Restoring the Liddesdale Canoe

The Liddesdale Canoe

Cliveden has always made the most of its position on the Thames.  This was never more so than during the early part of the twentieth century when the Astors and their guests enjoyed pleasure cruising up and down ‘Cliveden Reach’, a beautiful stretch of the river running directly below the house. One of the many boats the family used was a specially commissioned electric canoe called The Liddesdale. Elegantly constructed from mahogany and upholstered with crimson velvet cushions and a royal blue canopy, it was the jewel in the Astor’s boat collection for many years. 

By the 1950s The Liddesdale had fallen out of favour and into disrepair.  In 2015 it was bought by the National Trust and could be found quietly lying in Cliveden’s old gas yard.  It could have easily ended its days there but the Trust felt that it deserved to be restored to its former glory and began a fundraising campaign to “Save the Liddesdale”.  The boat is important in being one of the UK’s few remaining electric canoes and captures the spirit of Cliveden in its heyday.  

In 2017 we initiated a fundraising appeal to ‘save the Liddesdale’ and we’ve been collecting donations from our visitors and local Centres and Associations ever since. We’ve raised nearly £20,000 to date and are now able to undertake this exciting conservation project. We can’t wait to see it completed and let our visitors enjoy canoe trips along the very same stretch of Cliveden Reach that entertained guests for centuries. 

When restored visitors will have the chance to take guided canoe trips along this wonderful bit of the Thames as guests did nearly a century ago..

Latest updates


Restoration begins

A team of recently graduated boat restorers from the International Boatbuilding College in Portsmouth were commissioned to undertake the restoration. The boat was stripped of paint and varnish; degraded planks and timbers repaired; stern gear, batteries and corroded metal parts replaced and a new canopy and cushions added. The overriding aim is to keep as much of the original fabric in place as possible.


The National Trust acquires The Liddesdale

The National Trust was given first refusal on buying the Liddesdale and, thanks to funding from generous donors, was able to purchase it. Although the boat was in desperate need of restoration at the time of purchase, it's acquisition made it one of only a few boats within the Trust’s collections and therefore a very important investment in history.


The voyage home

In 1990, the canoe was bought by the director of Cliveden House Hotel and restored for use as part of its flotilla until 2012.