CaRT to close floating bookshop

Published: Monday, 24 November 2014

LONDON'S only floating bookshop, Word on the Water, may be forced to close following a Canal & River Trust (CaRT) refusal of its application for a permanent mooring in Paddington Basin, writes Allan Richards.

The floating bookshop, which has a roving trading licence, was having problems trading due to increasing congestion on London's waterways so operated from a temporary mooring by arrangement with CaRT. However, its application for a permanent mooring has been refused in favour of an £8 billion conglomerate, British Land, that will operate a coffee shop.


Word On The Water, a 1920s Dutch coal barge now converted into a floating bookshop, has been operated for four years by two liveaboard boaters, Jon Privett and Paddy Screech, (pictured) selling second hand books and running poetry and music events on its stage roof. However, the bookshop has had increasing difficulties in finding casual mooring places from which to trade due to increasing congestion and has been operating on a static basis with the agreement of the Trust pending grant of a permanent mooring at Paddington Basin.

That CaRT was well aware of the wish to operate from a permanent mooring is confirmed by its own promotional website article ‘Word on water' which also promotes the itinerant lifestyle of some London Boaters. The article states: ‘Screech hopes to head up the Lee next but their main aim is to secure a permanent mooring for Word On The Water in Paddington. The book barge will remain in situ while Privett and Screech continue to explore London's waterways'.

British Land

However, as reported in narrowboatworld, the Trust went out to tender for two Paddington moorings (Trade moorings for London) choosing what it claimed was the best option.

.... and the best option just happened to be, British Land, CaRT's fellow partner in ‘The Paddington Partnership'—an £8 billion company that is suddenly eager to open a floating coffee shop and a ‘welcome centre'. Presumably, it had been noted that none of the dozen or so coffee shops in the area, including three Starbucks, were actually on the water.

Of course, British Land will need floating premises to operate from. Perhaps they can acquire the two remaining ‘Benny's barges' (Wasted millions) that failed to sell at auction over 18 months ago and convert them as shown in the picture.


Having failed to provide a permanent mooring for ‘Word on the Water', CaRT have revoked its temporary mooring arrangement and have written to the business reminding it of its obligation to move as a ‘continuous cruiser' with the implied threat that it will remove its licence and trading permit.

Inevitably, this has resulted in a petition which has already attracted over 2,000 signatures.

The CaRT PR machine is in ‘damage limitation mode', denying that it intends to force the barge from its waters and criticising its owners for starting a petition.


There used to be a rather poor joke or riddle ‘Why is BW like a centipede?' The answer was that the quango needed plenty of legs due to regularly shooting itself in the foot.

Perhaps the Trust's greatest achievement is that it has now become a millipede.

[Allan tells us that CaRT have removed the promotional article ‘Word on Water' from its website which now displays a blank page:]