Rolt’s letters to Herbert Tooley

1. November 18th 1943

Rolt wants Herbert to make up some paint and send him a small sample. He thanks him for a stool he made. Asks to give Alfred Hone his regards. Hopes the war will end soon so his boating can resume.

2. December 20th 1943

Rolt asked Herbert if he could paint the design for the front cover on his book Narrow Boat. He enclosed a sketch.

3. January 5th 1944

Rolt is delighted Herbert can do the painting.

4. January 23rd 1944

The painting has arrived and Rolt is sending it to the publisher.

5. July 1st 1946

Chatty letter about his proposed travels in Ireland on the River Shannon, and the Grand and Royal Canals.

6. August 4th 1947

Rolt wants some cabin doors made. He needs to borrow items for an IWA display. He writes of his cruise on the Shropshire Union Canal.

Thanks to Pete Downer for allowing copies and transcription of the original documents.


1. November 18th 1943

Rolt wants Herbert to make up some paint and send him a small sample. He thanks him for a stool he made. Asks to give Alfred Hone his regards. Hopes the war will end soon so his boating can resume.

Addressed:
Mr Herbert Tooley,
11 Factory Street,
Banbury, Oxon.

Postmarked Bromsgrove 4.30pm 18 Nov 1943

envelope18-11-43

‘Cressy’
New Wharf,
Tardebigge,
Nr Bromsgrove, Worcs.

Nov 18th 1943

Dear Herbert,

Very many thanks for your letter. I was glad to hear that you are going strongly with plenty of work on hand. I was most pleased to hear that you can manage both paint and stool. At the moment I only need a very small quantity of paint for touching up and shall not need to repaint completely until the good weather comes next year. In any case I dont like the idea of sending a large quantity of paint by post or rail as it might so easily get stolen or the container damaged quite apart from the trouble it would give you. What I would suggest is that you mix up sufficient to do the whole job, send me say ¼ pint, and keep the rest by you for me. In all probability I shall be able to arrange to collect it before I need to use it.

The stool will do for any time from now on, whenever you can find the time to do it. If you would’nt mind dropping me a card when it is finished I will either tell you where to send it or, if at all possible, contrive to collect it with the paint.

I was sorry to hear that Mr Hone Sen. has given up boating. No doubt he is now living in Factory Street. If so, and you should see him, please remember me to him.

My wife joins me in thanking you for your good wishes, and we hope to see you again one of these days. Lets hope the war ends before long. We look forward to travelling again as except for one short trip we have been moored here for over two years.

Yours sincerely,

R T C Rolt

Rolt Letter 18-11-43 p1
Rolt Letter 18-11-43 p2

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2. December 20th 1943

Rolt asked Herbert if he could paint the design for the front cover on his book Narrow Boat. He enclosed a sketch.

Addressed:
Mr H Tooley,
Tooley’s Boat Yard,
Factory St.,
Banbury, Oxon.

Postmarked Redditch 20 Dec 1943

envelope20-12-43

MB ‘Cressy’,
New Wharf,
December 20th 1943 Tardebigge,
Nr Bromsgrove, Worcs.

Dear Herbert,
I have another favour to ask you and that is I have been wondering whether you could paint me a jacket design for my book. The publishers are in favour of the idea and I feel it would be grand if you could. I enclose a rough idea of the type of thing I have in mind. This is actual size taken from a specimen cover given to me. If it is too small for you I suggest you double the dimensions which will keep the proportions the same. Presumably you would paint it on a piece of ply wood. The lettering I have shown is naturally not intended as an exact model. The idea is that it should be exactly the same as the lettering you put on The red bands of the water cans (shaded blue?). The vertical red stripe and lettering forms, of course, the back spine of the cover and the space after the title here is left intentionally so that author and illustrator’s names can be superimposed in small black letters. The Green ground and white edging on the front would be exactly the same as you finish the stools.

Please let me know if you can do this, I do hope you can. If so I will ask the publishers what they are accustoned to pay for a cover design and give you the same amount.

Best wishes to you all for Christmas and the New Year.

Yours Sincerely,

L T C Rolt

Rolt Letter 20-12-43 p1
Rolt Letter 20-12-43 p2
Rolt Letter 20-12-43 p3 - Narrow Boat Book Cover Design

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3. January 5th 1944

Rolt is delighted Herbert can do the painting.

Addressed:
Mr H Tooley,
11 Factory Street,
Banbury, Oxon

Postmarked Bromsgrove 4.30pm 6 Jan 1944

envelope6-1-44

MB ‘Cressy’,
New Wharf,
Tardebigge,
Bromsgrove.

January 5th 1944

Dear Herbert,

I was delighted to get your letter and to hear that you will be able to paint the cover design – and actual size too which is splendid, I was afraid that it would be too small for you. I shall look forward immensely to getting it, but don’t pack it off too promptly so that the wrapping sticks to the varnish! That would be a tragedy.

No terrific hurry for the stool, and don’t send it to me here; just tell me when it is finished and then I’ll decide whether to ask you to send it direct to my friend or whether to collect it myself and take it down to him.

Yes, thanks, the paint arrived safely and will do splendidly until such time as I can collect the full quantity.

Many thanks and good wishes

Yours sincerely,

L T C Rolt

Rolt Letter 5-1-44 p1
Rolt Letter 5-1-44 p2

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4. January 23rd 1944

The painting has arrived and Rolt is sending it to the publisher.

