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 - April 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.

Village at War 2019 - a resounding success

Our 12th annual Village at War Weekend was a resounding success, probably helped by good weather and excellent radio and TV coverage which ensured a good footfall across the weekend.


It's far too early to know what was raised, but we anticipate good results. A full report, including a summary of how we, other village organisations and charitable causes fared will be posted on our Village at War page as soon the information comes in.


Meanwhile we want to thank all our volunteers, especially the Northampton Branch of the Inland Waterways Association who did a stirling job assisting with the set up - and we hope, taking down; the Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership Adoption Group for site preparation; the Milton Malsor & Collingtree Scouts for manning the car parks; Stoke Bruerne Primary School for village signage; the Cricket Club for parking and camping; the Church for the Fashion Parade and all the individual volunteers who came forward to 'man' sentry boxes, manage moorings, maintain the Portaloos, put up road signage, do the PA and all the other important jobs which ensured the weekend ran smoothly. You are too numerous to name but we are grateful to you all.


Last, but definitely not least, we want to thank the army of re-enactors and entertainers who came from all corners of the country and without whom the event could not happen.

Adopt-an-Object launched

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Adopt one of our unique museum artefacts from an engine to a boatman's spider belt, each with its own fascinating history. Become responsible for its care and cleaning, and even get involved in telling its story to our visitors!


Which one will you choose?


The Museum is starting an 'Adopt an Object' scheme where volunteers can come in once a month to care for a chosen object, cabinet or exhibit. It could be any day or time to suit, come on your own or bring a friend or in a group.  By adopting an object, you will be supporting activities in the museum, ensuring that our museum continues to be an inspiring place for everyone.


The museum will provide the training needed to clean and handle the objects. So why not come along, meet likeminded people, have a chat with visitors and help the museum look after its objects and the people who visit us.


Interested? Ring the museum team on 01604 862229 or email [email protected] and then meet up for a chat.

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Double cheque presentation to CRT

We are delighted to be able to help with funding for replacement gunwales for historic narrowboat Sculptor jointly with IWA Northampton Branch. Cheques were presented by our Chairman, Mick Butler and Bernard Morton, IWA Northampton Branch Chairman to Margaret Harrison, Collections Manager and Phil Mulligan, Regional director, East Midlands Region, Canal & River Trust on 7th May at Stoke Bruerne. The total donations were £5,500.

L to R: Phil Mulligan (CRT East Mids), Rob Westlake (Lead Volunteer, Sculptor), Mick Butler (Chair, Friends of The Canal Museum and IWA Northampton Branch), Margaret Harrison (CRT Collections Manager), Paul Lynham (IWA Northampton & Friends of Canal Museum),Dan Whyment (CRT East Mids) and Bernard Morton (Chair, IWA Northampton Branch)

L to R: Bernard Morton (Chair, IWA Northampton Branch), Phil Mulligan (CRT East Mids), Rob Westlake (Lead Volunteer, Sculptor), Mick Butler (Chair, Friends of The Canal Museum and IWA Northampton Branch), Margaret Harrison (CRT Collections Manager), Paul Lynham (IWA Northampton & Friends of Canal Museum) and Dan Whyment (CRT East Mids)

Good weather ensured a good turnout

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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 will be closed from Friday 20 March until further notice and all volunteer activities have been suspended for the time being.


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