Midway Boats also known as Barbridge Marina is near Nantwich in Cheshire, and is located at a place called Barbridge Junction near Wardle, where the Wardle Roving Bridge No.1 spans the canal at the junction of the Middlewich branch and the Shropshire Union Canal.
c1950 Wardle Roving Bridge No.1
The Middlewich Branch is 10 miles (16 km) long, and was planned as part of the Chester Canal, which was authorised in 1772, but the company ran out of money, and construction did not begin until 1827. The Trent and Mersey insisted that there should be no direct connection at Middlewich, and instead built the short Wardle Canal to join the two, charging large compensation tolls for traffic passing along it.
The canal became part of the Shropshire Union system in 1846, which was taken over by the London and North Western Railway within a year. Traffic on the branch was always limited by the compensation tolls, and it was not until 1888 that they were abolished. The canal was the location for trials with locomotive haulage of boats in 1888, using a narrow-gauge engine from Crewe railway works, but no further action was taken. The canal became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923. The railway company closed 175 miles (282 km) of canals in 1944, but the Shropshire Union main line and the Middlewich Branch were spared, and passed into the jurisdiction of the British Waterways Board following nationalisation in 1948.
Barbridge Marina has been owned and operated by Midway Boats Ltd since 1992 but it has been a wharf/boatyard since 1833. A transhipment warehouse stood (now demolished) by the Wardle Roving Bridge and the large property next to the bridge was the Toll Masters house (now a private residence).
c1950 Barbridge Junction Wharf
In the 1960's, the Barbridge Marina site was a boat hire base for Dean's Pleasure Boats of Christleton, Chester (1961-63) . The Dean's only stayed at the site for a couple of years, but in 1971 they returned and founded a new marina further along the canal and called it 'Venetian Marina'.
c1962 Dean's Pleasure Cruisers
When the Dean's Pleasure Boats left the site in 1963, Ladyline Cruisers Ltd moved in and stayed for 22 years until 1985. Again it was used it as a hire base for canal & river cruiser rentals, but now also, it served as a Cheshire sales outlet for the new style fibreglass boats being launched from Dawncraft and Norman Cruisers. Ladyline Cruisers developed the site making it in to what we know now today as 'Barbridge Marina', welcoming all canal users to a chandlery, shop and service station for replenishment and repairs.
c1970 Ladyline Cruisers
By 1973, it can clearly be seen from their full page advert in Practical Boat Owner magazine, in addition to the sales of canal and river cruisers, Ladyline had now also ventured in to the selling of fibreglass sport boats and sport cruisers for use on the inland coastal waters. The domestic leisure sport boat market was rapidly expanding, so Ladyline took advantage of this new market selling boats from the British made Fletcher Boats company based in Cannock and the Texas U.S.A. company Glastron Boats.
After Ladyline left in 1985, Barbridge Marina was privately operated by Steve & Jane Denton. They rented out the workshop to Mick Sivewright, who built his 'OWL Class' narrowboats from here 1985 to 1996.
In 1992, Steve Batty took over the ownership and operation of the complete site and created the new brand of Midway Boats. Mick continued to work from the workshop for a further four years with Steve. In those days there was a demand for small, affordable narrowboats with the likes of Springers being very popular at the time. Knowing they could build a better small boat, Steve, together with Mick Sivewright building the steelwork, created the new Midway range of narrowboats; the Midway 295, the Midway 235 and the Midway 265. The 235 & 265 were based on the OWL Class narrowboats that Mick was already building.
The very first Midway, a 295 (29.5ft) was built in 1992.
Up until 1999 the range consisted of the 235, 265 and 295. The Midway 235 and a Sivewright Owl are very similar craft and often get mistaken, the giveaway being the Midway had a slightly ‘pointier’ bow and tubular hand rails, the hand rails on the Owl being integrated. Early 235’s were offered with the option of either a 9.9hp or 15hp petrol Honda outboard. Shortly after the first builds and following demand, the option for a diesel inboard was introduced with the choice of either Vetus or Beta Marine.
Midway 235 c1993
Steelwork for later 265’s was constructed by Piper with the 295 being built by Mancunian Narrowboats. All Midway boats were fitted out at Barbridge Marina, Nantwich.
In 1999 a Midway 310 (31ft) cruiser was introduced and up until 2004 this was followed by the 355 and 390 cruiser style and the 410, 480 and 550 semi trads. Steelwork for all of these being built by Cauldon. From 2005 onwards, Price Fallows handled the steelwork and from 2012 Tyler Wilson until production stopped in 2016, ending a run of approximately 120 boats. The final craft using Tyler Wilson hulls were mostly all 58ft, high spec liveaboards.
c2003 Midway Boats Barbridge Marina
In 2019, Bourne Boat Builders purchased Midway Boats Limited from Steve Batty and took over the operation of the Barbridge Marina site.
The marina site is now divided into three distinct operational businesses:
Midway Boats Limited
, are now only marine brokerage operators for the sale of new and used narrowboats and inland river cruisers;
, operate out of the main workshop building
and are the same professional marine engineers who used to work with Steve Batty and Midway Boats for over 10 years;
In this exciting new chapter of the history of Midway Boats and Barbridge Marina, Midway Boats & Bourne Boat Builders now plan to now re-launch the MIDWAY NARROWBOAT brand with the Midway 470 and Midway 580. The first of these are expected to be appearing in the Summer / Autumn 2020.