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Acts of Abandon


One Act abandoned a canal, one brought a new (if rather unorthodox) activity to another.

The Muck and Shovel Brigade

In 1939 an Act of Parliament legally abandoned the, now fully restored, Droitwich Canal. And after the war a couple of enterprising women discovered that no-one had got round to repealing an 18th century law that allowed a brothel on a boat…

The Muck and Shovel Brigade began with a commission for Heather to take part in The Ring project, an arts programme celebrating the 21-mile loop of natural and historic waterways. Linking the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, the Droitwich Canals and the River Severn, the route flows through the urban and rural landscapes of Worcester and Droitwich.

The show follows the life, and near death, of the Droitwich as volunteers campaign, cajole and labour for over fifty years to bring it back into use after the Act of Parliament in 1939 that had legally abandoned it. A moving tale of reeds and brambles, wellies, anoraks and mud up to your knees.

The Mary Rose:
a boat of ill repute

A boat, a brothel and a long forgotten law… It all adds up to some pretty racy goings on in Wolvercote on the Southern Oxford. Another Act of Parliament, passed in the early 18th century, but never repealed, allowed a brothel on a boat – as long as there were no more than two customers on board at any one time! Based on an allegedly true story, The Mary Rose – a boat of ill repute tells a tale of two women who weren’t breaking the law – which did not amuse the local constabulary…

Kate wrote the play after being introduced to the story via a railway magazine – a contributor had written an article about his uncle who had been the signalman on the nearby railway. The details were sketchy so she just let her imagination fill in the gaps. Since then she has found another account of the story in a book on railway history, but no one in Wolvercote has ever admitted to remembering it, despite the rumoured queue on the towpath!

Acts of Abandon poster