In Bathampton on the Kennet & Avon Canal In Bathampton on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Meet Jenkyn in Bathampton

We used to live in the little cottage by the swing bridge. My father bought it for £40 in 1967. It had no water, still had the old gas lighting and had an outside privy. It was great.

One of the reasons the Kennet & Avon Canal is still open is, in part, because of my father, Sir John Knill. In the early 1950s his narrowboats carried salt from Middlewich in Cheshire to Newbury in Berkshire. He was carrying cargo he'd found for himself, at the same time as the canal was under threat of closure. My father was one of the last to trade along the Kennet & Avon before its closure in 1951. He was also one of the many who worked for the restoration of the canal until it reopened its entire length in 1990.

Canals have totally changed

Canals have totally changed since my father's era. He would be thrilled that they're still open. The Kennet & Avon is very much a shared waterway now - it's getting busier and busier. In the 1970s there would have been only four or five boats here and probably no one on the towpath. I think my father would have embraced all the boats on the water now, he didn't want the canals to become a museum piece, he wanted them to be used.

Boating in Bathampton

We found our boat on a bonfire

We bought the Lady Lena in 1980 for £1. It was rescued from a bonfire. I found the boat lying in the garden of a recently sold house where the new owners were going to burn it.

We researched the history and found out she was originally electric. We found a photograph of her in 1904 with a saloon, so we put her back to how she was. Lady Lena was built in 1890 and is now believed to be the oldest electric launch in existence and still powered by electric. It took us years to restore her, we keep an album of the photos as it went along, and I think she's worth quite a lot more than £1 now.

We run the Lady Lena for boat trips, but we’ve just finished running the public boat trips for the winter break, although we’re still doing private charter until December. I'm off to New Zealand for three months in the winter. I've got three children, but my son and my only two grandchildren are in New Zealand so we go out there to see them.

As well as me and my father, there seems to be something of a Knill family connection with water throughout the generations. From 1857 to the 1930s my family used to own Fresh Wharf up in London, and when my son was searching on eBay to buy an old Thames Tanker, a picture came up of one going past Fresh Wharf so he bought it. Such a coincidence!

Jenkyn, Bathampton, Kennet & Avon Canal