Chris P: canal enthusiast

27 Feb
Chris: devoting time to canals.

Chris: devoting time to canals.


Classic canal design: teapot and coasters on sale at London Canal Museum.

Everyone has a story on the Islington Faces Blog.  Here’s just a little about the magic of the canal – a passion that brings Chris P to the London Canal Museum as a regular volunteer. Interview by Nicola Baird.

“It’s only 200 years ago the canal was built,” said Chris on the front desk of London’s Canal Museum striking up conversation. “In 1820 when they build the Regents Canal it was all fields on the north side [that’s from Angel and King’s Cross heading up Caledonian Road]. The New River was finished 200 years before (in 1603) and it goes above the canal at the Islington Tunnel. That’s quite a feat of engineering. It’s one of the few 1,000 yard tunnels that are straight,” he adds with admiration.

“I always had an interest in canals. Now I’ve retired I can devote time to them,” says Chris who has been volunteering at the Canal Museum for nearly two years. He’s a proper canal devotee, pointing out that, “since 1974 I’ve taken holidays on the canals, so over 35 years I’ve managed to do quite a lot of the canal network. I like the up to date bit of having a holiday and enjoying industrial history.”

The section of the Regent’s Canal that runs through Islington flows from the converted Hitchcock Studio, past the Narrow Boat pub, Hanover Primary School, through the long Islington tunnel and past the Guardian newspaper’s new offices at King’s Place, off York Road. It’s a route that is always busy with walkers, cyclists, joggers and birdlife (coots, moorhens, herons, geese etc). The attraction is as much a car-free path as seeing all the boats. There are plenty of barges to spot, and a lock or two, but also kayaks from the Islington Boat Club. From May to October you can try a taste of a bargees* life on a short canal boat trip run from the museum’s wharf.

Chris doesn’t live in Islington but loves volunteering at the London Canal Museum. “It attracts a real cross section – people keen on canals, students looking for work experience and the chance to meet people who come here who are interested in the subject and want to talk about it. Even now go through any city by canal and you’ll see a different way of life. You don’t get road rage, people chat at the locks. I think it must be something to do with the speed of the boats, it makes you slow down.”

  • London Canal Museum  is at the former ice house used by the famous ice cream maker Carlo Gattix. It is open Tuesday to Sunday and bank holiday mondays, small entry fee. There is an excellent exhibition of photos from the 1940s and 1950s of the last generation of working bargees and their families, taken by Robert Longden, a Coventry factory worker. Location: 12-13 New Wharf Road, London, N1 9RT 020 7713 0836.
  • Enjoy theatre on the canal again this summer. Mikron Theatre plan to perform Beyond the Veil and Don’t Shoot the Messenger on 8 and 9 July 2013 at the London Canal Museum. Booking essential.
  •  Angel Canal Festival with boat trips, stalls and music is on the first Sunday of September, in 2013 it will be held on 1 September from 11am-6pm. It is free. Entry adjoining City Road Lock, Islington.
  • Take a Halloween boat trip on 26 or 27 October 2013 (pre booking essential), more info 
  • Get on the water – try a course or send the kids to Islington Boat Club.

 Over to you

Do you enjoy volunteering in Islington?  By the way, if you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via Thank you. And yes, this blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.


One Response to “Chris P: canal enthusiast”


  1. Ian Shacklock: CAMRA*, canals & campaigning | Islington Faces Blog - March 13, 2013

    […] If you are interested in canals, you may also like this post about Chris P – London Canal Museum volunteer. […]

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