About Tooley's Boatyard

Tooley's Boatyard is situated in the heart of Banbury on the South Oxford Canal and has one of the oldest, continually working dry dock on the Inland Waterways, working continuously since 1778.  The site also includes a blacksmith's forge and carpenter's workshop used for building parts for traditional wooden boats, as well as providing specialist services and sales for boaters including boat building and repairs, painting, blacking, chandlery, training and certification in boat handling.

Tooley's was also the birthplace of the movement to rescue Britian's canals from neglect and decay - you can learn more about this story when you visit!

Watch a YouTube video about the history of Tooley's Boatyard here.

Tooley's Boatyard Trust
Tooley's entrance forge (c) Tooley's Boatyard

Tooley's Boatyard Trust promotes the history and heritage of Tooley's Boatyard.  The Trust provides guided tours of the boatyard and boat trips.  

Dry Dock

The Dry Dock at Tooley's Boatyard is part of the original boatyard from 1778.  It is listed as Scheduled Monument 1006323 by Historic England.

The dock can be filled from the canal and emptied via a culvert which crosses beneath the canal then past The Mill Arts Centre to drain into the River Cherwell.  Stop boards and waterproof sheeting are used to hold back water when the dock is empty.

The dry dock provides a service for the boating community and an opportunity for visitors to see work in progress, as well as the fully restored workshops, dating from the 1930s, which include a carpenter's store, a belt-driven machine workshop and a paint store.  There is also a 200 year-old forge where a blacksmith plies his trade.
Tooley's Forge (c) Tooley's Boatyard
In addition to its day to day use for boat maintenance, the dock is sometimes used as a performance space for Theatre in the Dock.

The Trust has proposed to the local authorities that they open up the towpath alongside the dry dock to provide a path for the general public to walk past (and maybe look in!), together with a long-term plan to replace the existing dry dock building with a two-storey building linked to the adjoining Museum bridge, enabling visitors to walk around at the upper level, and watch and learn about the skills and techniques involved in narrowboat maintenance.
nb Hardy in dry dock (c) Tooley's Boatyard
The team are also working on the conservation of historic narrowboat Hardy (image above), which is to be fitted with a zero-carbon hydrogen-powered drive unit.

Friends of Tooley's Boatyard
Tooley's Boatyard from towpath (c) Tooley's Boatyard

The team at Tooley's is determined to take this precious, working forge and boat building business into a bright and sustainable future.  As a 'Friend of Tooley's Boatyard' you'll be at the centre of assuring this jewel in the waterways crown continues to thrive and grow and your support will help them to develop various projects:

- a free, working museum and events on Saturdays which will provide access to restricted areas of the boatyard and train volunteers.  Funding will bring it all to life with Blacksmith demos, Belt Shop demos, Stationary Engines and the
Carpenters' Shop.  They'll also be able to provide guided tours, boat trips and courses.

- a plan to build new, electric wooden boats making them available to youth groups and charities.

- they are looking to set the standard for Modern Apprenticeships for boatyard qualifications, keeping centuries of working practice relevant and alive.

- a canal memories project which will record audio and video of people who have spent large parts of their lives living and working on the canal.  The recordings will then be catalogued and archived for future record.

Find out more about Tooley's Boatyard and Tooley's Boatyard Trust.

Find out more about our Shipshape Network Heart of England Projects here.