History of the Corvus

– kindly provided by Mike Harrison and Peter Harrison of the Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club

MV Corvus

GUCCCo Fleet No. 260
’Small Northwich / Star class’ iron composite butty to Clypeus No. 28
Built, as one of 12, by Yarwoods in 1935
Delivered June 1935
Registered at Brentford No. 499, 24.07.1935
GU Gauge No. 12424

To fully understand the story of Corvus, it’s important to appreciate the difference between the Grand Union Canal Company (GUCCo) and the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company (GUCCCo) …

The GUCCo was the owner of the various canals, amalgamated in the 1920’s, which formed the through routes from London to Birmingham and also the Leicester Line from Norton Junction to Langley Mill.

The GUCCCo was a carrying company formed in 1934, which took over some other carriers’ fleets of boats and then went into a very rapid expansion, ordering large numbers of new craft. By mid-1937, its fleet numbered 186 pairs.

Corvus is one of the butties of what became known as the ‘Small Northwich class’, built by W.J. Yarwood and Sons on the River Weaver in 1935. These boats were of composite construction i.e. the hull sides were of riveted wrought iron and the bottom was 3″ elm.

All of this first batch, together with similar boats ordered at the same time from Harland and Wolff (‘Small Woolwich’) and wooden boats from Walkers of Rickmansworth (‘Small Ricky’) formed the ‘Star class’. They were all named after stars and planets etc. (Corvus being the name of a star)

In 1936 and early 1937, the GUCCCo ordered a number of larger narrow boats (i.e. with deeper hull sides) which were all named after towns and cities and became known as the ‘Town class’. These became more popular both with the company and the boatmen and came to be used in preference to the ‘Star class’, because they had a greater carrying capacity and greater freeboard when loaded. The GUCCCo always had plenty of spare boats, never having more than 100 pairs working at the same time, mostly due to lack of boatmen. Because of this, many of the ‘Star class’ were surplus to requirements and frequently laid up.

These included Corvus, which was in a group of craft hired to the Erewash Canal Carrying Co. Ltd. during the early 1940’s, initially paired with Lacerta. By July 1943 Lacerta was working on its own but was paired with another butty by February 1944. The hiring of  GUCCCo narrow boats was terminated in early March 1944 but Corvus is not listed as being one of those still on hire, presumably having already been returned to the main fleet of the GUCCCo. Corvus is not on the GUCCCo fleet list dated 14 September 1944, so was either in the process of being docked or laid up – most probably the latter. Corvus was sold for £253 to the Grand Union Canal Co. in November 1945, for use as a canal maintenance boat.

British Waterways Board asset records suggest that Corvus was submitted as a new asset in period nine 1985 (meaning circa November 1984). Clearly British Waterways Board had owned this boat since the canals were nationalised so this date seems a little odd. I suspect that this is the date, more or less, when Corvus underwent a substantial rebuild, which included the fitting of an engine and a counter stern. At that time, it was given a projected life expectancy of twenty years. British Waterways Board records show Corvus to be powered by a Lister TS2 (leaving her potentially under powered). I have no recorded fate for the stern end of Corvus but I suspect it was scrapped by British Waterways.

Corvus has continued to be used as a maintenance boat, mostly on the River Soar, up to the present time but is now being released as part of British Waterways’ maintenance fleet modernisation programme.