Young Bentham craftsman Billy discovers TV fame with his amazing space

Billy, Jayne and Matilda Walden with George Clarke during filming.
Billy, Jayne and Matilda Walden with George Clarke during filming.

At the age of just 15, Billy Walden transformed an old horsebox into a unique camper van all by himself – before he was legally allowed to drive it.

And now Billy has gone one step further, turning a battered old canal boat into a luxurious floating holiday home for himself, mum Jayne and little sister Matilda.

Billy Walden's canal boat.

Billy Walden's canal boat.

Billy – now 18 – featured on Channel 4 TV show George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces at the weekend – with his stunning work leaving the presenter lost for words.

“In all my years I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed by such a talented and humble craftsman,” architect and TV presenter George Clarke said. “This is nothing short of unbelievable.”

Billy worked on the derelict narrowboat on Lancaster Canal for six weeks over the summer, transforming it from its dilapidated state into a beautiful floating home.

The refurbishment was followed by a Channel 4 camera crew, and eventually featured on Amazing Spaces on Sunday evening to great acclaim.

The finished canal boat.

The finished canal boat.

Billy previously featured in the Guardian in 2016 after working on the camper van, but this latest project left a far wider audience stunned, with positive feedback across social media including a job offer.

“The feedback has been brilliant,” Jayne said. “Twitter was manic – I spent a day replying to people’s messages; it’s been unbelievable.

“Loads of people have been asking Billy what he is doing next and people are now following his website.

“He’s now having a think about what to do next.”

Billy Walden with his sister Matilda on the canal boat.

Billy Walden with his sister Matilda on the canal boat.

Billy was the youngest project manager to appear on Amazing Spaces and was also the first with two builds.

Billy, who was home educated and then trained in carpentry at Lancaster & Morecambe College, won a Skillbuild contest for the construction trade in the UK when he was only 16.

He is now in the process of setting up his own business in carpentry, vehicle restoration and antique sales, and has a website at https://billyarthurwalden.com/

“We originally applied for the programme when Billy was doing the camper van and got turned down, but they then emailed me and asked if we had any more projects, so I got in touch with them again when we got the boat,” Jayne said. “It was hard work and stressful but the end result was absolutely fantastic. It’s so good for Billy’s future, hopefully it’s a stepping stone for him.”

The front cover of Jayne Walden's book.

The front cover of Jayne Walden's book.

Jayne has also published a book – MatildaJayne, Our Great Canal Boat Journey – about the whole experience.

Copies can be bought from the family’s shop at GB Antiques at Lancaster Leisure Park, Lancaster Museum, Inspire gifts and gallery at 28 New Street or Assembled Books in King Street, as well as on Amazon.

The seating area inside the boat.

The seating area inside the boat.

Inside the boat.

Inside the boat.

The finished canal boat.

The finished canal boat.

Work ongoing on the canal boat.

Work ongoing on the canal boat.