Stewarts & Lloyds Limited commissioned two new tugs from Yarwoods at Northwich, Cheshire who in 1934 built the hulls for tugs Number Four and Number Five. The cabin of Number Five was put on by Harris boat builders at Bumblehole, Netherton, Worcestershire soon after; it’s probable that Number Four’s cabin was completed at the same time. While under Stewarts & Lloyds ownership it is believed that the tugs were known only as Tug Number Four and Tug Number Five.
The two tugs were used to tow coal boats, known as ‘joeys’. A tug would pull four loaded joeys, each containing 40 tonnes of coal from the coalfields of Cannock, two of the joeys would be dropped off at Stewarts & Lloyds in Bilston, Staffs and the remaining loads of coal would be hauled on to the Halesowen works.
In June 1958 Tug Number Five was purchased by British Waterways and it was given the asset number 80384. The present engine, a 3 cylinder Lister HA with a Blackstone gearbox (dated January 1959) was probably installed in the boat by British Waterways during the late 1960’s. From the mid 1970’s until 1985 it was kept on behalf of British Waterways by Charlie Atkins Junior; the son of ‘Chocolate Charlie Atkins’. Charlie Junior lived at the top of Farmers Bridge Locks in Birmingham, Warwickshire. He used the tug for maintenance jobs and moving boats. It was during this time the tug was named ‘Bittell’. Tug Number Four came to be named ‘Pacific’.
Bittell continued to be run by British Waterways until 1990, when it was acquired by the Dudley Canal Trust. During the following year the Trust improved certain aspects of the boat. The cabin was refitted, the hull was repainted in Stewarts & Lloyds Limited colours and the inside painted. In the winter of 1999 the Trust and British Waterways undertook a restoration of Bittell’s rear counter, which had become very rotten. A few months later the old cabin was also renewed. By 2001 the new cabin was complete and the boat was returned to the water. Early 2005 saw further maintenance when the foredeck woodwork was replaced and Bittell was repainted in a reproduction of Stewarts & Lloyds original livery.