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Rose of Hungerford

The “Rose of Hungerford” is a purpose built 55 feet long wide-beamed passenger trip boat owned by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and has a maximum capacity of 50 passengers. It is operated by volunteers of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust. The Rose has sliding picture windows for warm days, but is fully enclosed with central heating if necessary. Hot and cold drinks and a fully licensed bar are available on trips. The Rose also has an electric wheelchair lift * and a toilet large enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

* Please note that the lift is designed to take a “Standard Self-Propel Wheelchair”, which is 45″ long and 25″ wide

In 1954 there was a proposal by what was then the British Transport Commission to permanently close the Kennet and Avon Canal. However, this provoked such an outcry that eventually a Committee of Inquiry was set up.

Hungerford Wharf in 1974 (a) web
Hungerford Wharf in 1974
Re-opening of the canal to Hungerford wharf, 20 July 1974
Re-opening of the canal to Hungerford wharf, 20 July 1974

The Kennet and Avon Canal Association had been formed three years earlier in 1951 but on the 2nd June 1962 the Kennet and Avon Trust was set up, and whole teams of volunteers set to work in clearing debris and repairing locks. The result of this effort was that on 20th July 1974 the canal was officially re-opened from Newbury to Hungerford. Hungerford Wharf, where the Rose is currently moored, was originally Woolridge’s Builders Yard and used as a depot for transporting materials on the canal.

The “Rose of Hungerford” was launched into the canal in 1982 and the official commissioning took place at Hungerford Wharf on the 6th of March 1983. It was not until August 1990 that the complete navigable length of the canal was officially reopened with HM The Queen on board “The Rose of Hungerford” at Caen Hill on 8 August 1990.

Rose being lowered into canal in 1982
Rose of Hungerford being lowered into canal in 1982

The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust would like to thank local historian Dr Hugh Pihlens for help in compiling this brief resume and supplying some of the photographs. More details on the history of Hungerford can be found at http://www.hungerfordvirtualmuseum.co.uk.

One of Hungerford’s most famous latter-day canal personalities was Tom Rolt, who with Robert Aickman and Charles Hadfield formed the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), to lead a national campaign to restore Britain’s canals. The canal system had been a major transport network in the 18th and early 19th Centuries, facilitating the Industrial Revolution by enabling materials, farm products and manufactured goods to be moved around the country more easily than with horse-drawn wagons. With the availability of even faster transport because of the introduction of the railways, however, the canals fell into disrepair and – in many places – total dereliction.

Rolt had completed an engineering apprenticeship at the locomotive works in Stoke-on-Trent, where his uncle was the chief development engineer and had bought a wooden horse-drawn narrowboat called Cressy. Several trips on the canals convinced Rolt that he wanted a life afloat. In 1937 Rolt bought Cressy from his uncle and set about converting her into a boat that could be lived on, even including the installation of a bath – possibly because by then he had been joined by Angela, soon to become his first wife.

Work on Cressy was completed in 1939 and in July that year Rolt and Angela (now his wife) set off on their travels on the Oxford Canal. The 2nd World War soon changed their plans. Rolt came to work at the Aldbourne village foundry, so the Rolts negotiated the River Thames in flood and battled up the River Kennet to reach Hungerford where they lived on Cressy for more than a year. Tom and Angela’s early cruising days led to Toms’ now-famous canal book “Narrow Boat”, published in December 1944. This book was a huge success and ultimately brought together Aickman and Hadfield to start the campaign to restore the canals. The result of their initiative is that we now have a growing network of over 2,200 miles of canals, supporting a major leisure industry and providing pleasure and recreation for millions of boaters, walkers, riders and anglers.

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