The Buckby Photographs

The Buckby Photographs

It is thought that the series of “official” photographs which have come to be known as the “Buckby Photographs” were taken between 1910 and 1912.  It is possible that the photographer was Thomas Millner, at that time Manager of the Grand Junction Canal Company.  A letter has survived between Millner and FMC referring to photographs taken by him.

The images were taken, usually above Lock 11, on the Buckby flight of the Grand Union Canal (then the Grand Junction Canal). However, there are a few taken at other places in the flight.  Most of them show an impressive wash coming from the propeller, although the lack of a bow wave betrays the fact that the boat is stationary in the water.  Close examination of the photographs reveals the rope that is securing the boat to an anchor point, so that a sharp image could be obtained.  The photographic emulsions of those days were much slower.

Sixteen FMC Buckby photographs exist today although it is possible that nine others were taken but have disappeared.  Perhaps some of them are languishing in someone’s attic…. The missing ones to look for are Admiral, Duke, Emperor, Empress, Monarch, Speedwell, Viceroy, Victoria and Victory.

There is one photograph taken at Buckby of a steamer not belonging to FMC.  This was Charles Nelson's Jason.

For a more detailed analysis and access to the photographs, click here.


President at Buckby

For many years, the only known image of President as a steamer was a torn fragment that only just revealed the name of the boat.  It was not part of a Buckby photograph but was taken at an unknown location.

This all changed in 1991.  President was in the lock at the Admiral Nelson at Braunston, very nearly at the end of her first fly run as a restored steamer.  An elderly lady approached with an envelope and the words “I think I may have something here which would interest you”.

In the envelope were three photographs.  The first was a studio portrait of James Woodfield, President’s first captain.    The second was the complete version of the torn fragment we already held. The third was the missing Buckby photograph of President.

The lady was Mrs Sarah Poole, daughter of  James Woodfield, who had come to present the photographs to us from her home at Meriden.


When President’s Centenary cruise was being planned, it was felt that it would be appropriate to try to re-create the Buckby photograph as close as possible to her “official” birthday on 23rd June.  On 29th June 2009, therefore, President dropped her butty Kildare off at Buckby top lock and worked down the flight to the  marina entrance below lock 13, winded there and returned up the flight to above lock 11.

A line was used to tie back to a bollard on the lockside.  With Nick Haynes, David Stott and Neil Ratcliffe taking up the poses of the crew from a hundred years before and Keith Rogers (hidden in the engine ‘ole) winding up the revs to produce a suitably impressive wash, the photograph was taken

The scenery in the background had changed considerably in a hundred years.  The railway line was completely obscured by trees growing along the embankment and the defining viaduct in the 1910 image was hidden by new growth in the foreground.