Emblematically Speaking - Barnton

Tue 27th March 2018 | Barnton
By Stewart Taylor

Barnton FC

This week, we look at a clear design of an emblem which says something, and something quite significant, about the village the football club represents.

But first of all an admission. When I first glanced at this emblem my immediate thought was that the device across the top was a steam train. There we are, I’ve admitted it, who else thought the same thing? One or two I would suggest.

The straightforward nature of most of this emblem doesn’t really need any explanation.

The name of the club, the year of foundation, the presence of a football (a correct mix of pentagons and hexagons this time) and the black and white colourways (representing the playing colours) tell you most of what you need to know about the organisation represented by this emblem, but not quite all.

As we have seen previously, many emblems give at least a passing reference, sometimes in a slightly obscure way, to something which is important about where they represent.

Here we know that it is the village of Barnton, but the presence of the device at the top of the shield tells us a lot about the village and its origins. It is, as becomes clear at a second glance, a canal boat and, specifically, a narrowboat. The presence of our old friend the wavy line underneath the boat makes that abundantly clear.

The specific design of this narrowboat suggests that it was built, or at least adapted, for leisure use with the exposed tiller at the rear and an enclosed cabin with what appear to be windows.

This is somewhat opposite to the original role of such vessels – carrying freight. On an old style canal boat we see the larger space at the front (bow I suppose) being open to carry bulk freight, with a small cabin at the rear which acted as accommodation.

That the boat is described as a “narrow boat” is instructive, in that it defines the parts of the canal system which are accessible to such a vessel.

Many canals were designed to be suitable only for boats with a maximum width of 7 ft (2.13 metres in this new metric Britain of ours). This maximum being a function of lock design in that the narrower the lock the less water was required for a boat to traverse that lock.

An early example of environmentally inspired conservation of water one might think, but that would be misguided, as the real reasons were related to purely practical ones of water availability and, in some cases, cost.

As time went by and with the construction of more extensive road networks, the canal as an efficient method of transportation of bulk materials faded away to almost nothing, which is the situation we have today. The alternative use for canals as places for leisure pursuits and, specifically, canal cruising is now widespread and is responsible for the design of the narrowboat we see today, as depicted on the emblem of Barton AFC.

All well and good but what relevance does all of this have to the village of Barnton?

The growth of Barnton from a rural village to a settlement which now houses in excess of 5000 residents was largely due to the success of the Brunner, Mond & Co. company which had a large site in neighbouring Winnington and built many houses for its workers.

The business of Brunner Mond (now part of the Indian domiciled Tata Group) is in the production of alkaline chemicals, principally soda ash and sodium bicarbonate. These are bulk materials and, at the time of the formation of the company (1873), ideal for transporting by canal.

That the works was located by the navigable section of the River Weaver which links with the Trent and Mersey Canal was no coincidence. This allowed rapid, by the standards of the day, transportation of these bulk chemicals to operations which used them to make other products. Included amongst these was what came to be known as the Mond Division of ICI in Runcorn.

We could go on a short journey of the chemicals industry of this part of Cheshire right here and now but that would not really be appropriate given the nature of these articles. Suffice to say that this subject will be re-visited, at least in part, in a later article in this series.

But to go back to Barnton AFC we see, not for the first time, an emblem which seems to be relatively simple but contains a huge amount of information relating to both the village and the surrounding area simply by the use of one picture. Now what was that old saying about pictures and words…..

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