Birchills, an extremely rare Joey, or ‘day boat’, has been repaired and re-docked at the Black Country Living Museum following an appeal which raised £62,000 worth of charitable donations. One of the most important and vulnerable objects in the Museum’s collection, Birchills is considered one of the last surviving boats of its type.
Birchills was built in 1953 by Ernest Thomas of Walsall and worked on the run to nearby Birchills Power Station. Built at a time when traditional narrow boat building was in fast and terminal decline, Birchills was one of the very last wooden day boats to be built. It is the only example surviving with a day cabin and represents a way of life which has long since past. These types of vessels were once the ‘workhorses’ of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, a network which criss-crossed the Black Country and Birmingham areas. These canal networks are widely regarded as the life-blood of Victorian Birmingham and Black Country, facilitating the rapid expansion of industry within the area.
The boat’s restoration received an industry award for its ‘distinctive restoration’ last month. Specialists were required to undertake a substantial programme of work which involved both reconstruction and cosmetic work. In order to float the boat and preserve its form, invasive conservation was carried out including the replacement of a rotten stern post and planking. Care was taken to preserve evidence of traditional construction techniques.
David J Eveleigh, Director of Collections, Learning and Research Comments: “We are very pleased to welcome back a newly-restored Birchills to the Black Country Living Museum. Thanks to those who donated we’ve been able to preserve an important part of the region’s heritage for future generations. The boat is now on site for visitors to enjoy and we hope to illustrate life aboard Birchills with costumed demonstrators in upcoming events.”
The Museum extends grateful thanks to those who donated including The Headley Trust, PRISM (Preservation for Industrial and Scientific Materials) Fund, William A Cadbury Charitable Trust and the Rowlands Trust, as well as individual donations.