Fringe Box



Update: Who Recalls Pleasure Trips Along The Wey Navigation In The 1960s On The Narrowboat Arcturus II?

Published on: 10 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 10 Aug, 2022

By David Rose

Back in the 1960s there was a narrowboat that gave pleasure trips along the River Wey Navigations and further afield too. (The story was published on June 25, 2022, and an update on August 10, 2022, can be read at the foot of the page).

Arcturus II was a narrowboat that gave pleasure trips on the River Wey Navigations and other waterways. Click on images to enlarge in a new window.

The narrowboat was called Arcturus II and painted on the side were the words “The Wey Waterbourne Co, Guildford”.

These superb photos show Arcturus II on what appears to be several different trips, and I’m hoping some of our readers may remember the narrowboat and perhaps recall travelling on it.

It would appear passengers boarded and alighted Arcturus II at Millmead in Guildford.

And some details of the talented photographer who took these pictures would also be welcome.

I was gifted these photos a number of years ago along with several other boxes of photos taken of the River Wey Navigations and other waterways, as well as of local villages, Guildford town and scenes in London. They all appear to date from around the 1960s.

They were taken by the late Mr F. C. Sanders, who, in his retirement, volunteered at Age UK Surrey’s offices in William Road, Guildford. He left these photos to Age UK Surrey.

Staff there contacted me to say its staff had kept a number of the Guildford photos as mementoes of Mr Sanders, but would I like the rest of the collection, which I duly accepted.

Seen here is the owner and skipper of Arcturus II whose first name is said to be Brian.

Apart from a few photos that I have published in two of my books – Guildford Remember When, and Guildford Through Time, both co-written with Bernard Parke – I have not shown any of Mr Sanders work, other than including some of his photos in my illustrated talk The River Wey Navigations.

Recently, I have been sorting through all of Mr Sanders’ photos that I have, while I have also loaned his prints of the River Wey Navigations to the National Trust River Wey and Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf. Staff there were delighted to see them and have made scanned copies for their archives.

Above and below, turning Arcturus II at Millmead. Does anyone recognise any of the people seen here?

My copy of the 1965-66 Kelly’s Directory of Guildford & Godalming, lists Mr Sanders as resident at 23 Margaret Road, Guildford, and that’s all I know of him, apart from him obviously being a good photographer.

This is all rather timely as I have now found on YouTube footage of Arcturus II, which leads me to hopefully find more details about the narrowboat and also its owner back in the 1960s.

Click here for a link to the YouTube film. It is called GRAND UNION CANAL narrowboat to Guildford 1965.

The film features key scenes as Arcturus II makes a journey from Berkhampsted along the Grand Union Canal, the River Thames, and the River Wey Navigation, back to its base in Guildford. The commentary by Alan Snowdon’s wife names the owner of the narrowboat as “Brian”. I wonder if anyone knows anything about him?

It is one of many transport films on the Alan Snowdon Archive YouTube channel, with all the footage taken by Alan in years gone by. If you watch the above mentioned film, the part where Arcturus II enters the River Wey Navigation at Weybridge and heads towards Guildford, starts towards the end at 25 minutes 43 seconds.

When Arcturus II approaches Guildford there are some brief, but interesting glimpses of how the river looked then. You’ll see the Plummer Roddis store (later Debenhams) under construction at the time, while everything is a bit overgrown at Dapdune Wharf and also by the treadwheel crane then situated within the town wharf.

Was Arcturus II once a commercial carrying narrowboat that was later converted to carry passengers? Does it survive today?

I have found this page on the web that shows a narrowboat named simply Arcturus. I’m not convinced it’s the same boat, can anyone help with this mystery?

And below, enjoy some virtual journeys along the waterway courtesy of Mr Sanders. If you can add details to any of the questions I’ve asked, please leave a reply in comments box below.

Heading downstream from Millmead approaching the Town Bridge with passengers on board.

With the pylon in the background, could this be Arcturus II passing near Ladymead?

Above and below.  Arcturus II passing other craft. Location unknown, but the trees bereft of leaves may indicate the photo was taken during the same trip as the previous picture.

