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Desmond Family Canoe Trail
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Great news! Plans are coming together for the lifting of Mossdale out of the water, and the conservation work to commence…
If you didn’t already know, Mossdale is currently unable to float by herself (sob!). Not to worry though, with the help of our trusty team here at the museum, she’ll soon be residing in much drier dwellings, and our project will officially be in full steam ahead. Hooray!
It’s been another busy, research-filled week for me. Much of my time has been spent trawling through all the relevant primary and secondary literature I can get my hands on, to get to grips with the history behind the project. I’ve made full use of the museum’s Archive over the past couple of weeks, which is a real treasure trove for anybody interested in learning about the history of Britain’s inland waterways.
The seminal text Mersey Flats and Flatmen by Mike Stammers, former keeper of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, is a definite must-read for this project - it’s become my ‘essential guide’ for uncovering Mossdale’s heritage. I’ve also been ploughing through the extensive research which has been collected and collated by volunteers at the museum – big thanks to the Archive volunteers for being such a great help!
So, here are some key facts I thought you'd like to know about our favourite Mersey flat Mossdale…
It is widely believed that Mossdale was originally named Ruby when she was created sometime during the 1860s. Ruby was chartered and then bought by the Shropshire Union in 1867 for around £350, though it is not clear who her original owners were, as she wasn’t entered on the Liverpool or Runcorn registers until 1920.
Stammers believed that it may have been John Smith of Liverpool who sold them the Onward, Onyx and Pearl in 1869. However, there is also evidence which suggests that it could’ve been William Speakerman, a former master of Ruby when she was registered on the Chester Canal Boat register in 1879.
What we do know is that Ruby was sold in 1920 to Abel & Sons Company who changed her name to Mossdale. This name was chosen by the company to fit in with their policy to have a ‘dale’ ending, as demonstrated by their vessels Dovedale, Liddiesdale and Wharfedale.
As mentioned in a previous blog, Mossdale carried a general cargo, including grain, margarine and iron, often unloading at Ellesmere Port’s flour mills. Interestingly, evidence in the museum’s Archive reveals that Mossdale was once a carrier of Tate & Lyle Sugars, the multinational agribusiness which created the collection of Tate art galleries in the UK.
In 1933, Abel and Sons made a wise decision to extend Mossdale in order to expand her carrying capacity. The expansion of trade, triggered by the industrial revolution, led to need for her to transport a greater cargo. The Abel’s completely rebuilt Mossdale at their Castle Rock Yard – increasing her length to a staggering 72 feet, so she could carry more ‘sweet’ goods along the waterways.
The National Waterways Museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of artefacts that tell the story of Britain’s canals and navigable rivers over the last 300 years. With sites at Ellesmere Port and Gloucester, the museum holds over 12,000 historic objects and 68 historic boats and is designated by the Arts Council England as of national importance. The National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port is also home to the Waterways Archive including over 100,000 papers, drawings photographs, plans and books relating to the waterways – a vital part of our national cultural heritage.