Life on the Canal - Lodgings Afloat
Besides the household waste which was used to burn bricks, soot, horse manure, and night soil, were carried away from London each day, and bought eagerly by lowland farmers lucky enough to be near the canals. Their fields increased in fertility, while the more distant hill farmers, who could not afford the extra transport costs, saw the fertility of their fields leached away each year by the rain. Profits in hill farms fell sharply. Many hill farmers went bankrupt and their farms were bought up as country estates by the wealthy. Prosperous people like Disraeli became landed gentry. Old farmhouses, often Tudor or even earlier, were refurbished, extended, re-fronted to become small country mansions. An unexpected effect of the canal trade.
Schools for Canal Children
The education of children living on boats was a perpetual problem. Most boats visiting Paddington Basin were in and out, but sometimes children could attend St Michael's School, or Star Street School for a day or so. However, often they did not learn much, being told to sit at the back and draw a boat. London schools were proud of taking their children to the public swimming baths each week and at that time Water Companies supplied the water free as a gesture of goodwill. No group needed to learn to swim more urgently than the canal children, yet at first they were not allowed to join in. The boats carried all kinds of cargoes which meant that the children were not very clean.
In 1927 a Dr Wilson decided that ' sufficient improvement in cleanliness had occurred for the children to join the regular pupils for swimming lessons' In 1930 the barge Elsdale, moored at Bull's Bridge, Slough, was converted into a floating school for canal boat children.1
Paddington Canal and the Metropolitan Line
Most boats turned round quickly at Paddington, discharging and loading within the day. In the midst of all this confusion, children insisted on getting under their mother's feet and lying flat on the floor of the tiny cabins, to hear the rumble of the Metropolitan Line trains running regularly below the Basin.2