“ Nutfield & Raymond “
The Friends of Raymond was formed in October 1996 to recover, restore and exhibit Raymond, the last unpowered wooden commercial carrying narrowboat ever built in the UK: by 2002 restoration was complete. In 2003 Nutfield, came on the market, and the charity managed to buy her. The boats are based at Braunston Marina on the Grand Union Canal.
Raymond (launched in 1958) and Nutfield (launched in 1936) worked as a pair right up to the end of the canal trade in the early 1970s when they carried coal from Atherstone in Warwickshire to Southall in North London.
Volunteers are essential to keeping the spirit of Nutfield & Raymond alive and can be called upon to help crew the pair to various waterways events where the public are invited on board to experience the life of a working boat family and the history of commerce on the canals.
Where it all started
In 1995 Tim Coghlan (MD of Braunston Marina) organised a re-enactment of the “Jam ‘Ole Run” on the 25th Anniversary of the ceasation of the coal trade. A number of old working boats, went from Braunston to Coventry, loaded with a (token) amount of coal, carried it to Brentford and returned to Braunston – all in a week. This is what the old boatmen did for a living until the trade died out in 1970. Why the “Jam ‘Ole”? It was a narrow entrance to the factory of Kearley & Tonge who (among other things) made jam.
While at the “Jam ‘Ole” someone enquired of the whereabouts of Raymond because she was one of the boats which went on the last run. She had been given to the “Wooden Canalcraft Trust” in December 1992 who had hoped to restore her, unfortunately they couldn’t raise the funds so in October 1996 it was decided to form a charity with the specific aim of restoring Raymond and the Trust agreed to give her back. And so was born the “Friends of Raymond”.
Raymond was collected from the Wooden Canalcraft Trust at Runcorn, where she had sunk, and taken to the Black Country Museum at Dudley for assessment, where she sank again, twice. It was soon clear that she was far beyond restoration and that a re-build was the only option.
Fund-raising for Raymond
Fund-raising was the first essential and while a host of small efforts got under way a lot of effort also went into getting a Lottery Grant, submitted early in 1998. The total estimated cost was about £85K and the bid was for £52K. That left a lot of money to find, thankfully the committee had some hard workers – and some persuasive talkers.
By December 1999 restoration work was under way and by the start of July 2000 Raymond was back in Braunston and moored just a few yards from where she had been built in 1958.
Raymond was once described as a ‘lame duck’ – she had no engine and could go nowhere without a motor to tow her, previously Roger and then Nutfield in 1968. The once prosperous carrying trade had already dwindled due to competition by road (the railway at Braunston had already come and gone. Various boaters helped out with towing when they could.
Maintaining any boat is a never-ending process, especially where wood is in use. The Friends of Raymond continue to look after both Nutfield & Raymond and aim to keep them in top class condition so that they can be shown off to the public at various boat shows each year. They always need help to crew them, to maintain them and to raise the money needed for this.
Get in touch to volunteer
Help with stalls at various boat shows, fundraising or join a maintenance working party. There are also opportunities to help crew the boats. Contact the volunteer organiser at firstname.lastname@example.org or become a member of the Friends of Raymond from just £10 per year.
See website for more details friendsofraymond.org.uk