Ilkeston on Show in London

One of the last horse narrowboats to be built in her 100th year.

What's On

Ilkeston is a restored horse-drawn narrowboat, that is part of the national collection, at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port. At the end of a 200 mile journey, towed by a relay of diesel-engined historic boats and a horse through London, Ilkeston is on display to visitors at London Canal Museum until 23rd September.

Ilkeston seen from a boat. Museum building is behind.


Ilkeston is on show at London Canal Museum every day until 23rd September except Mondays

painted scene and stove in cabin Most of the time a member of staff from the museum will be on hand to show visitors inside the two cabins that were once home to a family, living in a tiny space with the most basic amenities. Visitors will be able to climb on board.

This is a unique and short-term opportunity to see inside a fantastic, beutifully-restored historic boat, in the heart of London, but for a limited time only!

More information

Colourful boat in middle of canal, steerer holding tiller

side view of narrowboat in green surroundings on canal

Canals were built for horse boating and from the 18th century until the early 20th Century the horse prevailed as the power that pulled the boats. Steam tugs were used in places but steam engines were never in widespread use on board cargo-carrying boats because the engine and the fuel that it needed took up too much of the limited space on board. In 1911 England's canals saw the first internal combustion engine used to power a boatand the new technology was gradually adopted.

The Video: The Day Ilkeston Arrived

In the 1920s the famous Bolinder semi-diesel engines became popular. You can see one of these in the museum. By the 1930s the horse had largely had its day. Horse power continued to be used for some short-distance carrying especially on the Regent's Canal in London where there was considerable cargo to be carried from the docks of east London to other parts of the capital. In 1952-3 petrol-engined towpath tractors were introduced to replace the horse on these local runs.

Forecabin of Ilkeston, close up, white and red bowIlkeston was built in 1912 and was one of the last boats to be built for horse towing. It was probably not towed by a horse for many years. It soon became the practice to run unpowered boats, and engined boats in pairs. The unpowered boat was known as a "Butty". Ilkeston therefore became one of a pair, towed by the power of heavy oil.