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 11 trustees (Derek Hilyer, the Chairman, Barry Colley, Darryl Davies, Pat Davies, Andrea Dawson, Pam Hallam, Di Mackay, Gerry Northam, Clive Stagg, Terry Simpson, and Mark Thomas). Seven of these are currently active crew members and the wealth of other experience within the committee includes university and charity administration, teaching of children with special needs, child-care and that of adults with disabilities, finance, learning disability therapy, charity fundraising, broadcast journalism, and the Royal Navy. It is important that we mix expertise in boating with a range of other skills, in both disability and in operating an organisation. Janet Jones and Mervyn Gamage are not on the Committee but they are invaluable, respectively, in trip booking and crew scheduling; and in developing the website (and advising on publicity generally).

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.