The Inland Waterways Protection Society Ltd 

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Newsletter "174" February 2004


Bugsworth Basin Report Brian Haskins Ashton Canal - Stockport Branch Bradford Canal
Liverpool Link Tax Returns Reunion Dinner Cheshire Canal Quiz
Two MBE's Editorial PFC on TV New Features
Satterfield Family CD-ROM Sales Tales from the Basingstoke Canal Summer Cruise
Bugsworth 1881 Census IWPS Walks Rods, Poles or Perches Oldknow's House
The Stockport Branch Portobello Engineering    

The scene on the 18th December 2003 and the pace of repair works has hotted up. A second bund is being built in the Lower Basin to serve both as an access ramp and to form a holding tank for dredgings. On the left a second excavator builds a ramp to access the Lower Basin Arm and the Entrance Basin whilst another 20 tonnes of stone is delivered.  Photograph: Don Baines

Bugsworth Basin Report

by Ian Edgar MBE   -     Chairman and Hon Site Manager

After working at Bugsworth Basin for well over 20 years and having burnt a lot of mid-night oil chasing funds, working with Partners British Waterways and High Peak Borough Council to get to the point when the 'really big job' started, I was in New Zealand for a month! So really I cannot report on progress first hand but only as it was reported to me by Don Baines either by e-mail or on the mobile 'phone during that short window when we were both awake!

First I must thank Don for keeping me in touch and for handling matters with BW and the contractors so admirably. Not only did he have to handle matters on site but a lot of complicated paperwork had to be dealt with. It is alright dealing with such matters if you have done so from the beginning but to have to pick up the threads half way through is just that much more difficult.

The major construction work is now proceeding at a most satisfying pace but to get to this position first all the artifacts and features on the site which are to be disturbed have to be recorded in a manner acceptable to English Heritage. All this has been supervised by our Alan Findlow and indeed he has been the 'man of the moment'. Without Alan's knowledge of the site the recording would have been (a) that much more difficult and (b) not that well done. Alan's ability to supervise and motivate labourers who have had no previous archaeology experience and have them actually appreciate what they are doing is indeed a gift. Also working under Alan's guidance have been two professional archaeologists contracted by British Waterways. At the beginning of the job the archaeology and recording is the most important. The contract calls for this work to be done in a set period, rain or shine. The team have, at the time of writing, accomplished this despite appalling weather conditions, colds and all the other nasty things we know Bugsworth can throw at the unwary. Until the artifacts have to be placed in more or less exactly the same position and level as they came out, the pressure on the archaeologists will be reduced. However there still has to be a watching brief. Alan will record interesting points and features as the trenches which will form the water seal are excavated. Alan is in regular contact with the local Inspector from English Heritage so that EH can be confident that the site is in good hands.

The whole project over the past few weeks has depended on the professional way Alan Findlow has managed the archaeology. I have been very impressed and, as Chairman and Site Manager, record my thanks here.

Our small band of regular volunteers has to some extent been eclipsed by the site being more or less taken over by the contractors. We have cleared the edges of the Gauge Stop Place of several years of thick vegetation and still have to finish this job made more difficult by a long length of buried sheep netting and barbed wire!

The cold and wet winter months have always seen less activity by the volunteers but plans are now being prepared for the placing (at last) of the new bridge across the foot of the run-off weir. I am just waiting for confirmation from BW that they will not need access here for working on the Entrance Canal before we start on the footings. The hardwood disabled friendly bridge has already been made at the Callis Mill Workshops on the Rochdale Canal and is in store there. This bridge has been funded by The Mersey Basin Trust.

I am now discussing with BW how best to improve the Entrance Canal ready for the re-opening of the Basin proper. The wash wall has fallen or been pushed in in several places and there are two leaks which will require attention. Other than these problems, weed clearance and a bit of spot dredging, the Entrance Canal is in fairly good order and looks worse than it actually is.

Our carpentry and metal working genius Mike Malzard has made two more seats which will be placed in the Spring. These have been funded by the Well Dressing Group led by our old friend Keith Holford. We are pleased to host the well dressing each year and will welcome them, hopefully, to an open Basin this year. Mike is also well on to the way to making replacement bridge numbers. The last ones, fitted by us only a few years ago, were destroyed by vandals. Mike this time has a cunning plan which he is confident will thwart the efforts of the local (or imported) morons who delight in such destruction.

This view of the Entrance Basin shows how the new bed is laid after the silt has been dredged and a sheet of Terram laid on the remaining clay. The dredged silt was transferred to a holding pond in the Lower Basin before transportation off-site to a nearby farm to be used for agricultural improvement purposes.
Photo: Don Baines

Contractor progress is so quick that what I write here will be out of date by the time it reaches our members and other readers. To find out what is happening day-to-day please see the IWPS web site. Briefly, at the time of writing (12th January 2004) the contractors have put in limestone roadways down on to the bed of the Basin and are working towards Canal House taking out the silt down to the original clay lining. As the silt comes out it is placed in a holding lagoon in the Lower Basin Arm and, starting today, it will be carted off to a local farmer's field. At the same time sleeper blocks are being carefully lifted and marked ready for storage and eventual replacement. Virtually the whole of the Basin from Silk Hill Bridge is closed to the public. The Public Footpath through the Basin is officially closed.

Despite the very nature of very wet silt site cleanliness and the maintenance of the boundaries achieved by contractors BW/Dew is remarkable. Nobody is allowed on the actual work site but the work can be viewed from Silk Hill Bridge and from the track to Canal House. Access to Horse Transfer Bridges 58 & 59 is not possible. Having said that if you want to see what is going on and the progress being made it is well worth the trip.

Viewed a week later, the dredging had nearly reached the Gauging Stop Place. On the right the canal bank has been shaped to form an extension to the vole habitat created on the bank of the Wide. Once completed the new bed will be trenched for a ground-water drain connected to the existing box-trunk to the Black Brook. The waterproof membrane will be laid on the bed and covered with 150mm of unreinforced concrete. Photo: Don Baines

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I am very saddened to report of the passing, on 4th November 2003, of Brian Haskins, former Area Manager for British Waterways old Northwich Area and latterly British Waterways Chief Civil Engineer.

Brian was quite an exception in the 'old' British Waterways Board in that he encouraged volunteers as far as he was able within the restrictions imposed by his superiors. The two most important of these projects were the Montgomery Canal and Bugsworth Basin. Some of his superiors did not support his view that the voluntary sector was a responsible source of help for a cash-strapped BW and his vision was that volunteers could, by sheer physical effort and lobbying, save the then derelict canals until better times arrived. Better times did of course eventually arrive and he was at the re-opening of Bugsworth Basin and the Anderton Lift. The latter, he himself, quite rightly as it turned out, originally closed for safety reasons. On the much bigger restoration of the Montgomery Canal he did not live to see restoration from end to end but the tremendous progress on that canal exonerated his belief that volunteers could work with BW if the will was there. In Brian it most certainly was.

Over the years I came to know and respect Brian. I always respected his opinion. Some volunteers (even in the IWPS) took a 'them and us' attitude but we all had to acknowledge the fact we earned our living elsewhere. We restored canals in our spare time. Brian was answerable to those above him in BW and in the long run his commitments and responsibility to BW were paramount, irrespective of what he felt for me and other volunteer managers.

I well remember the time in 1979 when the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act was implemented. The higher echelons at BW took fright. I got a completely out of character letter from Brian stating in his first long paragraph that all work must stop on the Ancient Monument at Bugsworth Basin and predicting dire consequences for BW and IWPS if any further work was done. Brian then started his second para. (I remember it well) with: 'Having got that diatribe out of the way...........' It took some time for BW to eventually acknowledge, as I knew from the beginning, that the 1979 Act had some very positive benefits for Bugsworth and other BW Ancient Monuments. Brian, following a few discussions with myself and others came round to this view much earlier than some of his colleagues. The result of that was that we were soon on track again, we built up a lasting relationship with English Heritage and Bugsworth Basin benefited. Brian had to act to placate his alarmed superiors but at the same time he chose not abandon his unswerving belief that there was a great future for BW to work with the volunteers. The rest is history but, in our region, let us not forget what a debt we owe to Brian Haskins.

A book could be written on Brian but I think the most extraordinary task he asked me to do was to go to London to the Institute of Civil Engineers and give a lecture on how volunteers were working on canals and in particular Bugsworth Basin. For Brian to put me in front of his august professional body, cemented his commitment to volunteers for all time. Of course we volunteer managers had to act responsibly and not betray the trust that was placed in us. I have upheld that belief to this day.

Even in his retirement I could always call on Brian for advice. It was he who I asked to check our Health & Safety Manuals which he did with tremendous expertise. If he felt, because he was out of touch with current events in the waterway world, that his advice may not be the best he always introduced me to others within BW or elsewhere where I could get that technical advice I sought. He was also very forthcoming with his praise when he felt it warranted. This was particularly so with the H&S Manuals which he described as a 'fine professional piece of work'. Latterly Brian was appointed IWA Vice Chairman and continued until shortly before his passing to visit both IWA and BW events.

Sarah and I attended the funeral on 14th November which was packed with BW present and former management, staff and bank-side personnel, many representatives of the canal societies in the North West and further afield, current and past Chairmen of the IWA and many others. So many people came to pay their last tributes to a charming and greatly respected man that it was in the end standing room only.

Our sincere condolences go to Brian's family. We will all miss him. Although we did not meet that often I for one have lost a good friend and mentor.

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There are plans afoot to form a new Society to campaign for the restoration of the Stockport Branch. In the 'old days' such a suggestion might well have come from a demented mind but in the present climate restoration of this branch is certainly a sound proposition. The inaugural meeting is due to be held on 3rd February at 7.30 at Stockport Town Hall (alas before our readers have received this Newsletter). David Sumner, recently awarded the MBE and Former Chairman of the Huddersfield Canal Society will be presiding. Click here to read more about the Stockport Branch.

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In the Property Supplement of the 'Daily Telegraph' 3rd January under the headline 'Planning a facelift for the ugly sister' architect Will Alsop has published plans to clear away much of the derelict Bradford City Centre and (quote) ' re-introduce the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to Bradford'. At the city centre there will be a large lake (Basin with navigable depth?) with piers and boardwalks all in the shadow of City Hall. What is meant of course is the restoration of the Bradford Canal.

Those who were on the IWPS Walk on 1st April 2000 will remember we walked the course of the 3-mile long Bradford Canal. There are still signs of two locks where the Bradford Canal leaves the Leeds & Liverpool Canal but other than a few coping stones and one bridge little else is visible, the course now being taken up for the most part with parkland. There were 10 locks but it is not clear whether they were destroyed or just filled in. Those of us who were on the walk may give a somewhat more incredulous response to these proposals but, again, if the will is there and more importantly the private sector money can be found then the Bradford Canal may well be a reality. One of the real problems with the Bradford Canal was it's 'pollution. 'The Telegraph' quotes an elderly resident as saying that 'the canal was that smelly and polluted that it regularly caught fire'! In these modern times pollution is not the problem it once was but nevertheless if this project ever gets off the ground it will be of tremendous benefit to Bradford. The artists impression of what the new development will look like is certainly impressive but if the canal is to return it must be for navigation. A linear 'water space' without navigation will not work.

Again, a case of let us wait and see. I am not taking bets on whether or not British Waterways will want to get involved in this one!

