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Barges 3

Preparations being made for the launch of the keel Ethel at Ledgard Bridge Yard in 1952. After her retirement in 1975 she went to the Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port but sadly was broken up 10 years later due to her advanced state of decay.

Launch of the keel Eddie in 1910. She was the last keel to be launched at Shepley Bridge.

Another view of Battyeford yard a keel in the early stages of construction can be seen in the background.

The keels constructed in Mirfield yards were made of timber. The methods of construction little changed for hundreds of years. (Later keels made elsewhere were often of iron or steel.) A oak frame would be constructed parallel to the cut. (Canal.) As can be seen in the pictures of Shepley Bridge yard. This skeletal frame would then be Oak planked from the bottom up. To enable the planks to follow the curves of the frame, they would be steamed for many hours in large steam boxes. The planks then very flexible would be iron nailed to the frame quickly before they cooled and their rigidity returned. The gaps between the planks been made watertight by a process known as "Caulking" whereby cotton or shredded hemp rope mixed with pitch (molten black tar) is forced into the gaps. Finally pine decks were fitted and the hold covered with sectional wooden hatches.

The hulls would then be painted over with pitch for protection and the coamings and decks would receive a lick of paint. Keels were not "pretty" boats and did not receive the ornate art work of some canal barges, in fact the only real sign of sentiment being they were nearly all given names.

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