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Waddingtons of Swinton

Boat in Waddington's Livery
Boat in Waddingtons Livery

You can still see loads of Waddingtons boats on the canals around here - some still working but many moored up at Eastwood Dock waiting to be broken up. Most of them are painted a turquoisey blue - Waddington's colours though I have not yet found the Waddington Coat of Arms on any of them.

The Pedant met Old Man Waddington some years ago in the course of his job and could hardly believe that the old fellow in his shabby suit was one of the richest men around here. Unless he managed to take it with him when he went and that would not surprise me, his wife and sons had it all. Any road I thought that I'd have a quick look at Waddingtons when I was working on the rivers and canal pages.

Victor Waddington was born 02/05/1908 in Mexborough but the family moved to Manchester. In 1923 he moved to the boatyard at Swinton on the Dearne and Dove Canal and in 1926 built a wooden flat - the first new vessel to be built for 12 years. I have not managed to find the history of the boatyard but it is probably about as old as the canal itself.

In the succeeding years Victor purchased numerous boats - wooden craft, sailing keels some of them for next to nothing, some in take-overs of other river transport companies. Amongst his early purchases were old wooden boats which had belonged to his great-great grandfather Peter Waddington, the glass bottle manufacturer of Mexborough.

Many of the boats purchased were then motorised. For example the wooden sailing keels Amity, Annie Maud, Expedient and Honour. Grain was transported from Hull to the flour mills at Rotherham and the boats returned with coal for the Hull gasworks. In 1977 Rotherham Mill received its last supplies by water and Waddingtons ceased to trade with Hull.

As well as grain and coal for the power stations and gasworks, Waddingtons boats also carried sand for the glassworks, ferro-sulphates and timber as Victor traded as a timber merchant up to the Second World War.

Victor Waddington died on 18/04/1999. When asked the secret of his success it was never to owe any money - a very old-fashioned virtue in these credit card days.

The time of the heavy industries has mostly passed. None of the collieries or coking plants that supplied cargoes for the canal boats exist any longer. Nor do the power stations and gasworks they supplied. Most of the steelworks have gone and ditto the glassworks. I expect that the Tar Distilleries have gone too but I have not been that way in quite some time. You can find Waddington craft alongside AMA at Eastwood and the cargo they carry is scrap metal. I don't know what other trade the boats have now because almost all the raw materials and the finished products come and go by lorry these days.

I think the sons are still doing all right for themselves as Victor was a picker up of unconsidered trifles - a piece of land here, a farm there, a house or five over yonder. A very pretty portfolio of property I should imagine. Don't you just love that alliteration!

August 2001 - Waddingtons are to run the new wharf at Corus Thrybergh Bar Mill and the barges to transport the steel to Goole for export.


Mike Taylor - Victor Waddington available in Rotherham Local Studies Library.
Also a nice section in The Ramblings of a Boatman by A. L. Hill who cannot spell. Also in the Rotherham Local Studies Library.

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