Book reveals history of inland boatyard at Stony Stratford which traded for 50 years

Hayes' boatyard around 1900, showing about 30 employees, probably one third of the workforce at the time. Pictures:  Wolverton and District Archaeological and Historical Society
Hayes' boatyard around 1900, showing about 30 employees, probably one third of the workforce at the time. Pictures: Wolverton and District Archaeological and Historical Society

The story of a boatyard at Stony Stratford has been captured in pictures by a Milton Keynes author and historian.

Alison Leighton has just published Hayes’ Boatyard, Stony Stratford, about the achievement of building boats far from the sea.

The Suzette of 1904 bound for French West Africa, being drawn along the High Street, Stony Stratford, for launch at Old Stratford. Picture:  Wolverton and District Archaeological and Historical Society.

The Suzette of 1904 bound for French West Africa, being drawn along the High Street, Stony Stratford, for launch at Old Stratford. Picture: Wolverton and District Archaeological and Historical Society.

A retired chartered physiotherapist, Alison did a master’s degree in Maritime History at Greenwich University and for her dissertation she wrote about four inland boatyards and the economics of building and exporting boats to all parts of the Empire and South America via the inland waterways and navigable rivers.

One of these was Hayes’ Boatyard in Stony Stratford, the furthest from the sea, and local to where she lives. It was in operation from around 1875 until 1925 and Alison researched how it came to have been a financial success.

Much information was destroyed in a fire at the Milton Keynes Museum in 1996, but many photographs of the boats and yard from the last quarter of the 19th century remain in the possession of the Wolverton and District Archaeological and Historical Society. Alison has used these, combining them with information gathered from a trials and records book, held by Milton Keynes Museum.

Alison said: “That a boatyard could be situated in such an inland site is remarkable in itself and the boats, mainly tugs, were exported to the Colonies and Protectorates. They were transported along the High Street in Stony Stratford, launched sideways into an arm of the Grand Union Canal for three day’s passage to the Thames, and subsequently taken as far away as Argentina and South Africa, some under their own steam.”

The Retlauris  of 1904 being towed to the Old Stratford Wharf for launching sideways, and bound for Mauritius. Picture: Wolverton and District Archaeological and Historical Society

The Retlauris of 1904 being towed to the Old Stratford Wharf for launching sideways, and bound for Mauritius. Picture: Wolverton and District Archaeological and Historical Society

The book is published by Stenlake Publishing Ltd priced £10.95.

ISBN no 978-1-84033-810-2.

The book is available from Odell’s in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes Museum and from www.stenlake.co.uk

Visit mkheritage.co.uk/wdahs