Keep the home fires burning

SHARPNESS was built as an icebreaking tug in 1908 by Isaac J. Abdela and Mitchell, of Brimscombe Port, Stroud, on the Thames & Severn Canal. The builders were yacht and launch builders, and they gave SHARPNESS an elegant Edwardian style stern. She also has a raised bow for icebreaking.

Commissioned by the Sharpness New Docks Company, the Narrow Canal Tug SHARPNESS was to be one of three steam tugs based at Tardebigge. The other two tugs were the WORCESTER and the BIRMINGHAM, both built by the same builder.

SHARPNESS was mainly used as a tunnel tug and was soon transferred for duties on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, where she spent all her working life. She was based at Tardebigge and Shortwood, where she was also used as an icebreaker, and worked as a tug to tow unpowered boats through Wast Hill tunnels including the Sapperton tunnel which connected the Severn and Thames Canal between 1908 and the 1960s.

SHARPNESSand her two sister tugs all had iron hulls; they were roughly 45 ft in length and had a width of just under 7 ft. Their petrol or paraffin engines were 30 horsepower, turning a four-bladed screw. SHARPNESS was one of the first internal-combustion-engined tugs.

As with larger vessels the motive power in canal craft evolved over the years. Narrowboats and barges were originally hauled by horses, or in some cases by men, and sometimes they even possessed sails. Although steam powered craft had been used on the Bridgewater Canal for many years previously, around the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries they were also becoming popular on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Steam propulsion in narrowboats did not last long, and existing units were soon replaced by semi-diesel engines.


Where is she now?


SHARPNESS is currently in private use on the Trent and Mersey canal.




Classic Boat (Unknown date) Classic Boat Register of Endangered Boats.

The Motor Boat(1909),  Canal Motor Transport, 4 November 1909, p.280.

Waterways World(1978) Brinscombe Built Vessels 1902-1931.