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This appears to be progressing well. Now we hear of a new £100 million plan to convert the Tobacco Warehouse at Stanley Dock into 700 loft-style apartments with three floors of shops, restaurants nightclubs and bars. This building is HUGE. Built in 1900 it covers a site of 12.5 acres and has a canal and rail connection. It was the largest bonded warehouse in the world. The centre of the building, from the fourth floor upwards, is to be taken out to give an atrium effect and later additions removed.

Liverpool is a very cosmopolitan city but the question has to be asked as to whether there is the demand in Liverpool for such a massive development. Has saturation point been reached? The Albert Dock is on the other side of the Pier Head and there are many leisure facilities just a short distance away in the city itself. Those who are spending £100 million must think so and I hope they are right. Demolition would seem to be the only alternative and the future of this most impressive building has been hanging by a thread for years.

One thing is for sure - if this goes ahead then the Liverpool end of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal will be re-vitalised. British Waterways have been struggling to make this final section in to the docks attractive to their customers - i.e. the boaters. BW have had some success but the Tobacco Warehouse converted for leisure use will certainly be of tremendous help.

Fears over plans for Liverpool canal link - MEP demands answers over canal proposals

Fears that funding to construct a new canal in Liverpool has cast a shadow across plans for a major development in the city.

North West MEP, Chris Davies, is concerned that the scheme to connect Albert Dock to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal may no longer have priority funding.

Chris Davies wants British Waterways to submit a formal planning application to make the scheme more transparent. It is considered that the new link would revitalize the South Dock area of Liverpool.

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Most of us pay Income Tax as a necessary expense and hope that our Self Assessments are a fair account of what we should pay. Once the tax has been calculated we accept the fact we have to pay it with some stoicism. Any over assessment identified by the Inland Revenue as a repayment might come back to us as an unexpected bonus. Now the Inland Revenue has come up with a scheme whereby any overpayment can be sent direct to the Charity of your choice.

This scheme does not apply to Tax Returns before this coming April 2004 but the IWPS Ltd. has already registered and has a unique code


which should be entered in the appropriate box on the Tax Return.

This scheme is in addition to the Gift Aid Scheme which is by far more to the advantage of the IWPS as everybody who pays tax and who opts for Gift Aid is eligible to benefit the Society to the tune of 28% of their subscription. Many of our members have signed and sent me the Gift Aid Declaration but some have not so if you are one of the members who have not signed up then please contact me for the form or down load it from our web site. Remember it costs you nothing but the Society gets another 28% of what you give by way of membership subscriptions or donations.

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Some 37 members and friends gathered at the Hanging Gate pub and restaurant for what was this year called our Reunion Dinner. In all previous years we used to have a Christmas gathering but this year, due to several reasons, it was decided to try a New Year event. The venue for our gathering has nearly always (last year was an exception) been canal related so we found our way to the side of Combs Reservoir - one of the two reservoirs feeding the Peak Forest Canal. This was a tremendous success with excellent catering and venue. A good time was had by all.

Many people worry about travelling this time of year due to possible adverse or dangerous road conditions but the weather was very mild. It is well worthwhile making the effort to attend this event. Thanks to the efforts of Andy and Jackie Eadon our friendly get togethers, whether for Christmas or for the New Year go from strength to strength.

We had an excellent raffle with some wonderful donated prizes. The final sum raised just by the raffle was £81.00 - a very nice contribution to our funds.

Thanks to all who attended and thanks particularly to Andy and Jackie for making the arrangements.

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The IWPS has not, in the past, gone in for Canal Quiz events but recently with our neighbouring Societies and British Waterways we started to attend this annual event. The Quiz is split in to two - canal questions and general knowledge. This year it is to be held on 25th March and anybody who would like to make up an additional IWPS team will be very welcome. This is always a very enjoyable event and you need not worry too much if you are not a Mastermind contestant. The IWPS won the year before last and had to organise the following year - that is the arrangement between the various canal societies taking part. This year the host is the Macclesfield Canal Society.

Please contact me if you are interested.

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I was very pleased to hear of the award of the well-deserved MBE to David Sumner of The Huddersfield Canal Society and to Derek Brumhead of The New Mills Heritage Centre.

David worked tirelessly for the restoration of the Huddersfield Canal - starting at just about the same time (I think) as the IWPS did with Bugsworth Basin. The two projects are of course vastly different with the Huddersfield Canal Restoration being a huge undertaking expertly 'driven' by the voluntary Society working with the Local Authorities and British Waterways. As always there is usually one person who is 'the leader' and in this David was hugely successful to such an extent he was able to bring so many people together to get the job done. I think David will agree that the recognition, as with my own MBE with the IWPS and Bugsworth Basin, is for the team within the Huddersfield Canal Society who delivered this massive vision. Congratulations David - you richly deserve it.

As you will read earlier in this Newsletter David is not now resting. He is taking up the challenge of restoration of the Stockport Branch. You can't keep a good man down!

Derek Brumhead has worked for many years to establish the New Mills Heritage Centre and such is the commitment he has been able to instil in his 'team' of volunteers the Centre is open almost every day. It is well worth a visit. Derek is also a local historian of great repute and an enthusiastic supporter of the IWPS work at Bugsworth Basin. Well done, Derek.

Ian Edgar MBE

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Editorial by Don Baines

Peak Forest Canal on the Tele

Nov 2003. In the recently-televised episode of "Frost", the renowned detective series, some scenes were shot on canals. There were some on a broad canal, I know not where, and the opening sequence featured a narrowboat named "Music Man" which may or may not be its real name. Other scenes were shot on the Peak Forest Canal at New Mills and featured the narrowboat "Nancy" passing by Swizzells-Matlow’s sweet factory purporting to be a pharmaceuticals company. Several scenes, featuring David Jason, were shot inside the factory with sweet-making machines pretending to be their pill-making counterparts (essentially they are the same equipment) and others filmed in the offices. Local people working at the factory acted as extras.

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New features this issue

A different look to this edition of 174 with the inclusion of "His" and "Hers" impressions of their summer cruise by the Malzards, Jill and Mike, on their narrowboat Laura. They disappeared in May, leaving their moorings in Furness Vale, not to be seen again until September. Mike’s story is of the whole cruise whereas Jill’s is a nostalgic account of returning to the area of her tender years.

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The Satterfield Family

The IWPS was recently approached by Ben Satterfield, who lives in the USA, with a request for information about the English Satterfield family. Ben is a Past President of the National Satterfield Family in the USA and he publishes a quarterly newsletter, which is sent to 1,567 families in the USA, Canada and Australia. He has over 60,000 descendants in a database but was finding it very difficult tracing this surname back to the UK where it originated. He has been unable to find any ship manifests with the Satterfield name on it earlier than the 1800s, yet the name can been found in Maryland as early as the mid-1600s.

In connection with this Don Baines sent him a copy of Peter Whitehead's article 'Robert Satterfield - a Manchester Merchant and Bugsworth Lime Burner'. Since then, Peter has been sending him more information about the English Satterfields and introducing him to useful websites such as cheshirebmd, lancashirebmd and freebmd. Like Ben, Peter has found that this surname is quite rare in England in spite of the fact that it originated at Satterthwaite, Hawkshead, Lancashire. The village of Satterthwaite (Saterthwayt in 1336) means a 'clearing by a shieling', a shieling being a hut or shelter for shepherds or fishers. 'Thwaite' comes from an Old Scandinavian (Viking) word that has several meanings, one of which is 'a clearing'.

Peter's research work suggests that the surname, Satterfield, may now have disappeared in England but the surnames Satterthwaite and Thwaite still survive. It may be that sometime in the 17th century that there was a mass exodus of Satterfields to the New World and that no records were made of how they left the country.

The 17th century in England was one of turmoil and it saw the Civil War, the trial and execution of Charles I, the abolition of the Monarchy and the House of Lords and the declaration of a Commonwealth, as England briefly became a Republic. It may be that the Satterfields were on the losing side and that most of them considered it safer to find a new life overseas.

The rarity of the Satterfield surname is shown by an examination of the 1901 Census, which lists just four Satterfields in the whole of England and Wales.

Henry Satterfield, aged 71, born at Dewsbury, Yorkshire, a Butcher

John Satterfield, aged 35, born at Dewsbury, Yorkshire, a Butcher

Jane Satterfield, aged 68, born at Leeds, Yorkshire, Home Duties

Maria Satterfield, aged 70, born at St Peters, Kent, no occupation

Somewhere, there would be other Satterfields but, for whatever reason, they did not make Census Returns. It is strongly suspected that some of these missing Satterfields must have lived in the Manchester area.

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IWPS/PFCC Sales Web Pages

The IWPS/PFCC sales pages have now been updated and integrated into the IWPS website hosted by David Kitching’s excellent website and can be accessed by clicking here.

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Copy for Newsletters - Please note that the deadline for publishing the next newsletter is 1st April 2004 so please try to let me have your copy before that date.

Please send any newsletter input to me, Don Baines, if possible on a 3½" floppy disk (disks will be returned or provided if required). Typed input, photographs, sketches or drawings can be scanned in. You can email any input, text of graphics, to me at

Don Baines - Editor 174

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CD-ROM - Historical and Photographical Archive

The Historical and Photographic Archive cd-rom priced £12 is now available for sale.

The archive, which has been authored to appear as a web page, will be fully interactive with easy to use menus to navigate your way around the disk.

The contents of the archive will include:

Historical overview of the site - a general description.

A map of modern-day Bugsworth Basin with hotspot links to photographs of the basins as they appear today. Clicking on the area you want to see opens a new window with photo(s) and a description.

Location map - where to find Bugsworth Basin

"Putting the Record Straight" - A history of the restoration, written by Martin Whalley and illustrated with photographs of volunteers, work camps and projects by Don Baines. This covers the restoration from the early days of 1968 to the first reopening day at Easter 1999.

Complete editions of IWPS publications:

John Cotton - The Bugsworth Wife Murderer - Peter Whitehead. Extracts from the Derby Daily Telegraph describing the crime, trial and execution of John Cotton, the last person to be publicly hanged at Derby Gaol in 1898.

Limestone - The Bugsworth Legacy - Peter Whitehead.

A history of why a limestone industry developed at Bugsworth and its influence on the industrial revolution. Contains a description of the production process and the uses of lime products.

The Memoirs of Martha Barnes - Martin Whalley & George Needham. The reminiscences of 98 year-old Mrs Barnes represent a priceless archive, describing life around Bugsworth during 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Peak Forest Tramway - a description of the route of the Peak Forest Tramway and a guided walk along part of its length- Peter Whitehead

Crist and Barren Clough Quarries - a description - Peter Whitehead

Industrial Archaeology of the Peak Forest Tramway - Peter Whitehead. Contains information on how the tramway was constructed and a description of artifacts found during restoration works at Bugsworth Basin.

The Peak Forest Tramway, 1796 - 1927 - Alan J Findlow & Don Baines. This description of the operation of the tramway was first published in "Archive" Issue 3,

The Wagon Tipplers - Alan J Findlow & Don Baines. A description of the mechanisms used to unload tramway wagons of limestone first published in "Archive"

An Assessment of the Historical and Archaeological Significance of Bugsworth Basin - Alan J Findlow. The definitive document on the history and archaeology of Bugsworth Basin

Historical Photographic Archive - contains photographs dating back to 1851 covering the Ashton, Lower and Upper Peak Forest Canals, Bugsworth Basin, the Peak Forest Tramway and the village of Bugsworth. The Peak Forest Tramway and each canal is broken up into sections and specific areas such as Marple Locks and the inclined plane at Chapel-en-le-Frith are portrayed separately. The Marple end of the Macclesfield Canal is also featured

A Cruise in Photographs from Bingswood to the Upper Basin - includes pictures of historic working boats visiting the basin during May 1999.

