Daniel Stratfull (the great-grandfather of Mrs Williams who was to collect together all this family information many years later) was born in Marsworth in 1855. He was the fifth child of William Stratfield and Ann Brooks. By the age of twenty, in 1875, he had moved to Paddington, where he was employed as a labourer and lived in North Wharf Road.
In 1875 he married Eliza Owen at St. Mary's Church, Paddington. His brother, Frederick Peter Stratfield, was to marry at St. Mary Magdalene, Paddington, in 1882. From 1877 to 1886 Daniel was a boatman, first on the barge 'Polhe', based at Paddington Basin, but later on barges at Southall and North Hyde.
Daniel and Ann were to have 14 children, of whom five died very young and four of his surviving sons became boatmen. By 1883 the family had returned to North Wharf Road, living for short periods at Nos.15, 44, and 14.
Then came the great slump of 1887, when hundreds of people in Paddington were unemployed and Paddington Recreation Ground was built, largely as a public works effort to employ them, instead of pauperising them and forcing decent people, only too willing to work, into the Workhouse. There is no record of Daniel Stratfull having been employed in 1887, so he may well have worked on this project. (See pages 146-150).
In 1888 the family moved to 38 North Wharf Road where they remained until at least 1905.
Between 1888 and 1914, Daniel worked as a labourer and a car man. Then, in 1915, in the middle of the First World War, he become a boatman again. When he died in 1920, at the age of 65, he was a Borough Council labourer. During this long period he had lived in at least four addresses in North Wharf Road and also in the adjoining Dudley Street. Thus, apart from his travels on the boats, he had moved only a few hundred yards in thirty-five years.
In 1925, Daniel's widow Eliza, then aged 68, married George Matthews, a boatman of South Wharf Road, himself the son of a boatman. Clearly, the canal and boat fraternity was very close knit, knowing each other, being related in complicated networks, passing and re-passing each other daily. A community of the water and dockside.
The only other comment is that this complete history has been slowly and painfully recovered from certificates and census returns by Mrs Barbara Williams (nee Stratfull). No family records at all had been passed down. This highlights the need to start collecting details of family history as soon as possible.
I am extremely grateful to Mrs Williams for permission to publish this summary of her researches.
William Stratfield is mentioned as a boatman and labourer at Wilstone and, in 1855, became the lock-keeper at Marsworth. In 1859 he took over Wilstone lock and, from then until his death in 1881, he moved from lock cottage to lock cottage at Marsworth, Wilstone, Drayton Beauchamp and Aston Clinton. These are all in the Tring/Aylesbury area, north of London.
In the years just before 1800 the Grand Junction Canal Company had constructed the 93 miles of canal from Braunston to Brentford.
The spur from Brentford to Paddington linked London to this system in 1801. In 1932 the Grand Union Canal was created to amalgamate 11 independent companies. Modernisation was planned after the Second World War, but after the Great Freeze in the winter of 1962-63, when barges were held fast in canals all over Britain, canal transport was dead. Slowly recreation would become the centre of canal life.