Certificate no 452
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Cargo Vessel
Subfunction Barge
Location Ellesmere Port
Vessel type Horse Drawn
Current use Museum based
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Nurser Brothers, Braunston
Built in 1926
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Towed
Primary engine type None
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


3.74 feet (1.14 m)
Length: Overall
71.44 feet (21.79 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



GIFFORD is the only existing butty of her type - an unpowered narrow boat used to carry liquid cargos on the English canals. She was part of the fleet owned by Thomas Clayton (Oldbury) Ltd., whose vessels were bulk liquid carriers of tar, creosote and crude oil. The holds were covered to form a tank and were isolated from the cabins at each end by twin bulkheads with air gaps between them. Access was by trap doors which were covered by slides to keep water out as the decks were often awash. She was restored in 1970 and is currently exhibited afloat at Ellesmere Port.

Restoration work was undertaken in 2018/19 by Adrian Polglase and his team in Staffordshire.  Whilst GIFFORD is moored at the National Waterways Museum, the vessel does attend events in the Midlands and North-West England.



Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, pp151, Edition 2, 1993   
Sullivan, Dick, Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums, Coracle Books, 1978
The Boat Museum, The Boat Museum

Key dates

  • 1926

    Vessel built as a horse boat for Thomas Clayton (Oldbury) Ltd at Braunston, Northamptonshire

  • 1920s-1950s

    Carried tar at various times from the Oxford and Leamington gas works to the tar distillery at Banbury, Oxfordshire

  • 1940s

    Stopped being horse drawn and was later towed behind a motor boat

  • 1963

    Vessel finished its carrying life on the gas works traffic, again horse drawn

  • 1976

    One of the first boats in the collection at the Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port

  • 1990s

    Restored by Malcolm Webster at Malkins Bank on the Trent and Mersey Canal

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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