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IWA National Awards

Every year the Association invites nominations for its National Awards, to recognise members and other waterway campaigners who have contributed to the Association’s work and made the inland waterways a better.  The National Awards are:

The Cyril Styring Trophy: For an IWA member who has, in the opinion of trustees, made an outstanding contribution in furthering the Association’s campaign.  This is the Association’s premier award.

The Christopher Power Prize: For a person, society or trust who has made the most significant contribution to the restoration of an inland waterway.  There is a cash prize associated with this award, which is given to the waterway restoration group associated with the winner, where the winner is a named individual.  The aims and objectives of the group must be consistent with IWA’s aims and objectives.  The trophy, a carved wooden otter, was presented to the Association by Volvo Penta.

The John Heap Salver: For an IWA member who, in the opinion of the trustees, has made an outstanding contribution to raising funds for the Association.  The trophy, a silver salver, was provided by then IWA trustee John Heap (who subsequently became national chairman) and first presented at the Association’s National Rally at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal.

The Vivian Bulkeley Johnson Salt: For the person or organisation who, in the opinion of trustees, upon a recommendation from IWA’s Inland Waterways Freight Group, has made an outstanding contribution to the furtherance of commercial waterways transport in the United Kingdom.   The trophy is a hall-marked solid silver salt, presented by Vivian Bulkeley Johnson, a former IWA treasurer from the 1950s and member of the Rothschild banking family, who financed the Willow Wren carrying operation.

[Photo shows Audrey Smith OBE receiving the Cyril Styring Trophy from then national chairman Ivor Caplan in 2018]

The Branch Achievement Award: For the IWA branch which, in the opinion of a panel consisting of the national chairman, deputy national chairmen and chief executive, has made the greatest progress and achievement in promoting the Association’s aims and objectives during the past year.  All branches are considered, without need for nomination.  The award consists of silver salver, donated to IWA by former national chairman David Stevenson, for the purpose, in 1998.

Richard Bird Medals: For members of the Association whose efforts and support are considered to have brought significant benefit to the Association over a sustained period.  From 2013 onwards, no more than six medals are likely to be awarded in any one year.

Nominations for the awards (except the Branch Achievement Award) should be submitted to [email protected] by no later than 31st May each year.  An Awards Panel makes recommendations to trustees, who determine recipients.  Awards are then usually presented at the national Annual General Meeting.


[Photo: Bernard Moreton receives the Branch Achievement Award on behalf of Northampton Branch at the 2018 AGM]

So just who was Cyril Styring?

The Association’s premier award, the Cyril Styring Trophy, is a hallmarked solid silver narrow boat mounted on a wooden plinth decorated with name plates for each award winner.  But just who was Cyril Styring, and how did the trophy come about?

Cyril Styring started boating on the River Thames in a wide beam cruiser shortly after the end of the Second World War.  Soon afterwards he met and became a close friend of IWA founder Robert Aickman, and although living and working in Sheffield he regularly cruised on the Thames and was active in IWA’s campaign to save the Basingstoke Canal.  In 1950 Cyril organised local IWA members to form a Sheffield sub-Branch of IWA’s then North East Branch, which was based in Leeds, and was its chairman until it became the North East Midlands Branch in 1954.  A formal dinner in Sheffield celebrating the formation of the new Branch was addressed by Robert Aickman and Ray Slack, an active member from North West Region and a donor of IWA’s Offley-Slack propeller (a festivals trophy). The dinner was Cyril’s last public event.  He was ill at the time, and within two months he died.

In 1952, members of the Sheffield sub-Branch were tiring of meeting at one another’s houses and decided to purchase a boat on which to hold meetings and give the public trips on the summit pound of the canal from its base in Sheffield Basin. An old iron BCN day-boat was found at Guest, Keen & Nettlefold’s in Birmingham and the boat was bow-hauled by members over several weeks down the canals towards the river Trent.  An outboard motor was then fitted for the trip down the tidal Trent once the towpath had disappeared.

[The photos show Sheffield Basin and the canal in its commercial heyday]


On its arrival on the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation a new transom stern was fitted inside the boat and ten feet was cut off the back end to allow it to pass through the short locks and up to Sheffield Basin. On its arrival in the Basin the members continued to raise funds to fit out the boat for its new purpose and other members fitted new bulkheads and other items.  But the scheme was dogged by ill-luck, several times the boat sank – Sheffield Basin is over ten feet deep so recovery was no easy task – and finally just after Cyril ‘s death it was badly damaged and beyond repair.  In the mid-1950s over one million tons of cargo came to Sheffield Basin each year by boat; mainly grain, timber and oil products – so it was a busy place.

Following the demise of the boat the Branch Committee decided to put the residue of the money towards the purchase of a memorial to its late chairman: in the form of a silver narrow boat. This was to be awarded annually to the person, not being a member of Council (IWA’s then national governing committee), doing the most for IWA’s campaign effort.  The award appears never to have been made by the North East Midlands Branch.  Rather, it appears that the Cyril Styring Trophy was given to Head Office for awarding by Council.

The Cyril Styring Trophy was made in Sheffield and is hallmarked for the year 1955.  In 1988, the original plinth had become filled with the name plates of recipients, and David Francis of the then IWA Nottingham, Leicester & Derby Branch made an additional base.  In the 1990s, the tiller, which was not attached, became lost.  A new permanently fitted tiller was commissioned in 1997.