Roses and Castles

The most recognisable form of waterways art today, Roses and Castles is something of an umbrella description of the usual decorations of narrowboats working on the inland waterways.

Narrowboat “Hope” enters a lock on the Oxford Canal c1820. Although the details are blurred, it is possible to make out the roses panel on the cabin side

Although there are many romantic stories and ideas of the origins of this style, the simple fact is it appeared almost as soon as their was water in the canals and is a derivation of the popular art of the time. Over the years, it has evolved into the form we see today and although every painter and dockyard had their own style, the art, with the roses in particular, be  divided down into 3 broad categories: Braunston, Knobstick and Uxbridge.

**Braunston roses are the most common style and feature confident brush strokes to create a stylistic rose. Originating in the Midlands as a whole, with Braunston often being considered the centre of the canal system, each boatyard had its own variation and could be recognised by the style.
**Knobstick roses originated from the brush of Bill Hodgson, painter for the Anderton Canal Company (which was for some obscure reason known by the boaters as Knobsticks. Legend had it that one of the company men would roam up and down the towpath with a stick topped with a silver knob, looking for crews that were slacking, and he became known by the boater as “the knob with a stick”, and thus the nickname was born) Hodgson’s roses were executed in a hyper-realistic fashion and highly prized among boaters. When boatmen painters took up their own brushes, they mimicked Hodgson’s work to the best of their ability but inadvertently regulated the brushstrokes into a much more formal style that is still replicated today.
**Uxbridge roses are characteristically abstract roses, with the “claytons cabbage” being the extreme end of the scale. The Claytons Cabbage was the work of Fred Winnet, painter of Thomas Clayton, and some boaters were so fearful that he would paint his roses in their cabins that they would remove the cupboard doors before putting the boats in dock.