Summer Rain

Summer Rain
I like to photograph nature

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Roses and Castles

It feels like time to explain why my blog is called Roses and Castles.   I am a Narrowboat enthusiast and have been since my late teens.   My lifelong ambition was to have my own Narrowboat and that ambition was fulfilled 3 years ago.  She is only a little one, but she's ours and we love her.   She is called Bramble.   I will show you some photographs in a bit, but those who don't know, here is a some background about Narrowboats courtesy of Wikipedia.

Narrowboats can be up to 70 feet long but a maximum of 7 feet wide.   Unlike traditional barges which can be 14 feet or more wide.  These boats were originally working boats built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries primarily as a means of carrying goods such as coal around the country. In the UK the width of the boats is limited to 7 feet and around much of the canal transport system that was the size of the bridge holes, tunnels and locks.   There are still some working boats on the waterways, carrying coal and other goods, but the majority of boats are these days for leisure use or as permanent homes.

The traditional folk art decorations found not only on the boats themselves, but on their tools, horses harnesses and pretty much anything on the boat that stands still long enough to be painted is based on primitive themes of roses and castles, but could include anything that took the painters fancy to create a decorative theme or a romantic fantasy landscape.   The painting was done using left over paint used to maintain the boats and with workman's brushes rather than fancy artist equipment.  The Roses and Castles movement took root and flourished at a time when other traditional crafts and trading were fading the light of the industrial revolution and is still going strong today.

This extract from "Roses and Castles - A History" courtesy of

"No-one knows exactly where the Roses and Castles movement originated from.  There are obvious links with gypsy culture and their elaborately painted caravans, but historians have also identified similarities with folk art from Germany, Holland and Asia.   Wherever it came from, the reason for its popularity and growth is certainly tied to the limited size of the boat cabin, the pride of the boat people and the competition between the canals and the railways.  Money was short for the boatmen - especially once the railways starting springing up - and it made sense for them to bring their wives and families on board to work the boat in the place of a crew.  At the same time, the advent of the railways limited any new investment in the canals and consequently neither the canals nor the working narrowboats were able to benefit from further development.  The cabins, the living quarters of the boats, were tiny and looked set to stay that way.  

The wives and other women folk of the boatmen brought domestic pride and accomplishment onto the boats with them.  Their space was limited, and this made them even more determined to make every item bright and attractive.  Added to this was a desire to appear as cultivated and refined as possible in front of the Victorian Land-dwellers who had a tendency to look down their noses at the itinerant bargees with their dirty cargos and often illiterate children (being continuously on the move made consistent school attendance difficult).  With brightly painted romantic landscapes adorning every available surface, crocheted lace hanging in the cabin and everything scrubbed and polished, the boat men and women displayed their pride in their trade and created solidarity with their fellow boaters."

So now you know the origin of my blog name and my secret passion.   As the Water Rat said in Wind in Willows, there is nothing quite like messing about in boats.

No comments: