Certificate no 2038
Status Registered


Function Cargo Vessel
Subfunction Narrow Boat
Location Shropshire Union Canal
Vessel type Shropshire Union Fly-Boat
Current use Museum based
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Company
Built in 1906
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Towed
Primary engine type None
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
6.10 feet (1.86 m)
2.60 feet (0.79 m)
Length: Overall
71.60 feet (21.84 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



What is the vessel’s ability to demonstrate history in her physical fabric?

SATURN'S hull was strongly built and designed for speed. Her elm bottom boards were only 2.5 inches thick, rather than the standard 3 inches, being constructed for the weight of lighter cargos that would not push down on the canal bed causing wear and tear to the hull. Although SATURN has now been heavily reconstructed, every effort has been made to keep to the original specification and use like-for-like material. Replacement elm was sourced for the bottom boards (although part had to be finished in opepe due to lack of available wood). Old photographs and drawings were also used to ensure that new fastenings and fittings were made as exact replicas wherever possible.

What are the vessel’s associational links for which there is no physical evidence?

SATURN was built as a ‘cheese fly’ and represents a fast mode of transport used for the carriage of perishable goods from the late 18th to early 20th century. She is the last surviving operational horse-drawn Shropshire Union Canal fly-boat. SATURN has regional links to the North-West where she is still seen today, travelling the waterways north of Birmingham to Merseyside and into Wales. She continues to be operated as a horse-drawn vessel, raising awareness of a type of industrial transport that has now died out.

How does the vessel’s shape or form combine and contribute to her function?

SATURN was designed at the height of canal transport as one of the express craft of the waterways. Her hull represents the ultimate development in the skill of building wooden narrow boats, with its combination of fine lines and lightweight construction.

Source: Hannah Cunliffe, Policy & Project Manager, National Historic Ships, April 2011.

Built in 1906 for the Shropshire Union Canal Carrying Co. at Tower Wharf, Chester, SATURN is a narrow boat which was horse drawn and mainly used for the fast carriage of cheese from the producing towns of Cheshire and Shropshire to the major markets such as Manchester. She became a hotel boat in 1958 having been retired from trade and was sold into private hands in 1987. Her present owners project managed her restoration between 2001 and 2005 and she is now a major educational resource.


  • January 2019

    A Sustainability Award of £1000 for replacement cloths for the vessel's hold was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships UK

  • December 2011

    The Saturn Project has received a grant of £4000 from The Waterways Trust. Part of the money will go towards the cost of SATURN's planned maintenance. Source:  Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club, December 2011

  • September 2009

    A Sustainability Award of £1400 for dry docking was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships

  • 2000/01

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £50,000 for restoration work

Own this vessel?

If you are the owner of this vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information, please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

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Archived, built 1914 by Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Company