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Fellows, Morton & Clayton Limited


Records of Fellows, Morton & Clayton Limited: toll ticket 1879, correspondence 1890-1905, director' reports 1890-1906, plans and drawings 1900-1938, accounts 1908-1909, booklet 1918, details of an apprenticeship 1920, docking book 1940s.



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Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

James Fellows started Fellows, Morton & Clayton Limited in Birmingham in 1837. It initially transported foodstuffs. Fellows' son, Joshua, took over the business in 1855 and expanded it. A major opportunity arose when, in 1876, the Grand Junction Canal company decided to stop its carrying and sold off their boats. Joined by Frederick Morton, Joshua Fellows bought part of the Grand Junction Canal company's fleet. Further boats were acquired in 1887. Thomas Clayton joined the company two years later, at which time it had a fleet of 379 boats. The Clayton family already had a carrying business, but this was split so that the general trade went to Fellows, Morton & Clayton, whilst Thomas Clayton (Oldbury) Ltd became a specialist bulk liquid carrying company. As the largest carrier on the Grand Junction Canal, they had a lot of influence. In their quest to improve the navigation from London to the Trent, they were instrumental in the Grand Junction's purchase of the Grand Union and Old Union canals in 1894. The company dominated much of the Warwickshire trade, too. Fly boats services went to London, Nottingham, Coventry and several other major towns. Other services went from Birmingham to Manchester and Liverpool. From 1896 they owned two boat docks, at Saltley and Uxbridge, where their fleet was constructed and repaired. In 1920, they had 208 boats, including 21 steamers and 25 motorboats. It was clear that the steamers and horse boats were becoming obsolete, and by the 1930s almost the entire fleet had been converted to motors. During the period of conversion, the company's colours were changed from black and white, with white lettering shaded blue, to a red cabin bordered yellow and green, with white lettering. Many of the boats were named after birds, animals and rivers. The major difficulty for the company came not from outside railway competition, but from the introduction of legislation to restrict the working week. Fly boat services were affected, so the company concentrated on its foodstuffs and non-ferrous materials trade. Large-haul trade continued until World War II because it was able to compete with the railways, and had depots and offices right across the waterways network. After the war, the company began to make a loss and eventually they sold their fleet to the Docks & Inland Waterways Executive and went into voluntary liquidation in 1949. For further information on Fellows, Morton & Clayton Limited see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain any original structure of record-keeping from the small number of records held for this company. The fonds has therefore been arranged in chronological order.