The Jam 'Ole Run and the 2004
The last regular long distance coal carrying by narrow boat. It was run by Samuel Barlow Coal Company at first, then taken over by Blue Line Canal Carriers, taking coal from Baddesley Colliery near Atherstone on the Oxford Canal to Kearley & Tonges jam factory at Southall on the Grand Union Canal.
Mitre Dock, on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, was the basin that was used by Kearley & Tonge's jam factory for the unloading of the coal. Looking at the history of the length of the run, I found two different lengths and locks, one showed 240 miles and 204 locks and the other 246 miles and 196 locks, but short of getting out my Nicholson's Guides and doing a count up myself, both seem close enough to show what a trip that was, and all done in seven days.
Here a painting by Harley Crossley showing the Jam 'Ole Factory in Southall
Competition was fierce, crews were paid by the tonnage carried, and the quicker they arrived to unloaded without having to wait for other boats to unload first, the quicker they could make the return trip for another load.
By 1968 coal trade on the canals had declined and even Kearley and Tonge's factory was struggling to survive, the canals were beginning to silt up with lack of both working boats and canal maintenance, and eventually in 1970 Blue Line Canal Carriers gave up carrying coal, so ending nearly two centuries of coal carrying to London.
Every two years modern and working narrowboats make that same trip from Braunston Marina to Willowtree Marina, close to the site of the jam factory. Some of the boats started from Braunston this year (2004), but some went to Atherstone to complete the whole trip. Ron and Brenda Withey led the way from Atherstone,, and during the morning Jubilee, Lupin and Idus, Skylark, Corona, Clover and Sunny Valley and Adamant all came by us while we were moored at Clifton, as well as Nutfield and Raymond now restored. This pair was on the very last Jam 'Ole run in 1970
During my research, I have come across some very interesting
websites which I have listed on the left, and if you click
on any of the photos a larger version is available.