The IWPS Website as it appears in 2003 complete with details of the IWPS, its history, officers and membership application forms etc. and back numbers of "174" up to the date of publication.

Interested in buying one of these desirable archives? Please send an email to Don Baines or Ian Edgar to reserve a copy.  Alternatively you can send a cheque for £12 made payable to PFCC Ltd to Don or Ian at the address shown in Officers

Don Baines - Editor 174

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Earlier in the year Mike announced "I think we'll try and cruise the Basingstoke this year".

I was over the moon, not entirely because of the cruise but because it meant going home to where I had been born and where I had spent my formative years in Woking.

The phone lines from Whaley to Woking and Chobham (where I had actually lived) were red hot announcing our forth coming arrival in late May. Friends in one voice warned "you won't like it, you'll get lost and worst of all you will be disappointed." How could one possibly get lost in a town where one had grown up and spent ones school days? However time will tell another story.

We set off from the Furness Vale Marina in the beginning of May on our way to the Basingstoke. The journey there is quite a separate adventure so I will leave the telling of that tale until another time. Suffice to say we turned off the Wey Navigation into the beginning of the Basingstoke Canal in early June.

Our passage had been booked and all our documents were ready for inspection by the Ranger, all we had to do was moor up and wait for him to meet us the next morning at 9.00am at the bottom of the Woodham Flight.

There we encountered our first problem. Mooring was easier said than done. The canal was badly silted up and the nearest we could get to the bank was to nose the bow into the mud and suspend the gang plank from it, hoping it did not fall off. There was no fear of passing boats so we knew we wouldn't be rocked about. Now to get the dog off!! Luckily if Mike will do it Ben will copy. So Mike balanced himself down the plank followed by a reluctant dog, the whole process being repeated when they wanted to come back.

We did not bother with mooring ropes, there was no need, we were firmly aground and we were not going anywhere in a hurry.

A cautionary word-never attempt the Basingstoke without a gang plank!!

The next morning we were up bright and early ready to go. We waited for the Ranger and waited and waited. Eventually he arrived at 10.15am completely unfazed and very laid back. He inspected our documents took our cheque and unlocked the bottom gates of the bottom lock. Incidentally we did not get a receipt for our money, something which my thoroughly Jewish husband worried about!!

Because of the way they were constructed all locks on the Basingstoke have to be left empty this doubles the work, so be prepared!! But unlike the Wey you are allowed to use only one gate if you are on your own. However we struck lucky because there was a boat due to come down that morning, so the Ranger told us to leave the locks full. That saved quite a bit of time. The locks are not easy and required quite a push to open them, also a long handled windlass is a must.

The Woodham Flight starts in Woodham, one side of the canal is the "posh" side and the other is not. Sheerwater Estate was started in 1947-8, the houses being built for the GLC (Greater London Council) to rehouse London's bombed out victims. Surprisingly enough a lot of families hated it, thought it was too quiet and went back to London preferring to live in two rooms than a new house with a garden. The first houses built had unusually large gardens and these are still visible from the canal if you peer through the trees.

Now the estate belongs to Woking Council but many houses are owner occupied. There was a long period of adjustment when the new comers were not welcomed. But after a generation or two all the disagreements have mostly disappeared.

At lock 3 is the only remaining original lock house on the Basingstoke Canal, now a very smart privately owned cottage. We also passed the famous house boats, which before restoration of the canal were moored up near St Johns. When they were moved here half of them fell to bits.

The gate of the top lock on the flight proved to be our first stumbling block-it would not budge most likely due to the fact that the lock was reluctant to fill. Help was at hand in the form of chap from an adjoining house who ambled out and offered to assist. He told us that the culvert was blocked and had been all the winter, so he spent his spare time helping boats through. His help was gratefully received, and after a long natter we were on our way again, towards the Monument Road Bridge, nudging the boat through very high reeds.

We had scraped bottom in several places and were beginning to wonder what was in store for us.

At the bridge we moored up to have a look at our old factory nearby. It is still there although now a motor cycle place, however some of the houses have been demolished.

It was pleasing to see that this part of Woking has hung on to its own identity and there is an ornate sign up by the bridge proclaiming that you are entering "Maybury". The other side of the canal is the boundary of Horsell Common, a vast area of woodland. When cycling to school we used to use the common as a short cut, in those days it was possible without fear of anything nasty happening.

In Maybury is the Shah Jehan Mosque, the first mosque to be built in England so there are many Asian families in Woking.

Curiosity satisfied we cruised on to Spantons Yard in Boundary Road where the map said Moorings. Spantons used to be a timber yard and I can remember the barges bringing the wood down the canal and the prepared timber loaded on to the barges to return somewhere. In those days I wasn't interested enough to know where. Now I wish I had been a little more inquisitive (or nosey). Needless to say we did not moor up here, firstly it was all over grown and impossible to get anywhere near the bank to take a rope off and secondly the area is very densely populated.

We cruised on to the town under the Chobham Road Bridge where once on the right was a large Victorian house donated to the town of Woking for use as a hospital. I had my tonsils out there and spent more time under the bed than on it as the bombs dropped near-by. If a bomb had dropped on the building I don't think a bed would have been much use. Years later my poor old Dad died in that hospital. Now it is no longer there, flattened amid controversy and legal battles, gone too are the little cottages which stood next to it, where all the bargees and their families were housed after the canal ceased to be used commercially.

In their place are flats that will not last for a hundred years.

There were moorings near the Brewery Road car-park, with bollards provided.

We stopped here for lunch. Woking does have many eating houses of all descriptions, and when you first meet the Ranger he gives you a very informative pack about the area and the Canal. Locals did speak to us, probably curiosity overcoming the usual stand-offishness of the Southerners, me included. All advised us not to over night there

The canal itself was badly weeded up but there was a trip boat "Painted Lady" moored up along side a house nearby and we saw several other trip boats on our journey, but the canal is underused and not properly maintained.

We were very saddened to see the state it is in around Woking particularly as we know of the struggle that the Society had to get the canal restored. Many wanted it completely filled in and the land used as a by-pass round the town, then the SSSI took an interest and that almost was the death knell of the whole idea. Boats are nasty things that shouldn't be allowed on the canals!! Ironically, a Ranger we met further up the canal said it is all academic as the fish have eaten the plants that were supposed to be of scientific interest!

We made our way to Arthur's Bridge and the Bridge Barn pub where there are moorings of a sort and where Woking holds its annual boat festival early in May. Another trip boat also runs from here. It was an ideal place to stop for a few days to catch up with old acquaintances and we spent a busy time, ending up with "jaw ache". There were numerous "Do you remember this & that ---??" We were taken around the area back to old haunts and unfortunately the old saying is quite true that it is unwise to try and go back. We were all saddened by the urban sprawl swallowing up the villages and the loss of the old names. This area was once encompassed in the village of Horsell but although the village remains it is now just a satellite of Woking.

Supplies were now needed and we attempted to walk into the town. I rejected the First Mate guide as I knew where I was didn't I? No I didn't!! A dual carriageway encircled the town and the cars seemed to be using it as a race track, do I really drive that fast?

As is common with a lot of towns, food shops are the last thing that can be found in the precinct. But there was a small Sainsbury's bursting with its wares and we felt we were on an assault course trying to locate what we wanted.

Walking back to the boat we did find a Safeways built on land that used to be a huge coal yard.

It is at Arthur's Bridge where you will find the facility block if you look hard enough, opened by a BW key. A narrow boat from the Thames caught us up here and the crew became our travelling companions throughout the next fortnight. In fact we are still in touch with them. How friendships are formed on the waterways!!

It was time to continue our journey so our passage through the next two flights of locks was booked by phone to the Basingstoke Canal Centre Office in Mytchett for 9.00am the following morning.

Again the Ranger failed to appear, but as the gates did not have locks on them, we proceeded on our way. Luckily we took the initiative as we never did see the Ranger and we could still be waiting for him now!!

We made our way up the Goldsworth Flight or the St. Johns Flight depending on which map you have. Before the huge Goldsworth housing estates were built this land was a massive nursery specialising mostly in roses. I can still remember the scent of the blooms on a warm summers evening. In those days roses had an aroma that no other flower matched, age is beginning to show!! Land was and still is a valuable commodity and the nursery was sold for the building of the biggest housing estate in Europe.

St' Johns Lye at the top of the locks had not changed too much, there were the usual shops and a night club built in a new tiny precinct.

Brookwood Flight was in our sights when just as I was entering the bottom lock I stopped dead and was going nowhere fast. Even with a tow rope on to a much bigger boat than ours I was still stuck. Water was flushed down from the lock and with the tow-rope still in place I gradually inched forward into the lock. It was a massive sand bank and I had ploughed right into the middle of it.

No further excitement occurred as we ascended the three locks into Brookwood but the bangs from Bisley were now quite audible telling us that not far away were the shooting ranges and we were nearing the army camps.

The night was spent moored up near the Deep Cut, in preparation for tackling the flight in the morning. The 14 locks of the two mile flight raises the canal a 100feet up to the summit.

Past experience told us not to bother to wait for the ranger, so we continued on our way the following morning, our passage was booked so some one must know we were there.

The flight of locks goes through the army camp where squaddies are trained in the art of warfare. The scenery is very rural but changing as a tree will suddenly appear where no tree stood a minute ago!!!

The area around is all common land and our offsprings would scour the fox holes for any dropped coins when money was pounds, shillings and pence, whilst out with the dog on a Sunday afternoon.

Trucks by the side of the canal were heavily camouflaged, and soldiers who looked just out of nappies, were queuing up for their food. They gave us cheerful waves and exchanged banter. Thought they were supposed to be unseen and unheard, may be that comes with practice.

The only problems we incurred on the flight were the fishermen who have the view that the canal is there solely for their benefit and boats shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the water.

Both boats were subject to quite nasty abuse especially when we wanted to go into some locks as the anglers were dangling their lines right in the lock entrances and were very reluctant to haul them in to allow us passage through the lock. Josie wasn't quite as hardened to them as I was, being based on the Thames they do not encounter aggressive fishermen as often as we do, coming from the narrow canals of BW.

The last lock was in sight and we sailed into it satisfied with a good days work. But getting out of the lock was another matter because the top gates were locked and there we were sitting in a full lock and nowhere to go!! On the mobile once more! Fortunately a Ranger who lives in the top cottage came out to rescue us. Apparently the Ranger responsible for the flight knew we were coming so he had just wrapped the chain and lock around the gate so it looked as if it was locked. He always does that we were informed. So Mike balanced himself along the beam and undid the offending chain and released us from our temporary prison.

Luckily he is not infirm, but even so balancing on those beams had me a bit worried and the insurance policies were hastily checked.

At the top of the flight is the old dry dock, I think still used by the canal company for their boats.

Now we headed into the 1000 foot long Cutting, 70 feet deep in places and extensively tree lined. Major forestry work was going on here but not a soul in sight. In spite of a glorious sunny day it was gloomy and somewhat creepy and very quiet, just the sound of the engine and the swoosh of the water. I was quite glad when we emerged into the sunshine at the other end.