Above and below, and a different time of the year, two views of Arcturus II passing through Stoke Lock, down and then upstream.

Perhaps this photo was taken on the same trip as above. Anyone look familiar? Bowers Lock maybe?

Who is this woman and the young boy who is sitting on the roof of Arcturus II’s cabin?

Going upstream now on the Godalming Navigation and Arcturus II passes Guildford Rowing Club with Shalford Road in the background.

Almost certainly a different trip to the previous picture, but still upstream and Arcturus II passes under the Broadford Road bridge at Shalford.

These final three photos appear to show Arcturus II towards the end of the navigation close to Godalming Wharf.

Update August 10, 2022:

The website Canalworld Discussion Forum features Arcturus II, including comments in 2020 by Mike Nicoll, the son of Bryan who owned the narrowboat.

They include: “My father Bryan Nicoll never owned Sirius, as I brought Sirius in 1978 and then had the stern end completely rebuilt by John Wooley who had rebuilt the stern end of Arcturus.”

Sirus was Arcturus II’s sister narrowboat when they were both commercial carriers.

Mike adds: “I was 18 when I brought Sirius so my dad was involved in the purchase and soon after Sirius was taken to Brentford for the stern end rebuild, then in 1989-90 I took Sirius to Uxbridge where the rest of the bottom boards and bottom strake were replaced, and a fit out under canvas was done.

Arcturus and Sirius went to Puttenham in 2010, but by then Arcturus needed new bottoms and bottom strakes all round.”

The Puttenham Mike refers to is likely to be Bates Moorings and Boatyard, Puttenham, Hertfordshire.

On the website another person commented: “I recall your father taking his boat many, many times through Croxley. Pretty sure he smoked a pipe then. 1970s.”

Mike replies: “Yes he did, but after a health scare he stopped and has not smoked since, not sure when he gave up I think maybe early 80s.”

In replying to a question who the crew were on Arcturus II on its trip from Berkhampstead to Guildford, Mike writes: “The crew was David Pusell, though this may not be the correct spelling.”

Also, check out this link to the Historic Narrow Boat Club website with more details that reveals: “Arcturus [note from its name II is omitted] original intended GUCCC [Grand Union Canal Carrying Company] paring with butty No. 358, Sirus, the first of three prototype pairs (Arcturus & Sirus), Nepture & Altair, Antares & Spica. Aug 1942 sold to A. Wander as part of Ovaltine fleet. 1954 sold into private ownership and operated for many years as a trip boat in Cassiobury Park. Now unconverted.

Share This Post

Responses to Update: Who Recalls Pleasure Trips Along The Wey Navigation In The 1960s On The Narrowboat Arcturus II?

  1. Liz Jones Reply

    June 25, 2022 at 10:31 pm

    I remember it well. I lived in Weyside Road as a child and it regularly passed the end of our garden. I never took a ride in it because I had my own little boat.

  2. Aubrey Leahy Reply

    July 10, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    Dragon readers may well be interested to know that Dapdune Wharf and narrowboats are still in use today. On July 21st there is a book launch to be held aboard the Thyme. The book is Operation Moonlight and it is the second novel of Louise Norrish who won first prize in the Daily Mail new novels competition last year (and £20K) for “The Coffin” Club.

    In 1957/1958 I was part of a Sea Cadet crew that spent most weekends at Dapdune Wharf restoring the TS Queen Charlotte, a 26-foot naval cutter which we subsequently took, that summer, on a camping trip exploring the River Thames.

    I certainly remember the narrow boat Arcturus and am pretty sure she was operated out of Stevens Wharf. It was before the current Sea Cadet headquarters were built and their main base was still in Millmead.

  3. D H Cozens Reply

    October 13, 2023 at 7:38 pm

    Anyone remember narrow boat Arcturus at the Woking rally? I remember that to get it through some of the lock pounds, which had leaked overnight and become very shallow, we had unload a lot of her ballast from under the floor.

    It was intended to collect the unloaded allast later by other means. Does any one know if this was successful or does it rest on the bottom of the canal?

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

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