The Tyne Coal Keel: A unique British watercraft, 1400-1890 (Paperback)

The Tyne Coal Keel: A unique British watercraft, 1400-1890 By Adrian Osler Cover Image

The Tyne Coal Keel: A unique British watercraft, 1400-1890 (Paperback)


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Once seen on the river Tyne in their hundreds, for over five centuries coal keels were a vital transport link in Britain's largest commodity trade, the 'Coal Trade'. The keel's full story is told here for the first time; from early records after the Norman conquest; through Henry the Fifth's (never repealed) statute that keels must all be of one size; to the keel fleet's role in supporting the huge increase in coal shipments resulting from urban and industrial growth during the eighteenth century. Lastly, the keel's decline and extinction in the nineteenth century is informatively described.

Overall, the book explores how the keel's physical development and everyday use can be traced by investigating obscure old documents and newspapers alike, by closely studying the works of local artists and, in particular, by gaining an understanding of the secrets held in hand-crafted models left by workers of the keel era. Forensic examination of this evidence has enabled the author to correct many adverse historical perceptions - the keel was not flat-bottomed, ungainly, or inefficient - but was a laudable product of local innovation and skills that was well suited to its environment and task. The text is enhanced throughout with the author's own explanatory drawings and reproductions of little-known contemporary artworks.

Most importantly, this new research highlights how a keel allowed its crew to take advantage of the renewable forces of the shoaly unimproved River Tyne. Keels and keelmen efficiently harnessed the river's tidal flow, cleverly exploited its wind patterns under sail and, when all else failed, applied their great manual strength to moving vessels laden with 21-tons of coal by poling (punting), man-hauling or, famously, engaging in 'The Keel Row'. This last - a unique 'Geordie' practice - has never been fully explained before.

Finally, the keel's probable origins are investigated with scholarly care, and the case is made that it occupied an outstanding place in the history of Britain's inland watercraft, representing a unique, near-medieval survivor.

Product Details ISBN: 9781915338396
ISBN-10: 1915338395
Publisher: UK Book Publishing
Publication Date: October 5th, 2022
Pages: 280
Language: English