Very close to where I live, and for me to get anywhere, I pass over a canal bridge and past Pickwell and Arnold Boat Builders. For the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve had a growing sense of curiosity of what and who lies behind the Boat Builders doors.
I’m not sure why but I’ve been worried that if I knocked on the door, I’d get refused… So for some reason I left my curiosity just that…
Then today, out the blue, I headed down there.
And I couldn’t have been more warmly welcomed. I met a really lovely chap that offered me an honest and open invitation to stop by and shoot him at work anytime I saw the workshop doors open.
This is Martin of Pickwell and Arnold Boat Builders. Martin has been a Shipwright for 40 years, and his business has been here for the past 20.
He’s just finished refurbishing a beautiful little boat Gracie, she needed a new hull, and is destined to continue to ferry day trippers up and down the Rochdale Canal from the Stubbing Wharf pub.
The last full boat that was built here, was finished back in 2011, and at the moment there are no full builds on the horizon. Martin was telling me the trade has seen a massive decline in recent years, non more so than in the past 12 months, with the american boat sales seeing a 20% drop, and for the first time in years rumours the London Boat show might not happen next year.
The workshop was the kind of place you dream about discovering as a kid. Shafts of light illuminating the dusty air reveals machinery as beautifully constructed as the things they are supposed to make.
There are 20 years of graft and toil, a life time of work within these walls, and I’m really looking forward to taking Martin up on the invite and see him at work. One of the last of his kind, a working Shipwright.