South Staffordshire Narrowboat Co Ltd




National Community Boats Association

Operating the Ernest Thomas II Narrowboat

Providing day trips for the elderly, disabled & youth groups

Bookings: 01902 896 733


South Staffordshire Narrowboat Company
The Queens Award for Voluntary Service


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©  South Staffordshire Narrowboat Co Ltd 2019 Registered Charity No 1000868


Supported by voluntary contributions


Member of the National Community Boats Association

Kendall and Wall customer using the lift to get off the boat
Ernest Thomas II along the Stafs and Worcs Canal
Ernest Thomas II narrow boat moored
Ernest Thomas II main cabin
Engelberg NResidential Home trip


The late Ernest Thomas, one time Chairman of Walsall Football Club, operated a fleet of working narrowboats throughout the Midlands, carrying coal and other bulk items. In the late 40s Mr Thomas was approached by the then Chairman of Fordhouses Boys’ Club, Mr W J Bradburn, a well known local businessman, with a view to his donating a narrowboat specifically for the use of boys’ clubs in the Wolverhampton/Walsall area. Using items and equipment supplied by local businessmen, Mr Thomas converted an old narrowboat, which he then donated to the local boys’ clubs. For the next 18 years the boat, named “Ernest Thomas”, operated successfully in the area, but became uneconomic to operate after a change in Board of Trade regulations and was sold into private hands. It has since been fully restored, given its original name of “Vulcan” and can still be seen operating in the area.
















In 1983 an idea was put forward to construct a narrowboat specifically designed for use by the handicapped, disabled and generally disadvantaged. In 1984 a committee of local professional and business people was set up with the primary role of raising the necessary funding, estimated at about £12,000 for an engine and materials. Sufficient to say that the £12,000 was raised from national and local charities, and from the Home Office, which was particularly generous. A labour force of local unemployed persons was recruited by the Staffordshire County Council Community Programmes Agency, and work commenced at the old Kinver Marina site in April 1985.

Following considerable delays (due primarily to the poor summer) the narrowboat was eventually completed and went into limited service in September 1986. Permission was obtained from the widow of Mr Thomas to name the new boat......ERNEST THOMAS II


Under construction at Old Birchills Wharf, Walsall


The boat is pulled back to the wharf after the launching


The launch of Ernest Thomas at Old Birchills Wharf, 7th May 1953


Ernest Thomas standing in the hatch at the launching ceremony



On the Shropshire Union Canal near to Autherley Junction


Ernest Thomas just north of Tettenhall Road Bridge on the Staffs & Worcs Canal


Ernest Thomas about to pass beneath Hordern Road Bridge, circa 1956