The canal carriers once provided an important service moving goods the length and breadth of Britain. These people were particularly busy during the nineteenth century when the inland waterways were frequently crowded with boats. The main routes linked the North West, North East and the Midlands with London. Many were "narrow" canals where the narrowboat provided the general means of conveyance. These boats fulfilled a number of roles. Some carried minerals and other bulk material, whilst others were devoted to the movement of merchandise. It is the purpose of this series to investigate the merchandise carrier operation and particularly concentrate on the period before the establishment of a national railway network. These were the days of the flyboat and stageboat. The flyboat travelled both day and night calling at specific points until its journey was completed. The stageboat, by contrast, stopped at many wharves and places and often transferred cargoes with the faster flyboat service. This was also the time of the turnpike road. It is often written that turnpikes and canals competed for traffic. Although this might have been true in some part, there was also considerable interchange of traffic between the roads and the waterways. Working Boat investigates Midland flyboat and stageboat routes and also their relationship with road transport.
This volume concentrates on the carriers' depots and routes in the counties of Warwickshire and Worcestershire where descriptions of the trade at Leamington, Stourport, Warwick and Worcester are included. Every wharf, warehouse and depot, where known, is mentioned, in a detailed study of the canal network.