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Barges 2

A Viking Long Boat the distant ancestor of the Keel.

For hundreds of years keels were the work horses of east cost rivers and estuaries. Reminiscent of Viking long boats they maintained the single mast and square sailed rig. Over the years the keels increased in size to a fairly standard size of between 60 and 70 feet to be known as Humber Keels. Steered by tiller with two cabins below deck fore and aft. The rest of the hull formed  one cavernous hold capable of carrying upward of 60 tons of cargo.

In time with the onset of the industrial revolution it became possible to navigate via the inland waterways from the east coast to the west coast. To navigate theses waterways, especially the Calder and Hebble Navigation, keels of specific dimensions were built, known as West Country Boats or Keels; this was the barge to be built in Mirfield for a 178 years.

A fleet of Humber Keels under sale in the  Humber estuaries in the early 1900's.

West country boats were built to a maximum length of 57ft 6in and breadth of 14ft 2in this being the maximum size able to pass through the locks of the upper Calder and Hebble Navigation, although smaller than Humber cousins they were still capable of sailing onto the tidal estuaries of the Humber and were the only barges capable of crossing the country fully from coast to coast.

Keels under construction at Battyeford boatyard early 1900's.

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