No envelope.

‘Cressy’
New Wharf,
Tardebigge,
Bromsgrove, Worcs.

23/1/44

Dear Herbert,

Just a line to acknowledge safe receipt of the cover design and to thank you very much indeed for what I consider a really masterly piece of work. I can assure you I am grateful for the pains you have obviously taken over it and the result exceeds my expectations. It is good of you to offer to make another shot at it but I hope this wont be necessary. If the final decision rested with me it would certainly not be, but of course it is for my publishers to decide and it may be that for reasons about which I am as ignorant as you are they may suggest some alteration.

I am sending it up to them straight away and I will let you know as soon as I hear their verdict.

Till then renewed thanks and good wishes.

Yours sincerely,

L T C Rolt

Rolt Letter 23-1-44 p1
Rolt Letter 23-1-44 p2

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5. July 1st 1946

Chatty letter about his proposed travels in Ireland on the River Shannon, and the Grand and Royal Canals.

Note: Tulach Mhor (Tullamore) in County Offaly is a small town (pop 16,000) on the Grand Canal, approximately half way between Dublin and Galway. Rolt was sailing from Athlone to Dublin.

Postmarked Tulach Mhor 9.15pm 2 … 46

Addressed:
Mr Herbert Tooley,
Factory Street,
Banbury, Oxon.
England.

envelope2-7-46

As from: The Cottage,
Stanley Pontlarge,
July 1st 1946. Gretton,
Nr Cheltenham,
Glos.

Dear Herbert,
I expect you’ve wondered how we have been getting on. Well, we had a very good journey over and eventually reached the boat at Athlone to find that she was only just off the slip, had been driven up on the mud while she tightened up, and that the engine had not been started since before the war! Also that we had no petrol and no paraffin to cook with. Not a very encouraging start.

However, we managed to scrounge enough paraffin and have got a petrol ration of 15 gallons month which is pretty good. We have also managed to get the engine running satisfactorily after a lot of work, and last Tuesday we set off down the Shannon. We are now at Tullamore on the Grand Canal on our way to Dublin. It is a fine wide canal with plenty of water, and in this small boat we slip along. The locks are a bit awkward as they are rather deep and for some curious reason there are no steps at the lock tails so that boat crews have to jump onto the banks below the locks as best they can. As boats work at night, this is risky, and they say one man is drowned on the canal every year.

We hope to return from Dublin to the Shannon by the Royal Canal and so back to Athlone.

I hope the old boat is alright and that you will be able to do a bit to her before we return, as we should like to get back on board again pretty soon.

Best wishes from us both,

Yours,

R T C Rolt

Rolt Letter 1-7-46 P1
Rolt Letter 1-7-46 P2

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6. August 4th 1947

Rolt wants some cabin doors made. He needs to borrow items for an IWA display. He writes of his cruise on the Shropshire Union Canal.

No cover.

M.B.”Cressy”,
Hampton Bank Wharf,
Welshampton,
Nr Ellesmere, Salop.

August 4th 1947

Dear Herbert,

I find my aft cabin doors are getting into rather a bad way, and in any case they have always looked odd being apparently standard boat cabin doors hung upside down. I am wondering if you could make me up another pair panelled and painted in the usual way i.e. castles at the top and panel of roses below In case the size is non-standard the overall dimensions of the doorway are: height 37”, width 203/4.

We are beginning to assemble things for the I.W.A. exhibition in London this autumn, and it has struck me that these doors would make a good addition to the collection. Could you possible have them done for my collection at the end of September do you think? If so I can take them to London. All that is required would be the doors without hinges and fittings (which can be taken off the old ones later), the inside finished decorated but the outside in primer only. The outside will not be seen in the Exhibition, and can be painted to tally with the existing paintwork when they come to be fitted to ‘Cressy” later.
I am trying to assemble as many different examples of painted ‘bits and pieces’ as possible, and hope to include:

A tunnel lantern.
A cratch decorated with a castle.
A horse-boat tiller.
A stand decorated.
A slide.

I may get some of these things elsewhere, but the more the merrier so if you can have any of these things available by September end so much the better. They will, of course, be returned to you when the exhibition is over.

We have got up this canal with great difficulty. Not only is there much weed and little water, but we found that the locks, always very narrow, have come in owing to last winter’s frost. But for the fact that ‘Cressy’ was built for this canal we should never have got up, and as it was I spent a day at the bottom of Grindley Brook locks taking off “high spots’ from the planking with a wood chisel (there being no one about with an adze).

Then by covering the hull with grease and with the help of a block and tackle in one lock we managed to get up. Had we not done so we should have had to stern haul back eight miles to the junction at Hurleston.

We plan to leave here about August 15th, and assuming we do not get hopelessly stuck somewhere on this canal we hope to reach Gayton Arm End, Blisworth the first week in September. I intend to moor there for a few weeks as it is a good centre from which to collect exhibits and get them up to London. I will come over from there to get the things from you. When the work of the exhibition is over I expect we shall return to the Oxford Canal at or near Banbury.

I’m afraid that the ‘mock up’ boat cabin idea is going to fall through as Ealing Studios have destroyed the cabin they had made for PAINTED BOATS and we have been unable to find anyone with the necessary material and knowledge to make one.
With best wishes to you, George and Mrs Tooley,

Yours sincerely,

R T C Rolt

Rolt Letter 4-8-47 P1
Rolt Letter 4-8-47 P2

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