True Colours

Just a short and sweet post this week, to reveal a touch more about the colourful history of our rare surviving Mersey flat Mossdale…

Since embarking on a mission to uncover the history of our vessels Mossdale and George, I’ve come across many a photograph of both boats during their long lives. According to material in the archive, Mossdale appears to have had something of a double-life; I certainly did a double-take when I came across an image of our treasured Mersey flat from around the 1970s, decked out in a rather regal combination of red, white and blue.

If you’ve been keeping up with our Window on the World blog, or you’ve visited the museum and spotted Mossdale recently, you’ll know that she’s currently sporting the remnants of a once vibrant red and yellow colour scheme. 

So what’s the story?

As you may be aware, research suggests that Mossdale’s history can be traced back to as early as the Victorian era. It is believed that she was once a Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Company vessel named Ruby, and wore the bejewelled colours of the company – red, white and blue.

However, when she was bought by Abel and Son’s company in 1921, she underwent the full Abel’s treatment. Painted in a bold palette of red and yellow hues, Mossdale became instantly recognisable on the waterways as one of Abel’s impressive fleet of flats.

Mossdale retained her Abel’s colours until the end of her working life. According to volunteers, it was during her stint in Northwich in the latter part of the 20th century that her Shropshire Union colours were restored. When she was acquired by the museum in the 1970s, a group of volunteers consisting of 7 men, 1 woman and a dog(!) steered her to Ellesmere Port. A true team effort!

In the 1980s, Mossdale underwent extensive repair work and another paint job at the museum which saw the return of her lively red and yellow Abel’s ensemble. This was a conscious decision made through meticulous research and the study of photos, as well as conversations with previous skippers, crew and boat builders from Abel and Son’s Company. Additionally, the Abel’s colours were favoured, as they were given to Mossdale by her last owners.

If we can get the green light with our project plans, Mossdale will be conserved at the museum as part of an exciting exhibition on the historic slipway area. We aspire to keep Mossdale in her red and yellow Abel’s uniform – after all, it was under Abel’s that she carved a mega-successful career as a cargo carrying vessel along the North West’s waterways.


Last date edited: 3 September 2013

About this blog

National Waterways Museum

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.


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