Chesterfield Canal Trust Boat, the “John Varley II” Portholes

aka the “Brindley Celebration Panels”

I have always wanted the opportunity to design and make a stained glass canal boat window or porthole.  The trip boat based at Tapton Lock (the John Varley) was looking a bit old and shabby when I started volunteering with the Trust in 2015.  Fast forward to the arrival of the John Varley II: a brand new, state of the art canal trip boat with a large wheelchair lift, a foredeck, a hearing loop and lots of other superb features including two leaded glass portholes, designed and made by yours truly! 

The idea for the design of the pair of portholes came from a trust member, David Dawson (whom I have yet to meet!)  They celebrate the building of the the waterway by human hand in the 1770's and the restoration work that continues today, sometimes still by hand, but also by means of  mechanical digger.  The yellow digger is known as Dennis, the navvy is, so far, unnamed.  I worked on this project in consultation with the boat fitters, Tristar, based in Ratcliffe on Soar

The boat naming ceremony was a most unusual event and I was honoured to be invited to attend.

The folklore of the River Trent and its tributaries dictates that the various water spirits are respected and placated before a new vessel can be considered safe to set sail.  These spirits includes Boggarts or  Boggins, Jenny Hurn and Jenny Greenteeth.  Ancient and careful wording is used during the ceremony and a pint of locally brewed beer is split into 3.  Only one third is consumed and half the remainder must be thrown into the water with a mirror and the rest thrown over the bow of the boat! 

The manufacture of these panels coincided with the 300th anniversary of Derbyshire born canal engineer, John Brindley, and are thus sometimes known as the “Brindley Celebration panels”

Click on any photo to open the gallery.