‘Mercia’ was built in Birmingham sometime in the reign of Queen Victoria as a 70ft, horse-drawn boat.
Archive material shows us that when she was guaged at Tipton on 16th September 1885, she was number 118 in the Birmingham Canal Navigations Company fleet and working in the maintenance department as a spoon dredger, based in the number 2 district and guaged at a maximum of 33 tonnes.
An iron plate held in the Gloucester archives gives BCN 118 a date of 6th June 1885, and it is theorised that this is the date she left the BCNco workshops after being fitted out for dredging.
She remained a spoon dredger until around 1937, as her guaging of that year shows that she has had her dredging tackle removed, and was still owned by the BCNco when the canals were nationalised in 1948.
She was shortened from 70ft to 50ft in around 1965 to allow her to work with a bantam tug, and gained the name ‘Ohm’ when British Waterways went through a phase of giving all their unnamed craft 3-letter names, but otherwise she continued with a fairly uneventful life of maintenance service.
Around 2009 she was lifted out of the canal at Ickneild Port and declared “beyond economic repair” by British Waterways and earmarked for sale during the next waterways disposal sale on the 29th September 2010.
At this sale, she was bought by her present owner and taken to the midlands for restoration. National Historic Ships ran a competition to find a new name her in 2011, and ‘Mercia’, suggested by Sam Noon, won.
In September 2020 she headed north to carry heavy goods for Midlands & Coast Canal Carriers alongside motorboat ‘Ariel’, as well as the gifts and crafts that you see here.