Narrowboats are a popular way to travel canals, people even live on them. But where did they originate? How have the uses of narrowboats changed over the years?
Originally used for carrying goods along narrow canals, narrowboats were used in the 18th-20th centuries as working vessels to help with trade and transportation.
Narrowboats would have originally been horse-drawn, with the animals walking alongside the canal towing the boat. This was during a time when electrical and manual ways of steering and driving the boats were unavailable and meant the boats would travel relatively slowly.
Although originally used for transporting goods, narrowboats also housed the men who worked on them. While travelling long distances and working long hours, it was often impossible to keep a house on the land, so those working often moved into the boats with their families.
Engines changed the way narrowboats were used. Now faster and easier to drive, goods transportation became quicker and more efficient.
Canals were used for commercial traffic up until the middle of the 20th century. However, once the use of canals for trade became redundant, many began using canals and narrowboats recreationally.
Nowadays, narrow boats are mostly used for pleasure. People can also live in boats. Houseboats are a popular choice for those who want to live small, or like the idea of being able to travel frequently.
You can even hire boats for short stays, so you can experience canal living yourself without making the commitment. Narrowboat hire is a lovely alternative to a traditional holiday and adds a unique touch to your next summer getaway.
While the functions of narrowboats have changed over time, there is still nothing that beats the authentic joy you feel travelling down waterways in one of these extraordinary vessels.