For 150 years or so, the Narrowboat was the principle means of carrying goods in this country. Its bright paintwork and traditional decoration made it easy to romanticise the boatman’s way of life. The reality though was that it was a harsh existence, especially in winter. As railway competition forced whole families to live aboard in one tiny cabin, conditions worsened for the boat people; no comfort, no privacy, no sanitation, and no chance of schooling for the children. Over 60 such ancient craft – some over 100 years old – gathered at Braunston in May 1999. This video is a record of that gathering, with a detailed commentary, written by courtesy of the Commercial Narrowboat Owners Association & Braunston Boat Shows. The boats include not just Narrowboats, but tunnel tugs, inspection launches, & ice boats, for in those severe Dickensian winters, keeping the cut free of ice was a major challenge. The boats on this video chart the development of the waterways. There are boats that were originally horse-drawn, steamers, early semi-diesels, and diesels. There are wooden boats, iron boats and steel boats. Some are in original condition, others have been converted for cruising.