Stowe Hill Wharf has its origins in the early days of the Grand Union Canal. Lime kilns were originally located on the southern part of the site, used for the construction industry. WWII photo’s show the Wharf with a cottage and warehouse by the road, although these were demolished to make way for the widened A5 road in the 60’s. In the late 60’s a business was established on the Wharf and a shop was built which sold Canal ware and groceries. A wholesale distribution business grew out of this and hire cruisers were added in the early 70’s. In 1976, Waterways Holidays moved from their hire fleet from their base in Cropredy on the south Oxford canal to the yard and took over the existing hire boats. The following year, construction began on excavating a mooring basin and building a full length Dry dock. The basin was opened the following year and the Dry dock building completed. At this time it was decided to establish a separate identity between Hire boats and Boat building and repair, and Stowe Hill Marine was established as a separate division.
With the consolidation of the Hire industry becoming a necessity, Mardyke Marine was absorbed into the business and by 1980, a fleet of 12 Narrowboats were being operated from Stowe Hill, as well as a 50 seat passenger boat. A marketing partnership was formed with Twinram Hireboat Company in Stoke on Trent, but with the country heading into recession, trading was difficult. By 1983, the hire fleet was sold off. Boat repair and fitting out continued during the early 80’s and in 1983, Pete and Julie Hill took control of Stowe Hill Marine. With Blisworth tunnel under a long term closure, and with the country set in a recession, times were tough.
Stowe Hill Marine soon began constructing fully fitted Narrowboats, with all work carried out on site, and by the time the Hill’s retirement from the business in 2005, some 150 new boats had been built, establishing a strong following throughout the inland boating world. By 2009, with the country in a severe recession, the then operator of Stowe Hill Marine was forced to close the business and more changes became necessary.