Wooden Canal Boat Society. – “New Lives from Old Boats”

The Wooden Canal Boat Society has the second largest collection of former working wooden canal boats in UK. Rather than simply restore and preserve them, The WCBS is finding new uses for these wonderful old boats, putting them to work on behalf of the local community and at the same time providing opportunities for people to learn new skills, meet people, make friends, do something useful and rewarding………………. Working with wooden boats can change peoples lives.

Tameside is an area of considerable deprivation with high levels of disadvantage, low income and health problems. Poverty, mental illness and social exclusion all too frequently impact together, affecting an individual’s ability to work efficiently, often resulting in unemployment or being confined to low status jobs and consequent loss of self esteem and confidence . Volunteering with Wooden Canal Boat Society can be a way of giving daily lives meaning and structure.


The Wooden Canal Boat Society has key projects:

  • Portland Basin Museum where we maintain and display our working wooden boats ( Lilith, Southam, Forget me Not, Queen and Eltham) and inform the public about the history of working boats, our canal heritage and the work of the WCBS.
  • Twice monthly working boat trips for community recycling.
  • The Wooden Canal Boat Society Charity Shop in Stamford Street
  • The restoration of “hazel” as a residential “wellbeing boat” at the Boatyard in Knowl Street.


The Wooden Canal Boat Society has up to 100 volunteers per year involved with these projects. Mainly living in Tameside, volunteering activities revolve around boat handling, boat building, maintenance and repair, “boat sitting” ,community recycling ( collection, sorting and sales), van driving, charity shop sales , tourist information, industrial heritage, marketing, project development and fund raising.


For some, volunteering with the Wooden Canal Boat Society is about getting out of the house and meeting new people and doing something useful. For others it is an opportunity to learn new skills and a route back to work. For some, it is putting their existing skills to work and “giving something back”…………and for many it is about “wellbeing” and reducing the risk of social isolation. Volunteering with WCBS helps people to be active, stay fit, live independently and remain healthy for longer………………………………………….and at the end of it, these historical wooden canal boats are retained as assets, working for the community, bringing our heritage back to life and filling our waterways with colour and sounds of enjoyment……………………”new lives” indeed, from old boats !


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *