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 Repainted: 9/1893 Bottom re-caulked: 6/1896 Repainted: 9/1898 Repainted: 7/1901 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 (Marple Section Letter Book, 1939-1947, Letter No. 261) 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
Dear Sir
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.
1Cruet complete5Glass tumblers
1Pewter tea pot1Glass decanter
1Pewter coffee pot3Small oval dishes
7Large dinner knives6Cups
12Small knives9Saucers
1Bread knife7Egg cups
1Carving knife5Basins
2Carving forks2Gravy boats
9Teaspoons4Meat dishes
1Pair sugar tongs8 Small plates*
11Large dinner forks12Large dinner plates
14Small forks12Small plates*
1Table spoon2Large dishes
1Corkscrew1Copper kettle
1Tablecloth1Water can
6Serviettes1Iron saucepan
1Pot towel1Ordinary towel

*The difference between these two items is unknown.

Yours Respectfully
A. Wood

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?

Intrepid on the Macclesfield Canal at Marple, 1930s. Intrepid at an unidentified location, 1930s.
Intrepid at an unidentified location, 1910. Intrepid on the Upper Peak Forest Canal, 1940s.