“She moves like she don’t care
Smooth as silk, cool as air”
Every once in a while we get a real gem tied up at the wharf in Wheelock. Strangely enough these often seem to be railway related. The best I’d seen previously during the 19 years since I moved to the village was a L&NWR civil engineer’s inspection saloon but this horse drawn, wooden hulled, narrow boat takes the biscuit.
Yes, that’s the forerunner of the Great Central. Probably the finest of all the pre-grouping companies, best known for the last main line to be built during the Victorian era, the “London Extension” from Sheffield to Marylebone. And, of course, the magnificent Woodhead route over the Pennines.
The boat was built in in 1854 by James Jinks at Marple Top Lock and spent her first 50 years carrying stone traffic between Bugsworth and Guide Bridge, an area I’m familiar with because I worked at Guide Bridge (and Marple) in the nineteen seventies and early eighties. After about 1900 Maria was used for maintaining the canals owned by the railway company. In the 1960s she was abandoned and sunk in Portland Basin at Ashton but she was restored in the 1970s, and makes a fine sight in 2014 at the grand old age of 160!