PRESS RELEASE: IWA Awards Grant of £15,000 to Chesterfield Canal Trust

Issue date: 19th December 2014

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) is pleased to announce that it has awarded a grant of £15,000 to Chesterfield Canal Trust, to help fund the restoration of narrowboat Python.

The grant has come from the Keith Ayling Bequest. Keith Ayling  was a former long-standing chairman of Chesterfield Canal Trust and the purchase of Python was his last project for the Trust.

Major works are needed to preserve the integrity of the historic narrowboat, owned by Chesterfield Canal Trust, which cannot operate in its current condition. Python is used by the Trust as a publicity vehicle to promote the work of the Trust, the volunteer crew engages with members of the public and boat owners at canalside events, and to help maintain the Chesterfield Canal, volunteers have used the boat to help clear offside vegetation. Further volunteer activities were planned but have been postponed until the necessary works can be carried out.

To fund these works Chesterfield Canal Trust applied for a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014; the Trust also planned to use any money awarded to equip the boat with interpretation materials about its history. Despite support from many, including IWA and Canal & River Trust, the application was unsuccessful and the project stalled, with Python remaining out of service.

However, The Inland Waterways Association considers the Trust’s project to be of significance in engaging the public with the waterways, so has agreed to make a grant from the Keith Ayling Bequest to help fund the work. A total of £15,000 will be given to Chesterfield Canal Trust to fund the essential work on Python.

Gordon Harrower, IWA National Treasurer, said "IWA is pleased to be able to support the restoration of Python, and the Finance Committee believe that this is a fitting use of the Ayling Bequest. Keith was passionate about the Chesterfield Canal, and Python was the last project in which he was involved. This project will help to continue the great work of the Trust and Python, which engages the wider public with and enables everyone to enjoy our waterways."

Robin Stonebridge, Chair of Chesterfield Canal Trust, said "Keith Ayling would be thrilled that Python is being given a new lease of life to promote the waterways he loved, and attract more people to the pleasure of using our waterways. Hundreds of people have taken Python to their hearts over the last few years, and she has been sorely missed at events over the last year. The support from IWA is a tremendous boost to getting her up and running again, and we intend to keep her busy for many years to come. The crew who have spent so much time restoring Python are eager to ensure she is up and running in 2015."

The Trust is currently developing a plan for the restoration and preservation of Python to ensure her long-term future is secured. This will enable Python and Chesterfield Canal Trust volunteers to continue to engage with the public and contribute to the maintenance of the Chesterfield Canal. The Trust also hopes to include interpretation of Python’s history and the development of ways to share this with the public in the project.


For further media requests please contact:

Stefanie Preston, IWA Branch Campaign Officer on 01494 783 453 ext.610 or email

Notes for Editors:

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About The Inland Waterways Association

History of Python
Python came into the custodianship of Chesterfield Canal Trust in 2009 after a lengthy period of neglect when she was surplus to the requirements of former owners, British Waterways. The work of volunteers and sponsorship soon transformed the boat from an unloved relic into a respectable looking boat.

Python is one of only four Josher narrowboats still in the format of a shortened British Waterways workboat and is registered on the National Historic Ships register. The boat was built in 1929 by W.J. Yarwoods at a cost of £366, to fulfill an order for “2 steel Canal boats of copper bearing steel” placed by Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd. The second boat built was Panther, which is now owned by Coventry Canal Society.

In 1949, she was sold to the British Transport Commission (later to become British Waterways Board) and used in the South East Division Carrying Fleet before being transferred to the Engineering Department in 1961 for use as a canal maintenance boat, based at Bulls Bridge in London. During the 1980s, Python was shortened to 53’ and the cabin was rebuilt to the current format of rear engine room, crew cabin and forward store.

Into the new millennium with more modern, purpose built vessels taking the place of some of the old boats, Python became surplus to the requirements of British Waterways and fell into disuse for a number of years before coming to the Chesterfield Canal Trust in 2009. Initially this was on a five-year lease, but the move was made permanent in 2011.

The Trust is currently researching Python’s history and would encourage anyone who has any information about her or was involved with her in any way, to get in touch by emailing

Chesterfield Canal Trust
Chesterfield Canal Trust is a charitable company run entirely by volunteers, incorporated in July 1997. In 1998 it took over the assets of the former Chesterfield Canal Society, which had been formed in 1976.

The aims of the Trust are to promote the full restoration and appropriate development of the Chesterfield Canal, and to campaign for the construction of the Rother Valley Link, a navigable waterway to join the Chesterfield Canal to the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation.

More information is available at the Trust’s website.

IWA campaigns for the use, maintenance and restoration of Britain's inland waterways.
About IWA
Volunteers restoring the waterways. The Waterway Recovery Group is part of IWA.
About WRG

Historic Narrowboat Python
Historic Narrowboat Python (photo by Chesterfield Canal Trust)
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