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My Holidays on Inland Waterways

By P Bonthron

For full text and photographs of this book see - My Holidays on Inland Waterways

Preface to the Web edition.

The Book

My Holidays on Inland Waterways was first published in 1916 as a 5½ by 8½ inch (14 by 21 cm), 186 page volume with 74 illustrations (photographs) and a map. It relates the author's extensive cruises by motor boat and skiff on the canals and rivers of England, Scotland and Wales.

I know very little of the author, Peter Bonthron, other than that which can be gathered from the book itself. It can be surmised that he was a successful businessman, a city gent. He certainly had a smart motor boat, at a time when motor boating was in its infancy, a large houseboat on the Thames and a chauffeur driven car; but although he may have been rich he was certainly not idle. His "holidays" were often short breaks taken at weekends and public holidays. They were invariably time limited and the voyages planned to cram the maximum amount of cruising into each day. In consequence we often find delays causing him to journey till 10 or 11 p.m. and his party knocking on the doors of slumbering inn keepers. When he did take a longer holiday (nearly 3 weeks) he cruised 260 miles by boat, on 2 rivers and 4 canals, in East Anglia and Scotland.

To those interested in waterways history this book supplies evidence of the state of various navigations in the first few years of the twentieth century. Cruises on the Grantham Canal, the Thames & Severn, Forth & Clyde and Kennet & Avon are among the many of relevance to the condition of trade and pleasure boating at this time. Even on the "Timeless Thames" we find some revelations as they take the Oxford Canal to Dukes Cut "to avoid Medley and King's Weirs, where shallows abounded". Bonthron was interested in waterborne trade and often comments on its use, or lack of use, on the waterways he visits.

For the general reader the book gives some fascinating glimpses of life at the time. In the first chapter we find the author procuring the services of a horse and man (who he describes as a local yeoman) to stand-by to assist through the difficult stretches of the river. At other times he engages various watermen, lock keepers, farmhands and others to tow the boat or work locks. These are often in addition to the motorboat engineer and handy man that form part of the regular crew. Bonthron also comments on the people he meets, the merits of the scenery and the places visited; comments that reveal as much about him and the social attitudes of the times as about the subjects he observes.

The Web Version

In transposing this book from the page to the web I have not tried to preserve the page layout, page headings and numbers or line justification. I have tried to keep all the original text, pictures, spelling, punctuation, bold and italic usage, capitalisation and text size differences. I have corrected three typographical errors but have not attempted to correct what I believe to be the authors original text, even in the one case which I know to be wrong i.e. Cruise 21 states there are "seven" locks on the Grand Junction Northampton Branch, and this is repeated as "7" in the summary of distances at the end of the chapter, in fact there are (and always were) seventeen locks.

Photographs in the original book were contained on 32 plates. The publisher's slip attached to the first edition says: "Owing to the large number of plates, it has been found impossible in every case to insert them in the chapters describing the cruises illustrated. The reader will find it useful to refer to the list of illustrations and notice on each plate the reference to the cruise illustrated." On the web edition pictures are also kept separate from the text but with hyperlinks at the end of each cruise as well as from the illustrations list. The quality of the photographs leaves something to be desired as they are taken from the published book where their size can range from 1.8 by 2.8 inches (47 by 70 mm) to 3.1 by 4.2 inches (79 by 104 mm). I hope that their historical interest will compensate for their lack of clarity.

This book is now out of copyright as the author died in 1921. If you have any information concerning Peter Bonthron, his heirs or successors, I would be pleased to hear from you.

For full text and photographs of this book see - My Holidays on Inland Waterways

 

Jim Shead Waterways Photographer & Writer
Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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