindly telephoned me to come and photograph its last voyage.

Next morning it set off for Bournville, never to return, as it made its way to Braunston, where Michael Street had purchased it to cut in half, to make two pleasure motor boats - removing the engine and dumping it on the scrap pile.


In 1964, Charlie's other motor "Bridget" was lying in Gloucester Docks for sale, moored alongside the steam tug "Mayflower" which I had tried to purchase for restoration.

Narrow boat engine in a Land Rover
The Petter safely reachs The Butty with Peter Packwood and Albert Brookes

I have no regrets that it went to Bristol Museum which couldn't have given it a better home.

When "Bridget" went to Michael Streets, I was told about "Olive's" engine, and bought it for a few pounds from Blue Line.

In a hilarious hot summers day out, I joined Peter Packwood (Spitfire) and Albert Brookes (Glenfield) in Albert's Land Rover, and travelled to Braunston to collect it and bring it home to The Butty.

After a few months setting it up on railway sleepers to bump its way along my drive, and introduce my boys to the wonders of an early oil engine, Allan Picken took it to his Dunhamstead yard, from where it subsequently went to Gloucester Waterways Museum for installation in "Oak"

So ended the last regular trade up the Severn to Worcester.


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