'I have never seen anything ugly in my life, for let the form of an object be what it will, light, shade and perspective will make it beautiful'
- John Constable 1776 - 1837 -

  • Welcome to Derek Pratt's
    Waterways Photo Library.

    A collection of images on all aspects of
    Britain's inland waterways.

    Extensive knowledge and authority gained by forty years exploring Britain’s canals and rivers, is reflected in Derek Pratt’s photography and writing of monthly articles in one of Britain’s leading waterway magazines.

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    Size of the Waterways Photo Library

    Derek Pratt's digital coverage of the entire navigable waterway system is almost completed. An archival collection of over 80,000 images consisting of medium format and 35mm transparencies are available in their original form or by selective scanning. There is also a large collection of black and white images mostly in medium format.

  • Welcome to the website of
    Derek Pratt. Waterways Photo Library.

    derek at his desk

    Waterways Photo Library exclusively features the photography of Derek Pratt and contains over 80,000 images ranging from the 1960s to the present day. The library covers all aspects of canals and navigable rivers throughout Britain, and is constantly being updated. It includes views of the landscape from meadows and mountains to industrial scenes of towns and cities in all seasons. Waterway architecture features bridges, aqueducts, locks, tunnels and all types of buildings from old mills to modern developments. Every kind of boat is here from commercial tankers, working canal boats to all types of pleasure craft. The selection of images on this site will give an impression of the diversity and quality of the collection.

    Derek Pratt is a specialist photographer and writer about Britain's inland waterways. He began photographing the canals and rivers in the early 1960s and formed his Waterways Photo Library in 1968. He is the author of nine books on various aspects of the waterways and co-author with waterway historian Anthony Burton on another eight books. He helped launch a new monthly waterways magazine Canal Boat in June 1996 and is their main features writer and photographer.

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  • Aqueducts

    Almond Aqueduct - Union Canal, Scotland
    Dundas Aqueduct,  Kennet & Avon Canal
    Edstone Aqueduct Stratford - Avon Canal
    Marple Aqueduct
    North Circular Road Aqueduct - London
    Pontcysyllte Aqueduct - Llangollen Canal
    Chirk Aqueduct - Llangollen Canal
    Avoncliffe Aqueduct - Top View
    Lune Aqueduct
    Crossing the Sow Aqueduct


    Dukinfield near Manchester 1974
    Hassall Green Trent & Mersey Canal
    Horseley Iron Works Bridge
    Plank Lane Lift Bridge
    Millennium Bridge - York
    Millennium footbridge and St Paul's Cathedral
    Tower Bridge - River Thames London
    Westminster Bridge - London
    Windmill End Junction - Dudley Canal
    Clifton Suspension Bridge - Bristol

    Riverside Buildings

    Barrel Roofed Lock Cottage - Stratford Canal
    City Hall - London
    Oracle Shopping Centre - Reading
    Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigations
    Waterway Museum - Gloucester
    Woolwich Flood Barrier
    St Katharine Dock, London
    Worsley Delph - Manchester
    Millennium Dome - O2 Arena
    Olympic Park - East London


    Tudor Pageant at Teddington Lock
    Bingley Five Rise Locks
    Caen Hill Locks - Kennet & Avon Canal
    Bratch Locks - Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal
    Delph Locks - Dudley Canal 1973
    Devizes Locks - Kennet & Avon Canal
    Rochdale Canal Manchester
    Seabrook Lock - Grand Union Canal
    Stoke Bruerne - Grand Union Canal
    Benson Lock - River Thames

    The River Thames

    'Swan Uppers' at Reading - River Thames
    Woolwich Ferry
    Bisham Abbey - Marlow
    Clifton Hampden
    Henley Regatta - River Thames
    Infant Thames near Cricklade
    Poppy Field at Culham

    Painted Boats

    Narrow boat cabin
    Hotel Boats
    Painted Boat
    David Suchet opening the Braunston Boat Show
    Narrow boat cabin
    Narrow boat cabin top
    Painted water can - Stoke Bruerne
    Braunston - Grand Union Canal
    Painted Water Cans

    London Waterways

    Westminster sunset
    Camden Lock
    Canary Wharf
    Snowdon's Aviary - London Zoo
    Millenium Bridge - from top of St Pauls Cathedral
    Paddington Rolling Bridge
    Regents Canal - Regents Park
    Richmond Bridge
    Vauxhall Bridge

