Aim of the Lesson• To appreciate the art and designs from the Bargee community.• To understand the history and culture of the Bargee community• To produce a piece of art work that reflects the Bargee culture.
HistoryCanals started to be built in the middle ofthe 18th century, around 1759. They wereused to move heavy cargoes, such ascoal between cities and towns. Thefamilies who ran the narrow boats up anddown the canals were called Bargees orWater Gypsies.
Legislation• The Canal Boats Act of 1877 stated that as part of health and safety legislation the families must maintain their boats to a high standard. This included the painting of the boats on a regular basis. This encouraged the Bargees to think about the colours and the designs they would use on their individual boats. The traditional designs were established.
DecorationsThe Bargees developed a new system oftraditional decorations. Different parts ofthe boat were painted in several colours.On to the plain colours they paintedplaying cards symbols, they especiallyliked diamond shapes. They then paintedmotifs of castles, flowers, stars, moonsand ropes. Before long the decorationsmoved to buckets, flower pots and pans.
DesignsWhy these designs became standard is amystery. Ropes are an obvious choice,but why castles and roses should be sopopular the reason is not clear. One thingis for sure that the Bargees liked brightcolours and bold designs that werecheerful. All the designs were unique toeach family. Every boat would display thefamily name.
Activity• Produce a piece of art work that reflects the traditional Bargee designs.• Take a typical moveable object that you would find in your home and decorate it in the traditional Bargee designs.