"Cathedral of the Canals"

With Braunston at the “heart of the Canals” there was a tendency for passing boatmen to meet and marry local girls and set up homes in the village. Other immigrant boatmen also came to the village and set up homes. It appears that whilst there is a general belief that the ‘boat people’ formed a distinct colony of their own this was not  so true in Braunston at this time.

FuneralAll Saints Church, the “Cathedral of the Canals” was very central to the boatmen’s lives for performing Wedding, Baptism and Funeral Services, indeed many well known boating families have ancestors buried in the churchyard.  It was the most central of locations for families afloat to meet up. Significantly there was no Canal Boatman’s Mission in Braunston and no special Canal Boat School, although the Salvation Army did open a mission by the Wharf later in the century to provide their own  ministry to the Canal People. The evidence  suggests that here in Braunston was a place where boat people were less likely to be regarded as different,  or a “race apart”.

One must conclude that the Church, the Church of England School and the village community embraced the boating community at a time when other areas were beginning to isolate a group of people that were to become considered as a socially demoralized class.

In 1834 Braunston was to experience the most terrible event in its modern history when a boatman died of Cholera aboard a boat in Braunston. Altogether there were 70 cases and 19 deaths in Braunston before the malady ran its course.

All Saints’ Curate at the time, Mr Jenkins, went among the sick comforting them and caught the disease himself but happily recovered. The Methodist minister Reverend Richard Miller had no doubt the community of Braunston had been given a divine warning not to indulge or tolerate sinful amusement.

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