Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ellesmere Port

We are now moored at Ellesmere Port.  It was wonderful getting here, for me, because between here and Chester there is not a single lock!  In the rainy, cold weather we have been experiencing, this is a wonderful thing!

Ellesmere Port is at the end of the Shropshire Union Canal, adjacent to the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. To get here you must pass through a derelict industrial area. Not a beautiful thing.

So why come?

Because here you will find the excellent National Waterways Museum. The museum, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, traces the development of Britain's canal system from its beginnings through its glory days in the 1800's.

You can see examples of traditional commercial narrowboats and learn more about what it was like to live and work on the canals when they were to the transportation of cargo what trucks/ lorries and railroads are today.

But one must remember that the boatman lived on the narrowboat with his family. Their accommodation was not palatial:  60 square feet!

Why so small?  The maximum amount of space needed to be delegated to the paying cargo, usually coal.

Life was, shall we say, cozy. Storage was built in.  Tables and beds folded down. There was one double bed and one extra long single bed that doubled as seating during the day. There was a stove that provided heat and a space to cook the family meals.

Families of 4 or 6 or more would live their lives in these cozy conditions. I'm sure the mothers were more than pleased to have their offspring spend time outside.

The women on the canal boats , as were most Victorian women, were very proud of their miniaturized homes.  Their stoves were blackened. Their woodwork washed.  Their brass polished. And, there were lace trimmed curtains at their Windows.

One can only imagine how they managed their domestic responsibility with the work expected of them on the canals, usually leading the horse all day along the canal path.

But manage it they did.

I will try to no longer even think of our 262 square feet as small. Or my domestic responsibility as anything but small.

Those were tough but proud ladies!

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