Now that it’s finally summertime the canal festival season is in full swing. Festivals and boat rallies are the perfect place to pick up a piece of traditional canal ware. You may even find the odd roving trader selling such things from his boat on the towpath.


Measham Ware was dark brown glazed pottery painted with flowers and was popular with those who worked on the canals at the end of the 19th century. It was never actually produced in Measham but was mostly sold from a shop on the High Street in Measham. To find an original piece may now be rare but modern reproductions have been manufactured and sold in recent years.


Working narrowboats were often decorated with painted roses and castles and this colourful folk-art was also applied to the water cans carried on the roof. Canal artists these days may decorate both traditional and more modern items. Therefore at a canal festival you could buy a gaily painted mop and bucket, plant pot, coal scuttle or a simple bookmark with the painted roses design.

Lace plates

After bank holidays had been introduced in the late 19th century it became popular to return from a daytrip with a pictorial souvenir. Porcelain plates were popular among the canal people and these may be ribbon plates (threaded with a ribbon around the outside) or lace plates, which had an intricate design similar to a paper doily. A boatwoman may traditionally have had a proud display of these in her tiny cabin. They are now collected by modern boaters looking to decorate their boats in a more traditional way.


Finally, no proud boater would be without something made of polished brass on the boat. Brass items may include horse brasses, oil lamps, chimney chains or a companion set for the coal fire. Kettles could be both brass or copper. Any of these items of course also look good decorating your home ashore.

If you don’t yet have a boat you could browse the festival stalls this year for canal ware to decorate your boat in the traditional style.

Check out our quick guide to canal festivals and come and chat to us at an event this summer. We offer free advice on buying or selling a boat.


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