Sale of Canal and River Books at Chiswick Auctions, Sept. 21

Chiswick Auctions is proud to announce its upcoming sale of Canal and River ephemera which will be taking place on Wednesday 21st September.  

From the private collection of Mark Baldwin, one of the UK’s most prolific canal book collectors, the auction is set to be an industry game changer.  

Having bought his first waterway book in the 1950s ‘The Wanderings of the Beetle’ (1885) as a teenager, he has been avidly collecting until very recently. Much of his library was sold by Chiswick Auctions last year, and this year we will be selling a couple of thousand smaller items - Acts of Parliament (from 1695 onwards), canal prints, monographs, publicity material, canal tokens and medallions, and postcards (some hundreds of which are around a hundred years old), as well as some books.

It was the acquisition of Charles Hadfield’s waterway collection in the 1970s which instigated Mark’s ascent into the world of more serious collecting, as it vastly extended his own collection and gave him the impetus to build one of his own. This was facilitated by becoming a book-seller in 1978, part-time at first before progressing to full-time in 1986. In between this time, Mark became an author, publishing the first comprehensive bibliography on British canals, In addition, he has also gone on to lecture on the subject. 

Available in the auction will be a strong waterway collection featuring material from not just the United Kingdom, with some foreign material as well. With over 2000 items across 150 lots, the sale is set to be an exciting one. 

Star lots include: 

Framed glazed Share Certificate for the Wey & Arun Junction Canal Co. Share no 846 issued to William Newland, 4 June 1836, with red wax seal. 34 x 41. Sl browning, gen VG.
Estimate: £200 - £400

Black ceramic plaque depicting James Brindley, holding surveying instrument on tripod, with mill and canal in background. Individually numbered 185 on rear, and stamped Elliott and J. Bromley. Mounted and framed (unglazed). ND (c1990). F.
Estimate: £40 - £75

Basingstoke Canal shilling token, copper, 1789, depicting navvies’ tools and sailing vessel. In excellent condition with some orig lustre. D&H Hants.
Estimate: £200 - £400

Two superb commercial handbooks published by the Aire & Calder Navigation Company:

‘Aire & Calder Navigation: the water route between Lancashire & Yorkshire and the East Coast’. ND [c1925?]. 230 x 295 mm. [i] + 30 pp, art ppr throughout, many photos and diagrams. Orig 4-col card cover, cord tie. Stamp of British Transport Commission Archive, o/w VG with modest wear.

together with

‘Aire & Calder Navigation: the water route between Lancashire & Yorkshire and the East Coast’. ND [c1927?]. 245 x 300 mm. [iii] + 29 pp, 3-col printing art ppr throughout, many photos and diagrams. Orig dark brown card cover, printed in 3 cols, cord tie. VG. Loosely inserted is a 5-col, 56 x 45 cm, in F condition.
Estimate: £50 - £100

The ‘Idle Women’ and the Grand Union Canal in wartime.

The Second World War saw a revival of inland waterway traffics, but the shortage of crews led to the creation of a new scheme to recruit women to crew narrow boats. These intrepid young women were given badges bearing the letters ‘IW’ (for Inland Waterways), which was jocularly interpreted as standing for ‘Idle Women’. This was ironic because, efficient or not, they were the very reverse of idle. Here is a group of badges from those days, which were the property of Eily ‘Kit’ Gayford, an early recruit, who subsequently trained several dozen ‘Idle Women’.

The original ‘Idle Women’ badge, blue-grey plastic with pin, 25 mm dia.

A lapel badge with the GUCCC arms, surrounded by the legend ‘GRAND UNION CANAL CARRYING CO. ON NATIONAL SERVICE’. Blue and white enamel, 26 mm dia, stamped ‘311’ on rear.

A cloth badge to be sewn onto a jumper, navy blue, with GUCCC arms and legend in gold. 90 mm dia. VG.

A small cloth badge, to be sewn onto clothing, navy blue with G.U.C.C. in red. 96 x 33 mm. VG.

A brass collar badge formed of the letters GUCC, as issued to GUCC police, with retaining pin.52 x 15 mm VG,

A complete issue of the weekly periodical ‘Picture Post’, 16 Sep 1939. 68 pp. 35 x 26cm. Minor wear, but sound and clean. Page 40 carries a rare photo of a Grand Union Canal Co policeman wearing a brass GUCC collar badge.

MIN OF INFORMATION. Transport Goes To War. HMSO, 1942. 80 pp in ppr covers. 23 x 17 cm. The 7-page chapter on inland waterways includes 2 photos of Idle Women.

RAMSAY, C. ‘On Canal Boats in War Time’ photocopy of 9-page illd article from Geographical Magazine, June 1945, written by an ‘Idle Woman’.

MIKRON THEATRE CO. Theatre programme for the play ‘Imogen’s War: wartime trainees on the inland waterways’. 1992. A5. NP [32 pp]. F.

MIKRON THEATRE CO. Theatre programme for the play ‘Imogen’s War: wartime trainees on the inland waterways’. 1993. A5. NP [36 pp]. F. A4 poster loosely inserted.
Estimate: £200 - £350

Large film poster for THE BARGEE. Full colour poster, 101 x 75 cm, for this 1964 Galton-Simpson film starring Harry H. Corbett as The Bargee - ‘The Casanova of the Canals . . . a bird in every lock!’ Also starring Hugh Griffith and Eric Sykes, co-starring Julia Foster, Ronnie Barker, Eric Barker and Miriam Carlin. Folded, but in VG condition, with no splitting on folds, no discolouration.
Estimate: £50 - £100

There are lots of ways you can bid. Visiting our saleroom at 1 Colville Road, Chiswick W3 8BL, in person is always an exciting experience but if you cannot make it, then you can bid online from your computer via For added convenience, you can also request a telephone bid, or indeed leave an absentee/commission bid prior to the sale. View the catalogue


The items will be available to view on Sunday 18th from 12 - 6pm, Monday 19th from 10am - 6pm, Tuesday 20th from 10am - 6pm and on Wednesday 21st before the sale starts from 10am - 1pm. This is a chance to come and take a closer look at the collection in full. 

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