'Tarporley' was completed on 15th February 1937 by W J Yarwood in Cheshire and was one of 37 Large Northwich "Town" Class boats. She was built for commercial cargo use and was part of a major order from the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company. "Town" Class boats were named in alphabetical order after towns and villages in the UK - the first to be delivered was 'Halsall' and the last 'Yeoford'.
She would have been paired with a wooden butty boat (originally 'Taunton'), built by Walkers of Rickmansworth and was fitted with a National diesel engine, designed to give a loaded speed of 6 knots, carrying 50 to 60 tons between the pair.
GUCCC then owned over 350 boats but, because of difficulty finding crews, never operated more than 119 pairs in service at any one time. 'Tarporley' and 'Taunton' were based at Bulls Bridge in Southall and, during and after World War 2, carried cargo around the London area and as far afield as Birmingham.
In 1957 she was leased to Willow Wren Transport Services who continued carrying cargo in her, but then changed hands several times, finally being sold in 1970, still as a working boat, for £811 to Malcolm Braine, the boatbuilder, of Norton Canes, Staffordshire. Here's how she looked then.
In 1972 she was bought by the London Borough of Camden who wanted to provide residential and day trips for, particularly, the young and the elderly. LBC converted her with this purpose in mind; retaining many of the original features such as the boatman's cabin (where the working family used to live) and the engine room, but adding, where once the cargo was carried, accommodation for twelve passengers, a shower room and a galley. She was also re-engined with a 1958-built 2-cylinder air-cooled Lister H Series,
For more than 20 years ‘Tarporley’ was operated by the London Borough of Camden using professional skippers and was busy taking groups of people of all ages on day, evening and residential trips. In response to rising costs and competing priorities, Camden ultimately decided to transfer the boat, and the opportunities that it provided for the local community, to the voluntary sector. Thus the Camden Canals and Narrowboat Association (CCNA), a company and registered charity, was set up in 1998 by volunteers, originally working in partnership with sympathetic Camden Councillors.
Since CCNA took on the responsibility to operate and maintain 'Tarporley' as a community boat, she has continued to take groups of people of all ages on trips along the Regents Canal. Occasionally we venture as far as the River Lea, the Thames and the Grand Union Canal. CCNA is run entirely by canal-loving volunteers and the boat is licensed, insured and kept in good working order through hire-charges to users, and fund-raising from charitable donors.Over the years many renovations and changes have been made although, as far as we can tell, the hull sides, the gunwales, the engine room and the boatman's cabin are the originals. In June 2006 'Tarporley' was placed on the register of National Historic Ships UK.