Over the railway aqueduct and we were soon at the Canal Centre. The book informed us that there were moorings here and all the facilities. They were right about the facilities but wrong about the moorings. There was about 15 foot of free space in front of the facility block and all the rest were taken up with trip boats and private moorings. There are moorings on the other bank if you can get close enough to leap off the boat. Fortunately the trip boat owner was on hand and he used his hose pipe to fill up our water tank and let us stay there whilst we went into the Office to collect our receipt, licence and a plaque. Incidentally we had not been told where to collect our licence, we went into the Centre to be nosey.

Apparently there are plans in the pipe line to build an off-line marina there but money is always the deciding factor.

The Centre has a very good purpose built learning centre and caters for school parties nearly every day. However they do not seem to teach about the origins or the history or the purpose of the canal or indeed its construction, but concentrate on the bugs & beetles. This to me is idiotic, how will the future generations understand their inheritance if the knowledge is neglected to be taught now.

From here the canal runs at the side of a couple of flashes which are believed to be natural hollows and are great havens for water birds and dragon flies. Apparently the canal is a very important site for numerous species of dragonflies. My belief is that because the flashes are natural and not man made they would be there anyway even if the canal had not been restored. In fact we didn't see any dragonflies to speak of, no more than we see on any other canal.

Our overnight destination was Ash Vale-bad mistake. I wanted a bit of shopping, so stayed there. In hindsight we should have moved on. The people near the Basingstoke fall into two categories, those who approve of the canal and are friendly and supportive and those who don't like it and go out of their way to make life unpleasant. Ash falls into the latter, I don't know why as here can be found the Ash Vale Barge Yard where the canal's owner from 1925 to 1947, Alexander Harmsworth had his barge & repair business working out of a corrugated iron shed. He lived and worked all his life on the Basingstoke Canal.

Next morning we were up and away very early on a very warm day. Over the new Blackwater Aqueduct completed in 1995 to carry the canal over the new relief road and from Surrey into Hampshire. Viewed from on high the scenery here is quite pretty as we went over the Blackwater Country Park with the Spring Lakes, in spite of the busy road beneath us.

At Ash Lock, the only single lock on the Basingstoke Canal, there was a hold up. First of all I couldn't pull in properly to get Mike off as there was a fisherman on the bollard. He was cheerful and took my rope, oh well!! We discovered there was a problem with the lock gearing and a couple of rangers were working on it. I was manoeuvred into the lock and sat there until they had fixed it. At least it was warmer in the lock than under the bridge so I made a brew for us all whilst waiting.

It wasn't long before we were on our way again, this time through army territory, Aldershot on one side and North Camp the other bank. The bangs of heavy firing could be heard, and we hoped it wasn't aimed at us. Tall trees and vegetation prevented us from seeing much of the area. The banks of the canal were lined with tall reeds, but we found a good mooring spot ideal for the dogs so we ploughed into the reeds. Mike was on the front of our boat poised to jump with the rope when I could not get any closer. He jumped, missed and ended up knee deep in water. Whoops!! How can you be concerned when you are bent over the tiller convulsed with laughter?

The towpath was very busy with joggers, the young men stopped and chatted and had a drink but the girls were much more focussed and just greeted us. We discovered that the soldiers have to run so many miles a day as part of the exercise regime but our two boats seemed to be a mecca for refreshments. One guy had the name of a ship emblazoned on his T shirt. It turned out he was representing the navy for the Queens Cup at Bisley Ranges.

We thought we were relatively secluded so stayed there over night too lazy to move. As it got dark, floodlights hidden behind the trees, came on and there were both boats silhouetted against the bank.

Before we set off the following morning everything was taken off the roof as there were some very low bridges to negotiate on our way to Fleet. By now we had begun to wonder why we had not seen any other boats. We learnt later that we had been the last boats to enter onto the canal as the water levels were low. But much later we learnt that this was an excuse because as the Basingstoke is only allowed a certain number of boat movements per year, the quota had been reached. Mystifyingly there was a pamphlet in our boaters pack, when we reached Beale Park for the IWA National Waterways Festival, extolling the virtues of the Basingstoke and encouraging everyone to cruise it.

The runway of the RAE at Farnborough runs along a short distance of the canal and ends near Eelmoor Flash, another site of Dragonflies. The bugs and beetles don't seem to have been disturbed by the noise of the aircraft which is far more intrusive than the noise of a boat engine. The RAE is where crashes are investigated and the black boxes are decoded. It was here where Sir Frank Whittle first built his jet engine and the wings of Concorde were designed and tested.

Under two very low bridges and into Fleet where there are purpose built moorings. It was here we met four other boats, just the six of us on 30 miles of waterway.

Fleet is a busy little market town with all the usual shops. Waitrose is nearer the wharf but if you go further up the High Street to Somerfield there is a delivery service provided you spend over £25. Gold Star to Somerfield, they delivered to the boat at the exact time they said they would and the chap carried the bags on to the boat.

Next place of interest was Crookham Wharf, which is now a picnic area, but was once one of the ten wharves dealing with coal and timber. Before that was the only remaining swing bridge on the Basingstoke at Crookham, it was heavy and needed muscles to swing it.

We passed a cottage with a bronze statue of a grazing horse in the garden, later found out that it had been a blacksmiths cottage. Along here the canal was very shallow and we had to keep to the centre to avoid grounding. Soon we were at the Great Wall of Dogmersfield, so called because during restoration work landslips had to be cleared and the banks stabilised. It is here there is a stepped gabion wall, and further on opposite Tundry Pond the embankments are reinforced with earth from the slips, taken there by barge.

Now the canal was losing its rural aspect and civilisation began to loom up. The people at Galleon Marine, the only marina on the canal, were friendly helpful and chatty, although diesel was a bit expensive. We were now in the environs of Odiham. The village here is North Warnborough. Odiham town is within walking distance of the canal but we had friends in North Warnborough, where the friendly pub serves home cooked meals.

The lift bridge there is now electrified but used to be manual and very heavy to operate. Through we went to the head of navigation, where we turned at the winding hole and moored up or to be more precise grounded up just near King John's Castle.

Thirty years ago there was a picnic area here now it is all over grown and there is a beaten down path around the ruins. Apparently it is a haven for hippies, I don't think the SSSI have put a restriction order on them.

We walked the last 100yards to the entrance of the Greywell Tunnel. The path was overgrown with nettles that came up to my shoulder, obviously a good year for nettles. Likewise the path leading down to the entrance was so overgrown it was impossible to climb down and peer into the black hole. Nettles spanned the portals of the tunnel and I couldn't get near enough to take the customary photo. I was disappointed and sad at the apparent neglect. The verges are only allowed to be cut once a year and they were due for their annual cut, but meanwhile the area was so overgrown as to be a positive eyesore.

From here we retraced our steps back to the Wey. In spite of all the pitfalls and my obvious sadness in some aspects, I did enjoy the cruise, although it does sound as if I was complaining all the time. Not so, I do not deny I was disappointed not for myself but for the work that all the volunteers did in the beginning to restore the canal to navigable use and to see it vastly underused now. The canal has had a chequered history, many owners some successful others not. Now I think it is time that the canal was put into the hands of BW to be maintained properly by a body that have experience in the running of a canal and who can overcome the potential problems.

Jill Malzard,  November 2003

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And now the other half’s story:

SUMMER CRUISE 2003 by Mike Malzard

What makes a reasonably sane (not all would agree) person want to spend the best part of five months living in a mobile space of 24 feet by 6.5 feet with miniature bathroom and kitchen and single bunks?

You need to be a tad masochistic to enjoy narrow boating. For me I suppose it satisfies the wandering instinct to see what is round the next corner, to admire the engineering feats of our forebears of 200 years ago and to get as far away as possible from motorways and traffic.

My wife, bless her, although having a love of things historical, probably errs to the right of "if you can't beat 'em join 'em". She does need fortifying with regular visits to Tesco's as we chug along. Morrisons will do at a pinch but Sainsbury's won't do at all..

The main object of this trip was to explore the Basingstoke Canal before its annual closure due to lack of water at the top end. Leaving in early May we had time to explore all the dead end arms leading off the Grand Union Canal.

Starting at the Kegworth end of the River Soar, having negotiated the Trent & Mersey without mishap apart from a lot of wet weather, getting onto the Leicester Section of the Grand Union did seem to signify the real start of the rip.

Actually there was a bit of a mishap at Sawley Lock, the last on the Trent & Mersey. No-one told me it was electrified and keeper operated. I marched up windlass in hand and tried to wind up the paddles, which seemed a bit stiff. The lock keeper put down his mug of tea and came across to point out the error of my ways and suggested I returned to the boat and left lock operating to him and not be a silly billy or words to that effect,

By the time we got to Kegworth it was getting late and volunteers for cooking the meal were nonexistent. The First Mate Guide (highly recommended) said there was an Indian take away in the town, so armed with the guide book map I headed off towards the town. No problem finding the place the guide was spot on, it was their idea of distance and mine that were some way apart. Luke warm curry on my eventual return but we were so hungry by then, who cared?

This section is all wide locks but if they aren't rushed and only one gate is used when you are a single boat they are not a problem . It was a tribute to Jill's boat driving skills that she got in and out of those locks on one gate with nary a bump.

Leicester City Centre is not always a good place to stop but the new semi-secure pontoon moorings were very good and handy for the city centre and its various colourful markets. We stayed for the 48hours allowed at Castle Gardens, sans castle, that had been vandalised and the stone pinched several centuries ago, nothing changes.

On departure we saw the river on the mile straight was covered in what looked like old engine oil and all the swans and other birds were covered in it. Jill alerted BW who got the EA out of bed and began what became a major clean-up. It all made the local TV news that evening, Jill was very pleased with herself for all her efforts.

Along the way we met and shared locks with a very luxurious boat owned by two middle aged ladies, who until we learnt their names we always referred to as the "nice ladies". This continued after we had learnt their names as it seemed more suitable because they really were quite a delightful pair and our paths crossed many times during the rest of the trip.

Below Foxton the first of the arms goes off to Market Harborough, the original home of Anglo Welsh line boats and a bit scruffy from memory. Now one side of the Basin is a Canaltime base, the other very desirable waterside apartments. The visitor moorings have been moved back down the cut but are very good for all that. The town is mostly modern but has everything. It's one of those places where you feel a sense of belonging and comfortable to be in.

Foxton locks are always fun and the new lock keeper very helpful. It's a place with lots of visitors watching your every move and is very easy to get it wrong. All went well and a convenient mooring at the top of the flight allowed us to visit the inclined plane. If Anderton can be fixed who knows what could be done to get the plane in operation again.

Further on we ventured down the Welford Arm, not so long this one, but now has the obligatory marina near the end. The pub right at the terminus does a good meal and is dog friendly. The Battle of Naseby was fought a couple of miles over the hill but laziness precluded visiting the site.

Back on the main line and several rather wet and misty tunnels before Crick, where preparations for the boat show were in full swing. A lot of visiting boats tied up along the towpath made for slow progress. Watford Staircase locks are now in the care of Crystal, the young lady who used to run the Foxton Flight, a no -nonsense girl, who got us down after a short wait for a working boat and butty to come up.

The canal is the boundary for Watford Gap Services on the M1. If you are into motorway service food this is the place to stop. The chap who touts for RAC membership was a bit puzzled when we said we had come by boat and not by car.

Later we joined the Main Line and went down the locks at Buckby. The shop at the top lock was once owned by Shirley Ginger, who wrote Lock, Stock & Barrel, the story of her time there and a worthy read.

