Friends of The Canal Museum


Andrea Leadsom, MP

Lord Boswell of Aynho


Lynda Payton


Lorna York 


Paul Lynam


Registered Charity No:


If you would like to join the Friends please see our Membership page, or if you would like to contact us please write to:

The Friends of The Canal Museum, c/o The Canal Museum, Stoke Bruerne, Towcester NN12 7SE

or, e-mail us here 

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Latest Museum Matters - January 2021

Editor Kathryn Dodington has published the latest newsletter from the Museum Community at Stoke Bruerne with as much of the latest news as we can muster. Go to our Newsletter page to download a PDF version or click on the image below to read it on-line.


Corporate Member

Museum closed for development


Historic working boat Sculptor was called into action for an emergency inspection of Blisworth Tunnel at the beginning of April.

Sculptor, which is ordinarily moored outside the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne, was called into action by the Canal & River Trust after a suspected sinkhole was reported near one of the tunnel’s construction shafts.

The Trust’s engineers needed a boat to inspect the tunnel from the inside and Sculptor, moored just along the towpath, seemed an ideal option for a quick response. Being part of the Trust’s museum collection and on the historic ships register special permission was granted to use her.

The inspection, which was carried out in accordance with social distancing guidelines, found a small amount of displacement in the tunnel’s concrete lining but nothing to cause the Trust’s specialist engineers immediate concern or require a closure of the tunnel. Further investigations will take place once the coronavirus restrictions ease but the inspection allowed the Trust to ensure that the tunnel is safe.

Built in 1935, Sculptor is one of a small number of working boats that still lives on the canal. Originally owned by the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company, she was used to carry a variety of cargo such as cotton and coal from London to the Midlands. During WWII Sculptor was called into action to help with firefighting duties in London, helping to pump water from the city’s canals to extinguish fires caused by bombing.

After the war she was used as a canal maintenance boat at Northwich before being taken out of service in 1985. Today Sculptor is an important exhibit at the museum and is lovingly cared for, on behalf of the Trust, by volunteers, including a number from the Friends of the Canal Museum.

Neil Owen, regional engineer for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Although boat traffic is very limited at the moment due to coronavirus it was important for us to get into the tunnel to make sure that everything is safe.

“It was really helpful for us to be able to use Sculptor as it enabled us to get in there quickly, have a good look, check there was no significant damage and alleviate any concerns. It was also a bit of a treat for us to spend time on this amazing historic boat and it was wonderful to see her back in service again. We’re really grateful to the Friends of the Canal Museum for their support in making it happen.”

Kathryn Dodington, Sculptor volunteer, said: “It was a huge privilege to be able to operate Sculptor on behalf of Canal & River Trust to enable their specialist tunnel engineers to inspect the Blisworth Tunnel and to declare it safe. Sculptor is ready to serve again when required should the call come. She is a delight to operate and, like any old lady, does exactly what she is asked with graciousness.”.

The is an article on the National Historic Ships Register here.

Blisworth Tunnel inspection

Sculptor Called into Action

Photo: Kathryn Dodington

Village at War Weekend

It is with great sadness we announce the sudden death of Norman Mitchell on Wednesday 3 June, following a fatal heart attack. Norman was a great supporter of the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester, working as a volunteer there for many years and as Chairman of the Friends of Gloucester Museum.

Norman and his wife Pauline moored their narrowboat on the Grand Union for many years and kept up their boating interests and friendships in Northamptonshire. Norman loved his role as "announcer" at the annual Braunston Rally, was a member of the Grand Junction Masonic Lodge in Stoke Bruerne and had his arm twisted on more than one occasion to commentate at our own historic boat parade when our June Family Festival was still running.

Norman will be sorely missed by all in the museums and waterways community and we extend our deepest sympathy to Pauline and family.


Norman Mitchell

Norman at our Village at War Weekend 2014

Pop-up Museum

A 'Pop-up' museum manned by volunteers outside the front door of the Museum ran every weekend in August and September with very successful results.

It was a marvellous way of bringing the museum artefacts out to the public whilst the museum galleries remain closed.  The pop-up was open during cafe opening hours, weather permitting, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 11:00 and 15:00.

Here is a link to a short video of happenings on the first Sunday - thank you Phil and Denise for the video footage. See Video here.

Pop Up Museum with family Saturday afternoon pop-up

Sadly due to CV-19 our Village at War Weekend, which is usually held in September, couldn't happen in 2020 and was cancelled.


Due to continued uncertainty about when such large events can be held again and increasing difficulty finding sufficient volunteers to put on the event each year, we have had to take the hard decision to suspend hostilities in Stoke Bruerne for the foreseeable future.


We wish to thank all our Partners, Entertainers, Re-enactors, Traders and, most of all, our army of Volunteers, for all the support we have received over the last thirteen years.


It was great fun while it lasted but all wars come to an end.

Triple Cheque Presentation


Along with The Friends of Raymond and the Narrow Boat Trust, we were absolutely delighted to receive a donation of £1,000 from Tim Coghlan, Braunston Marina at Stoke Bruerne on Friday 30th October. A wonderful gesture in light of of the cancellation of the Historic Narrowboat Rally. We are totally in awe of Tim's continued generosity to the Friends and Sculptor over the entire life of our charity (almost 15 years!).


L to R Nick Lake, Friends of Raymond; Kirk Martin & Alison, Narrow Boat Trust; Rob Westlake, Sculptor Volunteer Team;  Tim Coghlan, Braunston Marina; Roger Goulder, Friends of Raymond; Lynda Payton, Friends of The Canal Museum; Louise Stockwin, The Canal Museum and Steve Bagley, Canal & River Trust.


The Museum might be closed for the winter, but an amazing collaborative effort by six creative ladies produced some very scary results all of which were dotted around the Museum and Museum Green to form part of a village wide pumpkin trail for Halloween to delight local families instead of the usual trick and treating.


The trail ended at The Navigation pub where children could collect pre-packed sweets, some donated by the Canal Museum.


Thank you Terry, Kathryn, Lynda, Helen, Steph and Louise for your contribution to the Stoke Bruerne Pumpkin Trail on behalf of the Friends.


10 Pumpkins were sponsored by the Friends with others donated and carved by members of The David Blagrove Trust and villagers.


Halloween at the Museum

2020 Award Recognition


Each year we make an award to the Member who has made an outstanding contribution to furthering the aims of our Charity and I am delighted to announce the 2020 award goes to our No.1 Corporate Member - Tim Coghlan.


The award is usually presented at our AGM but because of CV-19 our AGM is moving online this year, so it seemed appropriate to take advantage of Tim being in Stoke Bruerne at the same time as historic working boats Sculptor, Nutfield and Brighton. (See story above)


Well done Tim - very well deserved!

Friends Chairman Lynda Payton with Tim Coghlan

Above: David Daines & Kathryn Dodington


Left: Lynda Payton

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