David H Boakes 1938-1989

First Secretary of the Cotswold Canals Trust

By Charlotte Woodward

Photo:David Boakes

David Boakes

Donated by Charlotte Woodward

Photo:Newton Lock

Newton Lock

Donated by Jan Thomas

Family history suggests that the Butler’s (David’s mother’s family) came over from Ireland as Navvies to help dig the canals. A Butler appears on one of the wages sheet when the Framilode lock was being dug. When the Gloucester/Berkeley Canal ran out of money it is likely they settled in Elmore and waited for work to recommence.

In the 1960s, when David first became interested in canals, The Thames and Severn and the Stroudwater Navigation were derelict. The Western end had been closed completely after the building of the Gloucester/Berkeley Canal and no trade had used the canals for many years. At the Eastern end, parts of the canal had been infilled and built upon. There were two falls in the Sapperton tunnel making it impassable. There was no water in many parts and in places the canal leaked. However, the Stroudwater Canal was still owned by The Company of Proprietors and water was still being sold to companies along side the canal.

David moved to ‘Riveredge,’ a house alongside the Stroudwater Canal in Framilode in the 1960’s. Restoration of the Navigation became an obsession. David found out there was a Canal Trust and went along to a meeting in a pub in Stroud. He met Ron Nott and he became part of the Committee, eventually becoming Secretary of the Canal Trust. At this time restoration of the portal at Coates was already underway and fund raising was mainly through newspaper collection (one of the early recycling projects). When David became ill and was unable to work full time he spent the rest of his life working towards the restoration of the canals.  David started to acquire shares in the Stroudwater Canal by tracing descendants of the original owners and then sat on the Board of Directors of the Stroudwater Navigation Company.

As Secretary, David was untiring in persuading sceptical politicians that restoration was a feasible reality. Local Authorities did not see the potential that the canal could bring to the local area. It was recognised that restoration would be a costly project but in terms of regeneration of leisure and tourism potential for Stroud and the surrounding areas there was an unrealised attraction.  Funding was always an issue; one of the ways that David raised money was through the numerous talks to various groups, using his wealth of experience and for example, WI, Rotary Club, Luncheon Clubs, local Parish Councils and the District Council. This helped to raise the profile of the Canals and highlight the use of them as places that lots of people could enjoy as a leisure amenity.

David’s role included Manager of Community projects, where he led a job creation scheme for MSC (Manpower Services Commission). This project helped those who had been long term unemployed to learn various building skills such as brick laying, whilst helping to restore the canal. Some men also came out of prison for the day to help.

This page was added by Iris Capps on 18/05/2010.
Comments about this page

'Better to say here it is than here it was.' This is the quote, said to be from David which you will find on the commemorative plaque which is on Blunder Lock. Another commemoration is the naming of Boakes Drive, down by the canal in Stonehouse.

By Jan
On 29/05/2010


My name is Rachael Boakes, I am looking my family tree could you send informtion on dave boakes he was my dads cousin many thanks 

rachael boakes

By Rachael Boakes
On 10/07/2012

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