No more locks after this until Stoke Bruerne. This part of the trip was memorable for periods of sunshine punctuated with very heavy showers, more like April than May. Through Blisworth Tunnel with Jill driving, my eyesight is not good in tunnels and this being a passing tunnel with several boats coming the other way, good eyesight is essential for squeezing by. Into the top lock at Stoke Bruerne and the heavens opened up, but this was to be almost the last rain we had for the rest of the trip.

Stopped awhile at Milton Keynes at the Waterways Festival site of two years previously. The dog escaped about midnight and spent a merry hour chasing Canada geese on the ornamental lake. I had got up to recapture him but was barefooted, goose pooh isn't easy to remove from between ones toes.

The Aylesbury Arm was the next deviation, 16 narrow locks in 7 miles to the town centre, a canal side Tesco’s by the final lock cheered Jill up no end. The local boat club, who run the basin and really made us feel welcome. They plugged us into the communal TV aerial so we could get a decent picture, fixed up a mains electric supply and lent a battery charger so the engine did not have to be run. There was no charge for a weeks stay but we left a donation anyway.

Back up the 16 locks via Tesco’s, of course, then up the Marsworth Flight on the Main Line, and our next bit of exploration along the Wendover Arm. It is necessary to wind the boat about a couple of hundred yards before Tringford Pumping Station and back down the rest of the Arm. We moored up and walked, reversing is not my strong point. Past the pumping house and stop lock, the channel is being rebuilt by BW and the Wendover Trust in partnership with other parties. At the moment it is a concrete channel stretching way into the distance. Apparently it was always a leaky bit of canal losing more water than the feed could tolerate. Sounds familiar.

Later back on the Main Line to Cowroast to find a bolt on the spill rail of the engine had fractured. The local marina was totally unhelpful. However one of the bolts holding the fenders on had the right thread (UNF would you believe) and this cut to length and drilled out for the diesel to flow through seemed to work. Alas two days later along the Slough Arm a strong smell of diesel alerted us to the fact that all was not well in the engine bay, where a pint or two of fuel was slopping about. The fibre washers I had used for my repair were not diesel resistant and had started to dissolve. Replacing these with copper washers solved the problem, but getting the spilt fuel mopped up and back in the tank was more tricky and the smell was with us for several weeks.

To cap all this the Slough Arm and its terminus were distinctly unsavoury and we beat a hasty retreat back to the Main Line avoiding sofas and shopping trolleys along the way.

Bull's Bridge, where the Paddington Arm goes off has a Tesco’s Super store canalside so Jill was a very happy bunny, particularly as the grandchildren came to visit.

A pair of trousers round the prop at the top of the Hanworth Flight meant a rummage down the weed hatch. There were no legs in them so they came out fairly easily, quite a nice belt though which I was not allowed to keep.

Coming out of the gauging lock onto the tidal part, the tide was very high and there was no way we could get under the road bridge until the ebb. By the time we got to the river lock we had missed the tide and had to wait 24hrs. The lock keeper was a bit of a mystery, either a very female man or a very masculine woman, we never did find out.

The next day saw us to Teddington on a rising spring tide which made for a fast run. Shepperton back stream provided a nice secure mooring and good dog walking.

Onto the Wey and extra licences to be paid for to transit to the Basingstoke then a further 14 days on the Wey after exploring the Basingstoke. On the Basingstoke the first section from the Wey up the six locks to Woking are back pumped, unfortunately the non-return valve was not working so the pump could not be shut off even though the locks were over flowing.

A few days were spent at Woking looking up old friends and getting lost in the town where Jill was brought up, it had changed that much and not all for the good.

Another boat joined us there and was the last one to be allowed on to the canal for the season. Water shortage was the given reason but we saw no evidence of this, we found out later that they had reached the permitted number of boat movements for the year. The Greens hold sway on this canal and it shows.

Boat movements up the locks should be accompanied by a ranger but we rarely saw one. The locks have to be left empty which means the bottom gates dry out and leak when the lock is filled. We stayed with the other boat from Woking most of this part of the trip as the locks are wide beamed. We all got on very well, including the canine crew members.

Mooring up on this canal involves heading into the reeds at a likely mooring spot and hoping the gangplank would reach the shore. One final Lock at Ash took us on to the summit and through the army's training areas. Lots of shooting and shouting, we just hoped they were firing blanks. Past the end of the main runway at Farnborough, under a couple of very low bridges and into Fleet, where there are good wharf moorings. Typical little market town, ideal for supplies and take-aways. Moved on a little further the next day and the weather was warming up. Changing the engine oil made for a very pleasant evening, the daily mileage just about keeps the batteries charged up.

The end of navigation at Odiham is disappointing, nearly a mile short of Greywell Tunnel. The green policy of not cutting down the vegetation is much in evidence. The remains of King John's Castle, remembered as a well preserved ruin in a park of short grass is very different now. The grass is waist high and in the middle of what is left of the Keep is a habitat for the local druggies and drop-outs and smells like it too. We returned to Fleet for a couple of days before heading back to Frimley Lodge Park for a barbeque and get together.

Going back down Deepcut & Brookwood Flights the ranger followed us in a van and sealed the top gates of each lock to stop any leaks occurring. Descending the St. Johns and Woodham Flights rangers were a bit thin on the ground. The only one we saw was at the end of the Woodham Flight who let us out on to the Wey.

The Wey Navigation was very well cared for compared to the Basingstoke, it certainly never has water supply problems being river fed. The National Trust seem to have got their act together on the Wey and we saw several of their men en route inspecting, and maintaining if necessary, the locks.

We attended the River Festival at Guildford which was celebrating 350years of navigation before going on to the end of navigation at Godalming. Good shopping moorings here but not what we fancied for overnight so we retraced our steps back to St. Catharine Lock. Here there are some very good field mooring, so we stopped for a few days to have a chance to do some walking and exploring. By now the weather was very warm, too hot for boating after mid-day so finding a shady spot became imperative as even in the shade the temperature reached 92 degrees.

Back on the Thames , retracing our steps for a couple of miles down river to Shepperton Marina for diesel was necessary. it is at this marina where all the gin palaces fill up and is only one of two reasonably priced fuel stops on the river, hence the deviation. Well you do have to watch the pennies.

Forward gear again to Windsor and a two day stay in very hot weather. I sat under a sunshade watching the antics of local boaters whilst Jill visited the super market. Many moons ago we lived in Windsor, so the sights were not a big draw.

On the move again. Cliveden Reach is always wonderfully scenic with Cliveden House looking down from the hilltop. When boating along this Reach of the Thames, the Profumo affair always comes to mind.

There is a shortage of free moorings on the river and the pay-ones which are usually just a field can be as much as £4 a night. This is exorbitant since it is only £4 per 24hours in the middle of Windsor where you would expect to pay. Honey pot sites, Maidenhead, Cliveden, and Henley are two or three times this. Runnymead is £2 just for a luncheon stop.

We found a free bank side spot about two miles south of Henley and the dog and I enjoyed a swim, the river is very clean now and is clear enough to inspect the bottom of the boat.

Pangbourne, one of our favourite moorings had one vacant spot left, just our size. From here Beale Park is only a mile away but it is still another three weeks until the National Waterways Festival.

Well ahead of schedule we dawdled along in the direction of Lechlade. A couple of days at Abingdon swimming and lazing about were very pleasant, with other boaters doing much the same thing. Abingdon has made all the town moorings free and it shows in the number of boats tied up and the crews shopping in the town. Happy boaters and even happier shop keepers.

Above Abingdon Lock the old navigation channel the Swift Ditch goes off, still in water there are the remains of what is thought to be one of the earliest pound locks anywhere in this country.

Sandford Lock, the next lock on the river, is also the deepest and one of the largest. It is quite daunting being a small boat on your own in this large concrete chamber.

Oxford was home for a couple of days first at Christchurch Meadow and then onto Osney Bridge both free of charge.

Above Kings Lock, Dukes Cut goes off to the right to the Oxford Canal, whilst straight ahead the Upper Thames really starts and the character of the river changes. The gin palaces can't get under the low road bridge at Osney so from here on it is smaller cruisers and narrow boats. Most of the boats cruising this rural and quiet part of the river were like us, going back to the National Festival in a week or so's time.

The locks are now all manually operated by non-resident lock keepers and a helpful bunch they are, a fund of useful information on moorings and other services available locally. The last lock before Lechlade acts as custodian for the statue of Old Father Thames. It used to mark the source at Thameshead but suffered from the attention of vandals, so now he lies alongside the lock chamber overseeing the ups and downs of the boats using the lock. Lechlade has plenty of meadow moorings going up to Halfpenny Bridge, free without time limit.

We stayed a couple of days exploring the local antique shops and walking as far as the redundant church at Inglesham, worth a visit just to soak up the atmosphere.

The return journey down river was very pleasant with ever increasing temperatures. A stop over in Oxford again was the hottest day of the year some places reaching 100degress F. mark. We sat in the shade just me and the dog. Jill went back home by train for a few days in time for buckling rails and long delays. The dog took a fancy to a Pekinese, there is no accounting for taste.

Following Jill's return we headed down river but by the time we reached Sandford it was too hot for comfort. So we sat under sunshades with feet dangling in the water, most refreshing.

The next day saw us back at Abingdon. It may sound a bit boring all this to-ing and fro-ing but I for one never tire of the river.

A few days later and we were back on shady moorings at Sonning. A very twee village with murderous traffic due to only a one way bridge out. The shops are all long gone just a couple of pubs left and horrendous property prices.

Headed off to the Festival after three days of idleness. Paused at Tesco’s at Kings Meadow Reading, which is riverside with good moorings, although you can no longer wheel the trolley down to the boat, probably due to the local yobs tossing any stray ones into the river.

Back to Pangbourne moorings, early enough to get a space with no problem. Later on in the day it got very crowded and we doubled up with friends from NCCC which gave us a chance to catch up on any juicy gossip.

The following day we arrived at Beale Park, to find the moorings in a bit of a muddle, five or six boats out meant getting the bank side boat secured before every body else piled in. To be fair we had a very good position only a hundred yards or so from the main entrance.

Jill did several shifts in the water space office while I spent some time working in the information marquee. In between times we trawled through many stalls and spent more than we should have done. Ice creams and liquid refreshment became the order of the day in very warm sunny weather. The family visited for a day. They had a good time wandering around the site and watching the various displays. The mutt was entered in the dog show but failed to win a rosette. No surprise there. All back to the boat with sharpened appetites, to save straining the catering arrangements a take away was obtained from Pangbourne.

As with all rallies half the fun is meeting old friends and renewing acquaintances. You meet up so infrequently that although boat names and peoples faces are familiar, owners names are more illusive. References to the log books are often required. I thought it was only me with a bad memory but asking around it seems to be a general malaise.

We delayed leaving Beale Park for a day to allow the boats who had to move a chance to get ahead, it also made the locks less crowded for us to do our usual 8 to 10 miles a day. Drinking water not being available at the site by hose and with 600 boats present, the only hold ups were at the water points with queues developing early on and poor flow rates from the official taps. At Abingdon there was no chance if the council decided to top up the local swimming pool, the flow from the tap virtually stopped.

Back to Oxford for supplies and a stop over at Osney. The boat in front was called Pearly Gates and belonged to an undertaker from Reading, black humour or what? Water levels on the river were down and blue green algae was coating the surface along Kings Meadow. Trying to explain to the dog he shouldn't really swim in these conditions didn't sink in so he was on his lead during this time.

