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Sarah Edgson

When she’s not running a busy boat services company, Sarah Edgson is actively involved in preserving historic canal craft.

Sarah Edgson

Thirty-nine-year-old Sarah Edgson is the eldest daughter of legendary BCN-based boat-builder, Graham Edgson, and she has built up a remarkable pedigree in a largely male-dominated industry.

Her father’s company, Norton Canes Boatbuilders, was established in 1986 when he took over from Malcolm Braine at the former Yates Bros yard, near the terminus of the Cannock Extension Canal. Graham had worked as foreman until the opportunity arose to run the operation himself when Malcolm retired.

“I was always around canals and boats when I was growing up,” Sarah recalls. “Even when I went to Staffordshire University to study for my Business & Marketing degree, I was starting to advertise and sell boats as part of Dad’s business. It just seemed to come quite naturally to me.”

She had a later spell working for Dominic Miles on the brokerage side of Rugby Boats and soon developed an interest in what she refers to as ‘old boats’.

Location, location

As Norton Canes Boatbuilders, Graham Edgson’s company moved to Steve Hudson’s former premises at Glascote Basin in June 2015. This allowed for greater expansion and the introduction of a more comprehensive range of services.

“We approached the Canal & River Trust to renegotiate our position at Norton Canes,” Sarah recalls. “We suggested the possibility of a relocation and asked what else might be available. The rest is history, as they say.”

Graham retired in November 2015, leaving Sarah to take over the day-to-day running of what became known as Norton Canes Boat Services. 

Sarah’s passion for former working narrowboats knows no bounds. In 2010 she acquired former FMC narrowboat Ling from British Waterways and a few years later became part of the second incarnation of the historically focused Young Boater’s Club, formed originally by the likes of Andrew Burge and Andrew Strang. Around the same time she happened upon 1934 Josher motor Lamprey. Under Sarah’s ownership – or ‘custodianship’ as enthusiasts will correct you – this fine Fish Class example has been restored to ‘as new’ condition and was the recipient of the prestigious Hemelryk Award in 2020, bestowed by the Historic Narrow Boat Club.

At this point we begin to see something of a pattern emerge. “Joshers are great,” she smiles, “they have really nice lines and fascinating stories to tell.”

Sarah steering Lamprey


Taking the helm

At HNBC’s 2022 AGM Sarah was elected chair for a three-year term. “I knew they were looking to fill the role and someone told me I would be ideal for the job. I find it really enjoyable, and I am currently working on some ideas [to] truly capture the old ways of working through filming traditional practices and digitising the HNBC’s archive. I’m also keen to encourage practical activities such as horse-boating, which was brilliantly carried out by [horse] Flower and [fly-boat] Saturn ahead of the club’s annual Good Friday cruise to Ellesmere Port.

“My one concern is that HNBC has been seen as exclusive, and maybe even elitist, but I’m confident that our new non-boat-owning press officer has that at the top of his agenda. We positively welcome anyone with an interest in the working heritage of the waterways.”

This is an extract of the feature that appears in the August 2024 issue of Waterways Worldclick here to read the full article.