Our vision is safely to give children with additional needs (be they physical, emotional, educational or social) a pleasant, interesting and memorable outing in surroundings which are, for many, otherwise denied to them. This provides the opportunity to experience, enjoy and learn from the many delights of waterway cruising. We offer boat-users the chance to participate in the process of canal boat working, giving them an interesting and rewarding way of developing confidence and self-esteem.
Our 56 feet long narrowboat, Beatrice, operates on the beautiful Caldon Canal, from our base in Cheddleton.
These trips are provided free of charge, with support from grants, fundraising and donations. Outside school terms and at weekends Beatrice is also available to adult groups who might benefit from her accessible facilities and to private groups, whose donations help to fund our work. This year we plan to expand our work to include sponsored trips for groups of adults with disabilities.
History of Beatrice
The charity that operates Beatrice was formed in July 1978, as the North Staffordshire Handicapped Children’s Boat Committee. A group led by Guy Barks had developed the idea of a community boat, raising funds for the materials while the work was undertaken by apprentices at the Cammel Laird shipyard.
The first President of the NSHCBC was Sir Arthur Bryan, then Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and Chairman of the Wedgwood Pottery company. Guy Barks was the Chairman and driving force who combined a love for boating with his profession as a social worker for Stoke-on-Trent Council. We have always combined these two commitments, a disability charity that is dedicated to spreading a love of the canals. The charity name was changed to the Beatrice Charity in 2001.
We now have 11 trustees, some of whom are also active crew members. As well as boating, experience within the committee includes administration, teaching of children with special needs, child-care and that of adults with disabilities, finance and charity fundraising. Others not on the committee also support its work.
The first Beatrice was built under a scheme headed by the Prince of Wales, with the Variety Club of Great Britain. She was named by the Princess Royal. She was a day-boat originally working from Etruria on the Trent and Mersey Canal. Beatrice’s mooring was moved to the Cheddleton Flint Mill, on the Caldon Canal, when her original base was redeveloped. For a while occasional trips were also run from Post Lane, Endon (on the Caldon) and from Fradley in Derbyshire (on the Trent and Mersey).
When the first boat needed replacement the Lady B was built by the JCB Company. She was named in honour of Lady Carol Bamford, the wife of the Company Chairman and Managing Director, Sir Anthony, now Lord, Bamford.
The current Beatrice was built in 1999, initially as a longer boat designed for trips including overnight stays. But she was subsequently shortened to her present length and redesigned to take over the day trips. She has now served in that role for more than 20 years but over the last few has been substantially refitted and refurbished, including a new engine, a new lift for passengers in wheelchairs and a new heating system. She is ready for the next 20 years.