Back on to the Southern Oxford Canal above Kings Lock and queues straight away. It did get better as the boats spread out and water levels were much better than expected. We still took it slowly, two days to Banbury and 24hours stop-over to admire the new canal surroundings. These moorings right in the town are warden monitored and 24hours is all you get, no bad thing when you see the number of boats stopping. It really is a nice town and at long last is making the most of its canal, instead of ignoring it, even if it is a little garish for my tastes.

Queues again at the locks after Banbury mainly due to long waits for approaching boats whose right of way it was, but by the time we got to Cropped the boats were spread out again. We shared the next locks as far as the summit at Clayton with another short boat which halved the work and allowed for a good natter. We stopped at the top of the Clayton Flight to visit the "Bygones Museum" in the nearby village the next morning.

A real Aladdin's cave of modernish artefacts laid out in various converted barns, stables and a hay loft. A large proportion of the items on show were rather familiar from childhood and later .The washer/wringer was the same as we started married life with and was then a bit of a luxury. The consumer durables from that era were just that, durable, the disposable society of today was unheard of.

We moved on to Wormleighton, a bit of canal famous for its amazing Z bends to follow the contours. Two miles of canal advances you about 800 yards as the crow flies. Along this stretch is a TV booster aerial and within sight of which you get the best TV reception almost anywhere on the canal system and stops here are timed to coincide with a programme we particularly want to see if possible.

Napton Flight was very quiet, quite unexpectedly so. However half way down we met up with some Australian friends and stopped for refreshments and a chat. When we got underway again the world and his wife were using the flight in both directions, so it took a while to do the last six locks.

A walk into Braunston the next day then on up the North Oxford to Hillmorton. The double locks were only being used singly and with all the hire boats coming from Rugby and beyond it was mayhem. A very heavy shower of rain whilst we were waiting was the first break in the hot weather for weeks. It did not last long but made everything moist and steamy.

The following morning started off very misty, quite atmospheric, but it soon burnt off and the fine weather continued.

An obligatory stop at Tesco’s in Rugby found the dog and I sitting outside in the sun while Jill, bless her, scampered around the aisles with the trolley.

Later emerging from the Newbold Tunnel the engine expired in a cloud of smoke, it started again quite easily and seemed OK perhaps it swallowed some oil, it does this about once a year without warning.

The last time we travelled along this stretch of canal up to Hawkesbury Junction the water was literally carpeted with duckweed. This time there was not a sign of it and we made the junction without a problem. Duckweed and direct cooled, i.e. canal water cooled, engines do not make a happy mix.

After Hawkesbury we began to feel homeward bound, the weather was fine but cooler now and the evenings were noticeably drawing in.

Atherstone Flight was a bit of a drag nearly four hours to work 11 locks. All the chambers are slow to fill with only small ground paddles, an extra paddle on the top gate would be very useful.

The Canaltime base at Alvercote gets bigger and more crowded whenever we pass this way with a large off-line mooring basin for private boats. New marina moorings are springing up all over the place, mostly BW partnerships according to the notices. Even so the long lines of permit holder moorings seem to get longer and fewer spaces, if any, for visiting boats.

A long queue for the Glascote Locks, again slow fillers with a lot of boat going both ways.

The evening saw us in Hopwas, nice visitor moorings and thanks to the First Mate Guide we found a paper shop the next morning, which we had never managed to find before.

The run through the area of army ranges was all misty and moisty, almost autumnal with the shadow of the overhanging trees making a very tranquil scene.

Fradley Junction was complete chaos with all the Swan line hire boats tied up on the lock approaches and long term moorings on the off-side. An hours' wait clinging on to the sides of the hire boats made more difficult by the flush of water coming down every time the lock was emptied.

We got to Rugeley late afternoon, a good place for shopping but not recommended for overnight. A little way out of the town and over the Trent Aqueduct there are some nice rural moorings to tie up, all dog approved.

At Colwich Lock the following day I got talking to an old chap who, as a boy, worked on his Dad's horse boat taking scrap iron out of Bugsworth basin in the early thirties. Could have done with more time with him and gleaned more details, I am sure he had some tales to tell.

A day later we stopped for shopping in Stone, Jill to Safeways and me to a lovely old fashioned ironmongers/tool shop which I can never resist.

Later above Yard Lock the canal was almost empty, mainly due to the flow of hire boats back to base just above the lock. Jill went very slowly up the middle and made it to the next lock skimming the bottom all the way. BW men were running water down, but due to the re-organization they had had to come all the way from Stourport, a two hour drive away. So by the time they had got to Stone the situation had worsened.

Up Lime Kiln Lock and the bye washes were running very fast to feed water down to Newcastle Road Lock. The boat got drawn across the mouth of the channel by the current and it took a lot work with the pole and a lot of revs from the engine to get it away from the current's clutches.

Got as far as the Wedgwood moorings at Barlaston and stayed there the night, must revisit the factory one day. At Hem Heath we paused to say hello to the nice ladies. They have a really lovely waterside bungalow with moorings. I wish it was mine.

Through Stoke and up the flight, no vandals or hooligans this time. We arrived at Harecastle Tunnel earlier than we intended and after a short wait, were waved through. Onto the Macclesfield Canal and we really are on home ground now. The new moorings for Little Moreton Hall are excellent with rings and a good depth of water. Early the next morning I came across a field of mushrooms and gathered enough for breakfast and omelettes for tea.

On through Congleton to Bosley and a slow trip up the flight. The chap on the boat in front just drove the boat whilst his wife worked her socks off doing all the leg work. I suggested she let him work a few locks but apparently he was making sure the boat did not get scratched.

Above Bosley we were only a couple of days from home and still the sun shone on us. Overnight at Poynton Wide, the dog insisted, its one of his favourite spots and who are we to argue.

Home to Furness Vale next day by lunch time, quite a few boats we did not recognise moored up made us realize we had been away for almost five months. Five glorious months weather wise it couldn't have been a better trip, but enough for one season.

Mike Malzard. November '03.

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Residents of Bugsworth - 1881 Census

Extracted by Peter J Whitehead

An occasional series of extracts from the 1881 Census taken on Sunday, 3rd April and Monday, 4th April 1881.
Census place: Chinley, Bugsworth and Brownside. Public Record Office Ref: RG11.

Key: Col.2, Marital Status. Col.3, Relationship to Head of Household. Col. 4, Age. Col. 6, Birthplace.

Dwelling: Midland Station





Railway Station Manager

Gloucester, England

Lucy C





Leicester, England

Edith A





Warwick, England

Francis C





Warwick, England 

Dwelling: Knowl Top






Bugsworth, Derbys






Furness Vale, Ches






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys

Mary E





Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys

Dwelling: Knowl Top






Oldham, Lancs



G Daur


Domestic Servant

Chapel-en-le- Frith, D



G Daur



Chapel-en-le- Frith, D



G Son



Chapel-en-le- Frith, D



G Daur



Chapel-en-le- Frith, D

Dwelling: Knowl Top





Farmer of 18 acres

Chapel-en-le- Frith, D






Bugsworth, Derbys

James H





Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys

Mary H B





Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys

Margaret A





Bugsworth, Derbys

Dwelling: Brierley Green






Bugsworth, Derbys

Martha A





Bugsworth, Derbys

Mary P





Bugsworth, Derbys

Dwelling: Brierley Green





Platelayer on Tramway

Brownside, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys

Dwelling: Brierley Green





Coal Miner

Bugsworth, Derbys





Cotton Weaver

Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys

Dwelling: Brierley Green






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys

Dwelling: Brierley Green

William HUGHES





Lancashire, England






Lancashire, England






Lancashire, England






Lancashire, England

Sarah A





Lancashire, England

James W





Bugsworth, Derbys






Bugsworth, Derbys

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Babblings by Pete Yearsley

Andover Canal Amble - October 4th and 5th 2003

Our weekend away this year focussed on the Andover Canal in Hampshire. Opened in 1795 and running from Andover to Redbridge on the Test estuary it was never successful, failed to show a profit and turned itself into the Andover and Redbridge Railway Company in 1857. In 1859 the canal was closed and 14 miles were converted into a railway known in later years prior to its 1963 closure as the Sprat and Winkle line.

Our first walk took us from Stockbridge to Andover. We met by the Grosvenor Hotel on the wide main street and walking eastwards found the first evidence of the waterway at Canal Cottage. Turning towards Andover, the new road built on the railway that was built on the canal obscured any trace, but on reaching the Test way which takes the old railway route we could see several loops that looked very canalesque in origin. A fascinating length with much railway and arboreal interest which culminated, after passing the John Lewis Partnership’s farm estate, at a brief stop at the ‘Mayfly’ pub on the banks of the river Test.

Back on the walk we now followed the river Anton at first by the railway route and then by footpath and road over the hill to Goodworth Clatford for our lunch break at the Clatford Arms, an excellent village local with well-kept Wadworth’s beers.

Onward, after being fed and watered, through Upper Clatford to the village of Anna Valley. Some imagination was needed on this section to visualize a canal or railway but it was the site of Tasker’s Waterloo Ironworks who were dependent on the canal for trading.

The last stretch to Andover followed the River Anton into a heavily redeveloped Andover. Still remaining however is the Station Hotel (nee Eight Bells) built by the canal wharf in 1790 and behind is a disused warehouse which was once a canal building. After a snoop round the area we made our way back to Stockbridge by bus or taxi where sticky teashops and trout spotting kept us amused.

A splendid meal was taken in the evening in the ‘Old House at Home’ in Romsey where good food and fine Gale’s Ales were universally approved.

On Sunday we met just north of Romsey at Lodge Farm from where, after a short road walk, we joined the in-water Andover canal! This we followed through meadow and wood virtually into the centre of Romsey, a distance of about 2 miles. From here the line disappeared so we road walked through the town. After a tea and wee stop at the leisure centre we skirted Lord Mountbatten’s Broadlands estate, leaving the main A27 down Lee Lane.

Careful perusal of various maps of varying age allowed us to deduce that the current Lee Lane is on the canal line, the former lane now just an access road for the estate lying a quarter of a mile away northward. We suspect that when the railway cut through the canal, first call on the unwanted land would go to influential parties, possibly shareholders like the Broadlands Estate who would not hesitate to keep the riff-raff one field further from their pheasants!

On to Lee where a diversion onto Coldharbour Lane railway bridge showed the well-defined line of canal across the fields being intersected by the railway.

Returning to lee Lane we now traversed a very confused landscape, much altered by motorway, railway, public utility and goodness knows what else building in the area. However, the canal line, nominally in water, reappeared as we made our way down the Lower Test Nature Reserve. Here the canal soon became lost under the railway as we walked down to Redbridge through the wetlands bordering the Test. At Redbridge, we noted the warehouses by the Anchor Inn which have canal associations, before repairing for a well-earned pint to the Ship Inn. Here many thanks were heaped on Paul and Kathy Niblett’s shoulders for researching and leading (and even finding bits of canal) an excellent weekend’s walking.

Erratum: The photo in the last issue of 174 was taken by the Andover Canal and not the Itchen Navigation as stated.

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‘Canal Mania!’ which opened on the 8th November 2003, is a children’s exhibition created by Saddleworth Museum but inspired by research undertaken by WOW – Wild over Waterways.

