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 - August 2020

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

Friends welcome Trust plans for

redevelopment of Museum and wider site at Stoke Bruerne

The Friends and other local stakeholders such as Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership, Stoke Bruerne Parish Council and South Northamptonshire Council, have been working closely with staff at The Canal & River Trust's East Midlands Region towards establishing a redevelopment plan for the Museum and wider site at Stoke Bruerne.


The project will see major investment from both the Trust and the Friends for  enhanced visitor facilities at the Museum, revamped displays, improved accessibility and car parking, and...hopefully, subject to a successful HLF bid, new uses and much improved interpretation of the built heritage to be found on and along the canal corridor at Stoke Bruerne such as the Stables, Legger's Hut, Quarry Field, Dry Top Lock and other important canal features.


The scheme which is yet to be finalised will be implemented over the next few years and will build on the HLF funded interpretation installed by Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership which won a Commended Award in the Art & Interpretation category at the 2016 Living Waterways Awards.

Covid-19 Measures

To support the national effort to keep people safe, we’re following the Government’s advice on Coronavirus (CV19).


Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum is closed for the time being, but the Museum Cafe is open from 11am to 3pm Friday to Saturday and a Pop-Up Museum is being manned by volunteers on the towpath during the same hours.


Our annual Willage at War Weekend has been cancelled in accordance with Government guidelines and uncertainty about when large events will be able to take place. Trustee Meetings will move on-line for the time being.


If you require any further information please email us at [email protected]

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

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

We are running a 'Pop-up' museum outside the front door of the Museum with very successful results.  It's a way of bringing the museum artefacts out to the public whilst the museum galleries remain closed.  The pop-up runs during cafe opening hours, weather permitting, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 11:00 and 15:00. We plan to run the Pop-Up throughout the rest of the summer.

Any volunteer help with the Pop-up museum would be much appreciated - please contact Lynda Payton. 


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

Pop Up Museum with family Saturday afternoon pop-up

AGM 2020

Due to Covid-19 we regret it will not be possible to hold an in-person AGM this year. Instead our AGM will be held on-line at Zoom on 26th November @ 7.30pm.

If you would like to attend please let us know in advance by sending an email to [email protected] and we will send you a link to the meeting.

An AGM Notice will be published here shortly, it will also be in the August edition of Museum Matters and on our Facebook page.