An interesting boat that could once be seen on the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals was the Survey Boat, Intrepid, which was also known as the Committee Boat and sometimes as the Inspection Launch. The Return of Boats belonging to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, dated 1 January 1890, shows that it was based at Fairfield on the Ashton Canal. Available evidence suggests that the original Committee Boat, owned by the Peak Forest Canal Company, might have been replaced or rebuilt when it became in need of repair. It is likely that the boat house, below Fairfield top lock (lock 18) on the Ashton Canal, was used to accommodate Intrepid when not in use.
The hull of Intrepid was shorter than that of a working boat with a cabin that was reminiscent of a first-class railway dining coach. Officially, it was a survey (inspection) boat but in reality it was a pleasure boat for the personal use of directors and other VIPs. Other canal companies operated similar boats where the management held 'meetings' during leisurely cruises through scenic countryside.
In the 1920s, when George Lucas was Inspector at the Gorton Canal Depot, the procedure was that he would receive a telephone call from the Engineer based at Guide Bridge Railway Station, who was his superior. George would be instructed to prepare Intrepid for use and arrange for her to be towed the short distance to Guide Bridge. The maintenance boat, Joel, was often used for this purpose and at Guide Bridge it would be moored below the station in readiness. Meanwhile, the staff in the station refreshment room prepared a picnic hamper, which would be put on board prior to the arrival of the VIPs by train. Once on board, the VIPs headed for the Lower Peak Forest Canal for an enjoyable cruise. Whenever Intrepid was moored at Fairfield its appearance, with starched tablecloths and gleaming silver cutlery, was a source of admiration for mill girls as they passed by.
Records of the Survey Boat
Peak Forest Canal Minute Book, 4 April 1833
'Mr. James Meadows (Junior) stated that he had had an application from the Rev. Francis for the use of the Committee Boat for a Party of Pleasure, but that he had refused the loan of it on the grounds that it
would be wanted this day for 2 or 3 days by the Ashton Canal Committee. He was desirous of knowing what he must do if again requested to lend it.
Ordered that it must not be loaned without an order from the Committee.'
Peak Forest Canal Minute Book, 3 July 1833
'The sub-Committee agree to pay the expense of building a Boat House jointly with the Ashton Canal Company to preserve the Committee Boat.'
Another Minute, of unknown date but prior to 1846, states that the Committee Boat is in need of repair and that it should be replaced/rebuilt jointly with the Ashton Canal Company. This minute shows that more than one Committee/Survey Boat was built and available evidence suggests that the one that survived until the 1940s was the third.
A notebook giving details of each boat in the railway company's fleet (by then the London and North Eastern Railway Company) records the following service history of the Survey Boat, commencing in April 1889 when Intrepid was newly built. The place where she was built was unrecorded but it is likely that this was at the Gorton Canal Depot of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company.
Survey Boat: New 4/1889
Bottom re-caulked: 6/1896
New Bottom Strake & 2 new planks above up to Fender all round new (illegible) floor & sheathing 1922.
New Bottom strake Put on old Bottom for first time at Gorton.
All new Revits (Rivets?) done by F Hyde & E Hyde.
Finished off by G H Potts new Boatbuilder.
A letter (NoteMarple Section Letter Book, 1939 - 1947, Letter No. 261, 25 November 1944.) written by Mr A Wood on the 25 November 1944 records the inventory of cutlery and crockery belonging to Intrepid:
From: Canal Department, Marple
To: District Engineer, Guide Bridge
Date: 25 November 1944
With reference to your letter of the 20th November, Mr. Machin handed over the cutlery and utensils belonging to the inspection launch to Mr. C. Saxon on the September 20 1944, who placed them on the boat.
I give below a complete list of cutlery and crockery.
|1||Cruet complete||5||Glass tumblers|
|1||Pewter tea pot||1||Glass decanter|
|1||Pewter coffee pot||3||Small oval dishes|
|7||Large dinner knives||6||Cups|
|1||Bread knife||7||Egg cups|
|2||Carving forks||2||Gravy boats|
|1||Pair sugar tongs||8||Small plates†|
|11||Large dinner forks||12||Large dinner plates|
|14||Small forks||12||Small plates†|
|1||Table spoon||2||Large dishes|
(†The difference between these two items was not recorded.)
The above inventory of 1944 can be compared and contrasted with the following anecdotal source:
Around the time that canals were nationalised, on the 1 January 1948, Intrepid disappeared never to be seen again. Prior to its final voyage into oblivion the canteen of silver cutlery, with each piece inscribed M S & L R Co, vanished much to the dismay of local canal officials.
As a consequence of this there are two unsolved mysteries. What happened to Intrepid and what happened to the canteen of silver cutlery?