Hayes of Stony Stratford
One would normally expect ocean going steam ships to be built by the sea, but from the late 1800's to 1925, ocean tugs and launches nearly 70ft. long were built at Stony Stratford.
Edward Hayes (a young engineer from London) moved to Stony Stratford in 1840 and set up the London Road works (now the London Road Garage). The works made agricultural machines for the local area. Hayes became a pioneer in the operation of steam ploughing. This quickly lead the firm from making farm implements to portable steam engines with considerable success. With this encouragement he and his son began making marine engines. This led to them making their first boat.

Hayes reputation as a boat builder grew. By 1901 he was building twin-screw steam launches 70ft in length, 13ft. 8in. wide, with a draft of 4ft., and capable of doing 14 knots. He also built steam wheelers of 81ft. 6in. in length, 14ft. wide, with a draft of 1ft. 9in. His boats were ordered by the British Admiralty, the Russian Government, the French Government, the Egyptian Government, and the leading port and dock authorities. He also had orders from companies and private individuals from around the world.

So how were these boats delivered to the customer? Well, boats up to 70ft. were built at the London Road works then taken on a large chassis pulled by a steam traction engine, the mile to Old Stratford. Here, they were launched sideways into the canal at Hayes’s wharf. There they had their engines fitted and last adjustments made. The boats then had their funnels and deck fitments dismantled. The boats were towed down the inland waterways to the Thames at London. Here they were reassembled and sailed under their own steam to their destinations. Boats over 70ft were built at the London Road Works, then dismantled into sections and shipped as prefabricated units to be reassembled at their destination with the plans supplied. Hayes was again a pioneer in this means of construction.

Edward Hayes junior died in 1920, and five years later with steam power giving way to diesel power, London Road works closed. This brought to an end boat building in Stony Stratford. The last boat built was a Thames tug called Sparteolus which was launched in 1925, destined for the Port of London.

With the closure of the Hayes wharf on the Old Stratford canal in 1925, another use for the canal stopped, and its drift into decline continued.