    Scottish Waterways

    Laggan Cut - Caledonian Canal
    Clyde Puffer - Caledonian Canal
    Corpach - Caledonian Canal
    Crinan Canal
    Falkirk Wheel Aqueduct
    Falkirk Wheel
    Laggan - Caledonian Canal
    Crinan Canal
    Edinburgh - Union Canal
    Forth & Clyde Canal -  Glasgow

    Four Seasons

    Black Jacks Lock - Grand Union Canal
    Caldon Canal
    Basingstoke Canal
    River Stort
    Denham Deep lock - Grand Union Canal
    Hanwell - Grand Union Canal
    Weedon - Grand Union Canal
    Somerton - Oxford Canal
    Harefield - Grand Union Canal
    Walton on Thames

    Towns and Cities

    Dunkirk 'Little Ships' - Canary Wharf
    Dukinfield Junction - East Manchester
    Farmer Bridge Locks - Birmingham
    Gas Street - Birmingham
    Hebden Bridge - Yorkshire
    Straight Mile - Leicester
    Pier Head - Liverpool Link
    Two Canals - Birmingham
    Todmorden - Rochdale Canal 1973


    Blisworth Tunnel - Grand Union Canal
    Brandwood Tunnel - Stratford On Avon Canal
    Cleveland House - Bath
    Dudley Tunnel - West Midlands
    Harecastle Tunnel - Trent & Mersey Canal
    Inside Newbold Tunnel - Oxford Canal
    Standedge Tunnel - Huddersfield Narrow Canal
    Tardebigge Tunnel - Worcester & Birmingham Canal
    Braunston Tunnel - Grand Union Canal
    Bruce Tunnel - Kennet and Avon Canal

    Wildflowers And Birds

    Heron - Close Up
    Nesting Coot
    Wild flowers by the River Thames
    Purple Loosestrife
    Floral Display - Calder & Hebble Canal
    River Thames
    Swan Family

    Working boats

    Brentford Dock - loading barge - 1971
    Bristol Floatibng Harbour
    Goole coal hoist - 1970
    Narrowboats carrying coal - 1960s
    Tanker at Ferrybridge - Aire & Calder Navigation
    Tom Puddings, Aire & Calder - 1969
    Working narrow boats - Stoke Bruerne
    Working narrowboat pair - Hawkesbury - 1968

    Dogs on boats

    Waterside Pubs

    The Admiral Nelson at Braunston
    The Barge Inn
    The Cross Keys - Penkridge
    The Navigation Pub sign
    Navigation Pub at Barrow-on-Soar
    Interior of a canalside pub
    The Globe Inn
    The Grove Lock
    The Boat Inn sign
    The Two Boats sign
  • Derek Pratt Biography

    Derek Pratt started on his photographic career after leaving school, when he became a photographer’s assistant in central London. It was during this period that his enthusiasm for Britain’s waterways began. At this time the canals’ long tradition of commercial carrying had come to an end and the leisure use of the navigable canals and rivers was being promoted. British Waterways decided to publish the first ever series of guides to the waterways and Derek’s employer was asked to take the photographs to illustrate the books. Derek accompanied him as an assistant on the first two books and became so keen on photographing the canals that his employer let him do the rest of the guide books on his own. These were Derek’s first professional photographic jobs, illustrating British Waterways’ first set of guides called the Blue Books, after the colour of their covers.

    From then on, his employer left him to do any of the waterways jobs that came in. When, years later, the company went into administration, Derek bought the copyright of all the waterways photography from his employer, who gave him the negatives. After a trip to South Africa as a ship’s photographer, Derek decided to become self-employed.

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  • The Waterways Book Collection by Derek Pratt

    The Thames

    The Thames

    A photographic journey from source to sea was published in 2008 and a second edition in 2012. It looks at Britain's most famous river from its humble beginning emerging from a hole at the edge of a field in Wiltshire to its maturity passing through London and eventually into the sea.

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    Waterways Past and Present

    Waterways Past and Present

    Waterways Past and Present was published in 2006. It features canals and rivers throughout Britain. Contemporary photos are in colour while older and archival shots are reproduced in black and white. This book was updated and a second edition was published in 2015.

