Tooley’s taking centre stage at Canal Festival


Now surrounded by urban development, the historic boatyard reminds us of the town’s history

Banbury is gearing up for an influx of visitors for this weekend’s Canal Festival.   The event will celebrate the history of the canal and remind visitors that the waterway played an important part in the town’s development, bringing goods and trade and jobs.

Tooley’s Boatyard will be at the heart of the weekend.   Now within the town, the boatyard used to sit in a more rural countryside setting with the Midland Red bus station its closest neighbour.   The expansion of the Castle Quay Shopping Centre development in the late 1990s and its most recent expansion on the opposite side of the canal, has surrounded Tooley’s boatyard, which keeps a touch of Banbury’s history alive in the centre of the modern urban expansion.

Next to the Oxford Canal, Tooley’s is one of the oldest working dry docks on the inland waterways, working continuously since 1778.   The site includes a blacksmith’s forge and carpenter’s workshop.

This weekend visitors will be able to take trips on two boats – Comet and the Dancing Duck, which was built in the yard in 2007. 

The yard’s historic forge will be operating and giving demonstrations and the dry dock playing host to music, comedy and theatre.

Local history will be on show with a display of tools, artefacts, pictures and scale models created by Banbury Model Engineers.

Visitors will also be able to see an 83-year-old wooden narrowboat called Hardy, which is currently being restored by the Tooley’s team.

This video by Rosy Burke shows the Canal Festival in 1996, before development surrounded Tooley’s Boatyard:

Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

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