Interview 20 - Jane Rouse, Wilf and Sylvester Howes

Jane Rouse, Wilf and Sylvester Howes, who live on a boat on the Oxford Canal

Interviewer: Maria Parsons
Total recording time: 1 hr : 6 min : 36 sec


  • Jane Rouse with her sons, Wilf Howse (14) and Sylvester Howse (12) were interviewed on their boat at Thrupp
Access available in Oxfordshire History Centre and Libraries only

Click on track number below to play

Track Content summary Length
20.1 Jane begins by explaining her decision to buy a boat on the Oxford Canal in Wolvercote in 1995 as a means to getting onto the housing ladder. However she found life aboard was so satisfying that she has still living on the canal in 2014. 2 min : 10 sec
20.2 Jane describes living aboard a boat as ‘addictive’ listing the friendliness of the boating community, low impact lifestyle, easy moving and travelling and living in beautiful surroundings as the reasons for her continuing her residential boating life. The sense of ‘belongingness’ Jane feels includes boaters passed when cruising further afield. Jane describes the canal as ‘a linear village’. 2 min : 54 sec
20.3 Wilf talks about growing up on a boat and what his school mates think. He acknowledges his ‘difference’ but thinks positively about this. His mother suggests that growing up on a boat has encouraged the development of his technical skills (steering the boat, opening locks) as well as social skills and musical skills (there is a preponderance of musicians on the canal). 11 min : 36 sec
20.4 The family got to know Jack and Rose Skinner well as Jane’s second boat was moored near the Skinner’s cottage in Kidlington, Oxfordshire. Jane recalls the advice Rose gave her about what she called the ‘babbies’ and the help she gave to leisure boaters whose knots were tied wrongly.

Although changes have clearly taken place on narrow boats in terms of who lives in them and how, what Jane stresses is that sharing knowledge (and tools) and mutual assistance remain as strong as ever amongst boaters.
8 min : 27 sec
20.5 Jane discusses the ongoing issues associated with canal moorings, and life in Thrupp, being fortunate to be slightly removed from urban living. 3 min : 1 sec
20.6 Jane describes her spinning of yarn and knitting. She emphasises how settled she is in her life and place as a narrowboat resident. Sylvester talks about his life on the boat. 10 min : 49 sec
20.7 Jane returns to a core theme in many interviews- of ‘the boater as the outsider’ and acknowledges that she is aware that boaters are regarded to some extent as weird hippies pursuing an alternative lifestyle. She sometimes waits before disclosing she lives on a boat for this reason. 19 min : 24 sec
20.8 At the end of the interview Jane, Wilf and Sylvester talk about cats on boats and their swimming and hunting prowess. 8 min : 12 sec