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    Urban Waterways

    Urban Waterways

    Published in 2012, takes a contemporary look at rivers and canals in towns and cities throughout England occasionally comparing the changes that have taken place over the past 50 years.

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    More Books
  • The Waterways Book Collection Contined

    Londons Waterways

    Londons Waterways

    London's Waterways, published in 2010, looks at the River Thames in London and the network of canals that thread throughout the capital city. It also examines some of the lesser known rivers which are tributaries of the Thames.

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    Londons Waterways

    Great Waterways Journeys

    Great Waterways Journeys describes a 780 mile long journey along the connected inland waterways of England beginning in leafy Surrey and ending in Bristol Docks via the hills of north Yorkshire. The industrial landscape of the West Midlands contrast with moorland scenery on the Pennine hills. Famous towns and cities like Oxford, Bath and Guildford are visited.

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    Londons Waterways

    Greasy Ocker

    Greasy Ocker, published in 2005, was Derek Pratt's first novel. It tells the story of two young canal boatmen whose lives eventually follow different courses. One continues trying making a honest living as a boatman in the family tradition at a time when commercial carrying on the canals was in sharp decline. The other leaves the waterway life and becomes the associate of a London gangster. Their lives are dramatically reunited when both characters are involved in a famous train robbery.

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  • Contact Info

    Please feel free to contact Derek using the featured email link. If you are interested in purchasing or using any of the images in the collection for any of your projects, or if you would like to discus available options with him personally then please get in touch.

    Or simply if you just want to say hello and let him know what you think about his work. Derek would be more than happy to hear from you!

  • About Derek Pratt Continued...

    Derek Pratt

    He began using a digital camera in 2006 and has now digitally photographed most of the waterway system. His collection of medium format and 35mm transparencies in colour, plus medium format black and white dating back to the 1960s, are being scanned and form part of the library.

    Derek Pratt's extensive knowledge of Britain's inland waterways is reflected in his photography and his books. The most recent of these is the quartet Urban Waterways (2012), London's Waterways (2010), The Thames (2008) and Waterways Past and Present (2006). He also illustrated the trilogy Anatomy of Canals where his photography complemented the text of waterway historian Anthony Burton. His novel Greasy Ocker is a thriller set among the canals of London and the Black Country.

    Great Water Ways Journeys

    Great Waterways Journeys

    Following the publication of Urban Waterways in 2012 my publisher asked me if I had any ideas for another book. I decided to describe a 780 mile circuit around the connected inland waterways of England. My intention was to show the amazing diversity of landscape and scenery that can be experienced along England's waterway system. There were several possible permutations for this journey but after careful thought I decided on the one described in Great Waterways Journeys which was published in the summer of 2015.

  • Biography Continued

    Derek Pratt

    He approached British Waterways and they started commissioning him for their staff magazine and later for their publicity. He continued to explore the canals and rivers for his own interest and the subsequent photography formed the foundation of the Waterways Photo Library.

    Apart from his waterway photography, Derek has worked as an industrial and commercial location photographer with clients in road transport, such as the National Freight Corporation, Freightliners, Pickfords and British Road Services. He travelled extensively throughout western Europe, taking photographs for brochures and publicity material for several international freight companies. He also illustrated publicity features for different companies in building trade magazines, as well as for plastics and rubber companies.

    He worked with the publicity department for the Post Office, including a memorable commission photographing post office ‘buses’ in rural Wales, a transport service provided for the public by the Post Office.

    Another of Derek’s specialities was portraits: he photographed executives for annual reports, when he often transformed the company boardroom into a studio! He also photographed several celebrities for the National Association of Boys’ Clubs annual poster: these included the late Sir Patrick Moore, Ronnie Barker and boxer, John Conteh.

    Within the field of waterways, Derek’s photography has illustrated most of the top boat hire companies’ annual brochures. He also supplies firms with photos for calendars. He has been the main supplier of photographs for the Nicholson Waterway Guides since the first issue in the early 1970s. And he has undertaken photography for the Environment Agency and has a long association with British Waterways, now the Canal and River Trust.

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  • Terms of use and copyright information

    Waterways Photography By Derek Pratt

    Copyright Information

    All images on this website are the property of Derek Pratt and the property of the Waterways Photo Library © 2013. For further enquires about copyright information, use or purchase of any images in the Waterways photo library, then please email enquiries@waterwaysphotolibrary.com

Derek Pratt Copyright 2015