Saturn - Last of the Shroppie Fly-boats
We saw Shroppie Fly-boat Saturn at her moorings in Audlem, below the bottom
lock of 'Heartbreak Hill' flight on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire during our 2009 summer cruise.
Fly-boats were the express delivery craft of the UK's inland waterways. Running
non-stop, day and night they delivered mainly perishable goods and important
loads, around the clock throughout the waterway network.
Shroppie fly-boat men were the elite of boatmen that developed the combination of boat horse power and men into the ultimate of precision teamwork of their era.
Narrowboat Saturn is the only remaining floating example of the horse-drawn Shropshire Union fly-boat anywhere in the world. She was built for the S.U.R.&
C.Co. - Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Company back in 1906 at the company’s
dock which still exists at Tower Wharf Chester. Her original public health registration number was Chester 630.
Known as a ‘cheese fly’: That is. NB Saturn was built primarily
for the fast carriage of cheese from the producing towns of Cheshire and Shropshire
to major markets such as Manchester She would have carried return loads of perishable
and finished goods.
Saturn would also have worked to other destinations on the Shropshire Union
network as well as other waterways throughout the North West, the Midlands and Wales.
The restoration of Saturn started when the first new timbers arrived in May 2002 and the project substantially supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
It was an emotional day for many on 26th February 2005 as a good crowd turned
out to be at the re-launch of Saturn.
Now we don't want to detract from the hard work of the people in the Saturn
restoration society, but at what point does a restoration become a replica?
Probably the only parts that are original about this wooden narrowboat are the
iron knees. So we beg the question - Is Saturn a restoration or replica? - To
quote my mum "It's a damn good mop this; I've had it ten years now
and it's only on its third handle and fourth head!"