Alongside the Friends of the Canal Musuem, we have given Stoke Bruerne’s oldest floating resident some important conservation work.
Built in 1935, Sculptor is one of just a few historic working boats remaining on the canal and moors along the Grand Union Canal just outside the Canal Museum. Originally owned by the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company Sculptor was used to carry a variety of cargo such as cotton and coal from London to the Midlands. During WWII Sculptor was called into action to help with firefighting duties in London and helped extinguish fires caused by incendiary bombs.
As part of the work Sculptor was taken out of the water so that weeds, muck and slime could be cleaned off the bottom of the boat. Once on dry land the boat was inspected and, after being given a clean bill of health, was repainted. The metalwork within the boat was also given a fresh bright red paint job and a new stove and chimney was installed.
Boat conservation is an important part of the work of the museum. Last year the museum received funding from Museum Development East Midlands to work with accredited conservator, George Monger, to develop a conservation management plan for Sculptor.
George said: “As part of the museum collection it’s important to keep Sculptor looking good but it’s also important that we preserve her history and the stories she can tell through her fabric.”
While Sculptor was out of the water George spotted some mystery bolts on her hull that may be the last evidence of her days as a fire boat. Perhaps they were the bolts that held her hoses.
The museum has now been successful in applying for funding from the Association of Independent Museums for George to continue to work with the volunteer team on Sculptor.
Stephanie Furniss, from the Canal Museum, said: "It’s lovely to see Sculptor out on the canal and it always creates a talking point when people come and visit the museum or enjoy a pot of tea in the café. Having a museum exhibit out on the canal really helps to tell the history of the waterways and, now it’s had a bit of makeover, it looks even more impressive.”
Kathryn Dodington, from the Friends of the Canal Museum, said: "Not many people realise that before roads and railways, canals were the motorways of their day and if it wasn’t for boats like Sculptor, it would have taken months to send goods up and down the country. It’s thanks in part to the care and dedication of volunteers that Sculptor has survived so well and can still help us tell the history of our waterways."