According to WOW research 1 in 10 children in the
North West of England think that canals were built to provide homes for ducks.

One in 8 seven to fourteen year olds believe canals were built to catch rainwater, and nearly half of the children questioned did not know that canals were man made.

Through a series of simple interactives, dressing up and children’s activities, ‘Canal Mania!’ hopes to explain the history and wildlife of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to children.

The exhibition was made possible by a £500 donation from the Huddersfield Canal Society.

Open until Easter 2004. Monday-Sunday 1-4pm

Admission; Adults £2; Concessions £1; Family ticket £4; Children under 5 Free

Saddleworth Museum & Art Gallery

High Street, Uppermill, Oldham, OL3 6HS

Telephone; 01457 874093

Fax; 01457 870336



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The third and final photograph restored by Peter J Whitehead for the late Dr Boucher shows a short boat at Johnson’s Hillock locks, near Blackburn, on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Rods, Poles or Perches - the Development of Length Measurement in England

by Peter J Whitehead

When researching canal history it is often necessary to refer to Distance Tables produced by canal companies or their successors. In the case of the Peak Forest Canal the two units of length measurement used in its Distance Table were the mile and chain, 80 chains making one mile. As a matter of interest it was decided to have a look at the origin of these units and, for 'good measure', include the once ubiquitous 'rod, pole or perch'.

It is sometimes the case that units are derived from higher order units and in the case of length this is the unit of area, which is the acre. Tables show that an acre is equivalent to 4,840 square yards. At a first glance this number did not look very promising and this was confirmed by taking its square root, which is 69.57 yards. It looked very much as though our ancestors had got it wrong and that at this point the article could have been brought to a premature close. But, as we shall see, the units of length used by our ancestors were based upon references that the people of the time could relate to (e.g. foot and hand). The problem that was to eventually arise was, whose foot and whose hand?

Yard (or Ulna) - the Base Unit of Length

The yard (or ulna) is derived from the old standard of Edgar, 'the yardstick', one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon standards.

It is said that Edgar (c. 944 - 975), King of England (959 - 975), kept his yardstick at Winchester, the original capital of England, as the official standard of length measurement. Time passed by and, following the conclusion of the War of the Roses, Henry VII (1457 - 1509) returned to England, defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field and he was crowned in October 1485. King Henry VII turned out to be a shrewd and resolute ruler who quickly restored order after the War of the Roses. He is not noted for being a particularly innovative ruler but it is believed that one of his few innovations was to resurrect the yardstick in 1485 and make it the base unit of length again.

This remained the standard until 1588 when Elizabeth I issued a new standard yard, which remained the legal yard until 1824 when an Act of Parliament under George IV superseded it. The purpose of this Act was to introduce systems of measurement more widely in society and to remove inaccuracies. This new yard became the first imperial standard, which had been initially commissioned by the Royal Society in 1742 and was based on the standard yard of Elizabeth I. However, to complicate matters, this yard had a very short life of just over nine years, as in 1834 it was damaged in the fire that burned down both Houses of Parliament. In 1855 a new standard was legalised, which was based on comparisons with the imperial standard before it was damaged. This eventually resulted in the yard being defined as the length between two marks on a bronze bar kept at a constant temperature of 62(F at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington. Currently it is defined as so many wavelengths of radiation in a vacuum but that is getting too technical, so just how long is a yard? Traditionally, Henry I (1068 - 1135) King of England (1100 - 1135), decreed that the yard should be 'the distance from the tip of his nose to the end of his outstretched thumb'. What could be simpler than that?

Other units of length, such as the inch, foot, chain and furlong, not forgetting the rod, pole or perch, would nowadays be said to derive from the yard. In other words their lengths are all based on the yard but just how exactly did they evolve?

Inch - a Sub-multiple of a Yard

This is defined as 1/36th part of a yard.

In 1308 Edward I defined it as the length of three grains of barley, dry and round, taken from the middle of the ear. This definition enabled everyone to measure an inch with sufficient accuracy for the times. It was also taken to be the width of a thumb measured across the knuckle.

Foot - a Sub-multiple of a Yard

This is defined as 1/3rd part of a yard.

Traditionally the foot has been taken to be the average length of men's feet but, as we shall see, there is more to it than this.

Rod, Pole or Perch - a Multiple of a Yard

This unit of length was defined during the reign of Edward I (1272 - 1307) as 5½ ulna (yards).

The rod is an ancient unit of length and it is a traditional land measure that has survived to the present day. It was originally defined as the total length of the left feet of the first sixteen men to leave church on a Sunday morning1. By this definition a foot is equivalent to 12.375 inches (i.e. 198 inches/16 feet), so there is a small error.

In medieval England land was public and the type of agriculture practised was known as strip farming. This method of farming was extant until the 18th century when, between 1760 and 1840, Parliament passed a number of Enclosure Acts that did away with public land. The impact of this was that after enclosure, when the land was re-divided, the farmers, being peasants, were excluded because they lacked political influence. This forced them into towns to seek alternative work and so gave impetuous to the Industrial Revolution. In this manner peasant society was eliminated in England.

In the strip-farming system each farmer was provided with a narrow parcel of land to cultivate in order to provide sufficient food for his family, that is, it was a system of subsistence farming. In those days farmers cultivated their land using ploughs drawn, not by shire-horses, but by oxen. These ploughs were longer than later types and, in order to keep control, a farmer carried a long rod with which to tap his ox in order to keep it on 'the straight and narrow'. Such a rod needed to be about 5½ yards long in order to reach the ox and it would probably have been made of hazel. In this way the rod, pole or perch became a unit of length in medieval England.

Furlong (Furrow Long) - a Multiple of a Yard

This is defined as 220 yards or 40 rods, poles or perches.

A furrow is a narrow cut in the ground made by a plough and each farmer was provided with a length of land equivalent to 40 rods, poles or perches. Thus the phrase 'furrow long' became corrupted to 'furlong', a unit of length.

Chain - a Multiple of a Yard

This is defined as 22 yards, or 4 rods, poles or perches; also this is the length of a cricket pitch.

The design of the plough used in medieval England was such that it caused the soil to be physically moved sideways, rather than completely turned over and soon a permanent furrow was formed in the ground. As a consequence of this, ridges built up on both sides of the furrow separating each farmer's land from that of his neighbours. At the ends of each strip graceful curves were formed in the ground that represented the turning circles of the ox and plough. The length between the ridges was about four rods, poles or perches and later this became known as a chain.

The chain was called such because this length was measured using an iron chain having 100 links each 0.22 yards long. These chains, along with rods, poles or perches, were in common use by surveyors and builders, et cetera, well into the 20th century and every cricket club possessed one to mark out a cricket pitch accurately.

As a consequence of this it will now be seen that each farmer had a strip of land 40 rods, poles or perches long by 4 rods, poles or perches wide. The area of this land was called an acre, which is the base unit of area. Ingeniously, this area was related to time, as it was the amount of land that one man with an ox could plough in one day. In other words:

40 rods, poles or perches (220 yards) x 4 rods, poles or perches (22 yards) = 1 acre (4,840 square yards), which is where we started.

Going back to the time of Edward I:

'----- it is remembered that the Iron Ulna of our Lord the King contains three feet and no more; and the foot must contain twelve inches, measured by the correct measure of this kind of ulna; that is to say, one thirty-sixth part of the said ulna make one inch, neither more nor less. It is ordained that three grains of barley, dry and round make an inch, twelve inches make a foot and three feet make an ulna; five and a half ulna makes a (rod, pole or) perch; and forty rods, poles or) perches in length and four (rods, poles or) perches in breadth make an acre.'

Mile - a Multiple of a Yard

In 1588 Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603) Queen of England and Ireland (1558 - 1603) defined the mile as 5,280 feet.

The term 'mile' is of ancient origin and it came into use in Middle English having arrived there via Old English from the Latin word 'mille', which means 1,000 but 1,000 what? The complete expression is 'mille passuum', which means one thousand paces. Nowadays a pace is defined as one step or stride but in Roman times a pace (or passuum) was two steps or strides.

The Roman mile is 1,620 yards, whereas the English mile is 1,760 yards, so why the difference? This is explained by the fact that Romans were of shorter stature than medieval English.

To walk a Roman mile a step would need to be about 0.81 yards long (a little over 29 inches):

0.81 yards x 2 (for a double step) x 1,000 = 1,620 yards

To walk an English mile a step would need to be about 0.88 yards long (a little under 32 inches):

0.88 yards x 2 (for a double step) x 1,000 = 1,760 yards

Making shackles of an appropriate length and attaching them to the ankles of volunteers who are prepared to walk 1,000 double steps can verify Roman and English miles.

The term 'mile' came into use in many European countries as well as in the USA. In each country it is defined differently but the English mile is the closest to the original Roman mile.

Ancient Documentation of Units of Measurement

Medieval English governments were not slow in recognising a need to control society and keep good order. One method adopted was to standardise units of measurement. This was achieved by means of 'Assizes', which were periodical county sessions for the administration of civil (and criminal) justice. One such was the 'Assize of Measure' held in 1196 during the reign of Richard I, Cour de Lion, (1157 - 99) King of England (1189 - 99). This stated that:

'---- throughout the realm there shall be the same yard of the same size and it should be of iron'.

Similarly, the Magna Carta endeavoured to standardise measurements throughout the realm. King John (1166 - 1216) King of England (1199 - 1216) sealed this Great Charter following his famous meeting with the barons at Runnymede on 15 June 1215. However, this standardisation was more concerned with the measure of beer and wine.


There is a need to keep in mind units of length and area, both the common and not so common, so here is a summary of them including a few not discussed above.

Units of Length

12 inches = 1 foot
3 feet = 1 yard
1 rod, pole or perch = 5½ yards
4 rods, poles or perches = 1 chain
10 chains = 1 furlong
8 furlongs = 1 mile

To digress, I can well remember my mother sitting me on the kitchen table and making me recite the above table over and over until I had learned it parrot fashion. Nevertheless, my mother did not stop at that for I had to recite tables of area, weight (mass), capacity, time, money and the 'times tables' as well. However, I was not expected to learn that:

1 mile = 63,360 inches
1 mile = 5,280 feet
1 chain = 22 yards
80 chains = 1 mile
1 link = 0.22 yards
25 links = 1 rod, pole or perch
100 links = 1 chain
1 nautical mile = 6,080 feet
1 fathom = 6 feet

but in the end I remembered these as well. This list is not exhaustive as individual trades, such as engineering and boot and shoe manufacture, had their own units as well.

Units of Area

144 square inches = 1 square foot
9 square feet = 1 square yard
30¼ square yards = 1 square pole (sometimes confusingly called a pole)
40 square poles = 1 rood
4 roods = 1 acre
640 acres = 1 square mile

and finally:

1 square chain = 484 square yards
1 acre = 4,840 square yards
1 acre = area of a rectangle 1 furlong x 4 rods, pole or perches

the latter being most important as it defines an acre.

A medieval table of length and area, if there were such a thing, would probably have looked something like this:

3 grains of barley, dry and round, taken from the middle of the ear = 1 inch
12 inches = 1 foot
3 feet = 1 ulna (yard)

The total length of the first 16 men's left feet leaving church on a Sunday morning

= 1 rod, pole or perch (5½ yards)

The amount of land one man and an ox can plough in one day = 1 acre (40 rods x 4 rods)

The Cubit

No article about the measurement of length would be complete without mention of the 'cubit', which is recognised as being one of the oldest length measurements in the world, if not the oldest. This unit evolved from the length of the forearm between the tip of the finger and elbow. This was then sub-divided into shorter units such as the hand and foot or added together to make longer units such as a pace. Today, the cubit is generally taken to be 18 inches long (½ yard) and the 4-inch hand is still in use to measure the height of horses at their withers.

