History of the charity

The Charity was formed in July 1978 as the North Staffordshire Handicapped Children’s Boat Committee. A group led by Guy Barks had developed the idea of a community boat, raising funds for the materials while the work was undertaken by apprentices at the Cammel Laird shipyard. This was under a scheme (the Rainbow Trust) headed by the Prince of Wales with the Variety Club of Great Britain. Twelve boats were built, the first being the Heulwen (Sunshine) on the Montgomery Canal in Mid-Wales. Beatrice was a day-boat for children with disabilities, originally working from Etruria on the Trent and Mersey Canal.

The charity name was changed to the Beatrice Charity in 2001 and (with redevelopment of its Etruria base) Beatrice’s mooring was moved to the Cheddleton Flint Mill near Leek, on the Caldon Canal. For a while occasional trips were also run from Post Lane Endon (on the Caldon) and from Fradley in Derbyshire (on the Trent and Mersey).

Company registration number   0430782
Charity number                               1089860
Boat Number                                      503859

The first President of the NSHCBC was Sir Arthur Bryan, then Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and Chairman of the Wedgwood Pottery company. Guy Barks was the Chairman and driving force  who combined a love for boating with his profession as a social worker for Stoke-on-Trent Council. We have always combined these two commitments, a disability charity that is dedicated to spreading a love of the canals.

Our Trustees

We have a Committee of nine trustees.  The Chairman is Derek Hilyer, Mark Thomas is the Treasurer, Terry Simpson is the Training Skipper, Clive Stagg is the Operations Skipper,  and Pat Davies oversees booking trips and crew.

Derek had a career in university administration and wide experience of arts charities; Mark worked in banking; Terry served in the  Royal Navy; Clive’s  professional life was in supporting children with disabilities;  and Pat taught was a teacher of special needs. The other trustees are Pam Hallam and Di Mackay, who both taught at our partnership schools; Darryl Davies, who held senior positions in child care;  and Andrea Dawson, who is a consultant in the care sector.

Mark, Clive, Terry and Derek are qualified skippers: Mark and Clive have extensive narrow boat experience and Terry is used to rather larger vessels. In addition we currently have four other qualified skippers, Gerry Northam, Mervyn Gamage, Barry Colley and John Mills, who are always willing to advise and undertake projects for which they are particularly suited. Mervyn, for instance, has used his expertise in communication to help with media coverage and in the development of this new website, and Gerry’s career as a broadcast journalist has been most helpful.

Our Vision

Our vision is safely to

  • give children with additional educational needs (be they physical, emotional, educational or social) a pleasant, interesting and memorable outing in surroundings which are, for many, otherwise denied to them
  • provide the opportunity for disabled children and adults to experience, enjoy and learn from the many delights of waterway cruising
  • offer boat users the chance to participate in the process of canal boat working,  giving them an interesting and rewarding way of developing confidence and self-esteem.