However, around 5,000 years ago the ancient Egyptians defined the cubit far more scientifically by relating it to time. It is interesting to note that the metre is not related to time in this logical manner, being a contrived unit of length2. The Egyptians accomplished this by taking one second of rotation of the vault of heaven to be equal to 1,000 cubits. Their method was to mark a line in sand and note the instant that a particular star was directly above it. One-second later (in sidereal time3) they marked a second line in the sand where the same star was then directly above. The length between the two lines was then said to represent 1,000 cubits. This was done westwardly on a line of constant latitude, in accordance with the direction of the earth's rotation. The Egyptians had, therefore, established a fixed reference, which could be repeatedly used to check the accuracy of the cubit4. Like so many of the endeavours of the ancient Egyptians, the precise manner in which they did this work may never be discovered.

In spite of the cubit's standardisation by the ancient Egyptians, several variations of it arose. Out of curiosity, I measured my own cubit and I found this to be about 18½ inches for my left arm and 18¾ inches for my right arm. It then seemed reasonable to divide the average of this by four and compare the result with the width of my hands. This produced a length of about 4e inches, which compared quite favourably with their actual width of 4¼ inches measured over my thumbs.

However, taking the cubit to be 18 inches long then the following table can be compiled:

1 Roman double step = 3.24 cubits
1 Roman mile = 3,240 cubits
1 English double step = 3.52 cubits
1 English mile = 3,520 cubits

The ancient Egyptians chose to measure reality using their knowledge of mathematics (especially geometry) and music (music being the study of proportional laws of the frequency of sound waves). In this respect, this ancient culture was very close to contemporary mathematics.

I then decided to calculate the length of the cubit along the Equator and then along the Tropic of Capricorn, which passes through Egypt at a latitude of 23.5( North.

Length of Equator = 24, 901.55 miles = 1,577,762,208 inches

Length of 1 Earth (or sidereal) day = 23 hours 57 minutes5 = 86,220 seconds

Length of equator to pass below a star in 1 second = 1,577,762,208 inches/86,220 seconds

= 18,299.26 inches

This is equivalent to 1,000 cubits,

therefore 1 cubit = 18,299.26 inches/1,000 = 18.299 inches

Repeating this calculation for the Tropic of Cancer, the cubit becomes 16.781 inches long. This length has been calculated as though the Earth was a perfect sphere but in fact this is not the case as it is slightly flattened at the Poles. Because of this the actual length of a cubit along the Tropic of Cancer would be a little greater than this value.

The disparity between the values calculated on the Equator and on the Tropic of Capricorn emphasises the importance of always conducting this work along the same meridian, otherwise the cubit is not a repeatable standard unit of length.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum


1. Counting in sixteens

This method of counting is now more important than ever. These days it is known as the hexadecimal number system and it forms he basis for the way in which computers make calculations.

2. Metre

The metre was established as a result of a Polar quadrant survey conducted by the French. The French Revolution broke out in 1789 and two years later, in 1791, the French National Assembly debated the need for a universal system of measurement. For linear measurement they arbitrarily agreed upon a standard that was to be one ten-millionth part of a quarter of the earth's circumference. It was resolved to conduct their survey on a line of longitude between Dunkirk and Barcelona passing through Paris, which lie on a meridian of longitude about 2.6E east of Greenwich. By undertaking the survey this way the projected standard unit of length could not be related to time. Greenwich was adopted as the universal time meridian of longitude on the 13th October 1899 and since then standard times throughout the world have been calculated from it.

Relations between France and Spain were not good at that time of the survey as the two countries were heading for war. The work was long and difficult and to compound their problems the surveyors were arrested as spies from time to time and were very nearly executed.

Owing to the difficulties encountered, it is known that the outcome of this survey was not completely accurate but nevertheless in 1799 a master metre was produced made of platinum, which was known as the 'Metre des Archives'. The year 1799 was a momentous one for Europe as it was the year in which the French Revolution ended and Napoleon came to power; the Napoleonic Wars were about to commence.

One of Napoleon's first acts in the year he came to power was to foist the new standard onto the people of France. Their initial reaction was to reject it but Napoleon insisted that the Metric System was not only to be the new standard for France but for the rest of the world as well. From 1837 onwards the French government rigorously enforced its use and by 1870 it had spread over much of continental Europe.

The length of the metre can easily be verified:

The mean diameter of the Earth is now given as 12, 756km. Using this value, the metre can be calculated:

p x 12,756 x 1,000
4 x 10,000,000

= 1.00185m

This result is so accurate that one cannot help but wonder whether or not the diameter of the Earth has been 'adjusted' to fit the metre!

3. Sidereal Time

This refers to measurement being determined by the passage of stars. Thus a sidereal day is the time between successive passages of any given star along a meridian or circle of constant latitude.

4. Cubit

For easy reference purposes, the cubit was also physically standardised by a royal master cubit made of black granite. This was kept in a royal vault and all the cubit sticks in use in Egypt were required to be checked against it at regular intervals. The choice of granite for this standard was sensible as this rock is stable and not subject to the same dimensional changes of metals due to changes of temperature.

There was also a royal cubit, now taken to be 20.62 inches long. This cubit was divided into 28 sub-units in a most peculiar manner, some of their names being the digit, hand, palm and t'ser.

5. Corrections to time are made by means of leap years and leap seconds. Occasionally, when listening to the 'Six Pips' on the radio, it is possible to count seven pips instead of the usual six, and that is a leap second correction of time.

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Samuel Oldknow's House in Stockport

by Peter J Whitehead

Samuel Oldknow is considered to be the chief promoter of the Peak Forest Canal and, being a major shareholder, he was the driving power in the Canal Company.

Samuel's family lived in Nottingham and his father, also called Samuel, moved to Anderton in Lancashire, near Bolton, to study textile manufacture. Here he met and subsequently married a local girl called Margaret Foster and Samuel, the first of their three children, was born here in 1756. However, young Samuel moved to Nottingham to serve an apprenticeship with his uncle, Thomas Oldknow. On completion of his apprenticeship, he moved back to Anderton where he quickly became a leading manufacturer of quality cotton calico and muslin.

As he was a highly motivated and ambitious person, he wanted to expand his business but he was unable to raise sufficient capital from the firms in London where he sold his products. As a result of this difficulty he approached Richard Arkwright, who was the recognised head of the cotton industry, and already the chief supplier of his materials. Arkwright loaned him £3,000 at 5%, to enable him to start manufacture on a larger scale, and Oldknow chose Stockport in Cheshire as the location for his new manufactory. He also received from Arkwright substantial advances in the form of yarn and drafts, which by 1788, amounted to over £10,000.

Oldknow needed to move to Stockport to live, so he built a house on Middle Hillgate that stands to this day. The two photographs of this house were taken in May 1983 and they show it in happier days when the well-known hat manufacturers, Christy & Co Ltd, were using it. The polished brass plaque on the door is marked Christy & Co Ltd.

The hat factory to the rear of the house subsequently closed and Oldknow's house was quickly boarded up and left to the ravages of time. Today it is in a very sorry state and it is distressing that one of Stockport's most significant buildings should be allowed to decline like this. If Oldknow's house is not already on English Heritage's 'Building's at Greatest Risk Register' then it should be.

Oldknow's House photographed in May 1983

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The Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal - when will it be restored?

by Peter J Whitehead

An admirable article by Councillor Peter Scott entitled,

Let's get the canal back to former glory

appeared in the Stockport Times West on the 13 November 2003. In his article Councillor Scott, who represents North Reddish, made a good case for the complete restoration of this canal and he described it as one of Stockport's heritage treasures from the Industrial Revolution. He then went on to say that its restoration would create jobs, improve the environment and bring more tourism and leisure trips to the town.

This canal, which opened in 1797, was originally used to transport coal to the many cotton mills in the Reddish area and also for the townspeople of Stockport. Nonetheless, before very long it was carrying general goods, taking in raw materials for the mills along its banks and sending return loads of manufactured goods. Additionally, it carried wheat to Nelstrop's mill, at the canal terminal basin, just beyond the top of Lancashire Hill and overlooking Stockport town centre. Pickford's once carried on this canal and there was a regular fast passenger service along it as well.

Following on from his article, Councillor Scott requested an item about the Stockport Branch to be included in a forthcoming meeting of the Tame Valley Area Committee at Stockport Town Hall. This became Item 14 on the Agenda for the meeting held on the 1 December 2003 under the heading STOCKPORT BRANCH - ASHTON CANAL.

Councillor Scott has offered to be a contact point and he welcomes views from like-minded people concerning the restoration of this important canal.

The Stockport Branch left the main line of the Ashton Canal at Clayton, between locks 10 and 11 and its lock-free course was in a generally southerly direction for a distance of almost five miles. It first ran through Openshaw, by the famous engineering works of B & S Massey, to pass below Ashton Old Road at Pack Horse Bridge. Just beyond this bridge an extensive Canal Depot was situated on the western side. Ultimately, this depot became the main one for the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals. The canal then entered Gorton and Abbey Hey to pass over the mainline of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway on an iron aqueduct. It next passed under a branch railway line and clipped the western ends of Gorton Lower Reservoir and Debdale Park.

The canal then passed below Hyde Road to enter North Reddish where it crossed the Sheffield and Midland Railway (Romiley and Ashbury's Branch) on a second iron aqueduct. Three famous cotton mills, the Reddish Spinning Company, T Houldsworth & Company and Broadstone Mill Company, dominated this part of canal. Also there were two golf courses, Houldsworth Golf Course on the west and Reddish Vale Golf Course on the east and on the latter traces of the uncompleted Beat Bank Branch can be found.

Once in South Reddish the canal passed below the London and North Western Railway (Heaton Norris and Guide Bridge Branch) and on the other side of this railway bridge a short length of the Beat Bank Branch was put in water on the eastern side. Immediately before the canal terminus the short Lancashire Hill Branch was cut and a complex of wharfs developed around this and the main line to form the terminal basin, which had a length of about 300 yards. This became a hive of activity and the Canal Company operated some of these wharfs but the best-known building is Albion Mill with its associated warehouse, used as a storehouse for grain and flour, belonging to W Nelstrop & Company.

The Stockport Branch was largely an urban canal that was heavily industrialised for most of its length. However, commercial carrying dwindled during the 1930s and the terminal basin at Stockport was closed and eventually filled in. Notwithstanding this, the canal remained navigable, although with increasing difficulty due to weed growth. It lingered on like this into the 1950s to be finally declared dead in 1962. Its burial was to be protracted, difficult and disagreeable affair, especially so for people living nearby.

At Stockport, Albion Mill still stands but its warehouse was eventually demolished after a serious fire. The only other reminder of the canal is Wharf Street, which now stands close to a huge roundabout on Lancashire Hill.

It would, indeed, be a fitting memorial to the industrial past of this area if the Stockport Branch could be brought back to life to improve the environment, create jobs and attract tourism.

Editorial Note

Interestingly, this piece appeared in the December IWA Headquarters Newsletter

Ashton Canal - Stockport Branch

A letter in the Stockport Times, which explained how the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal has a society to promote its restoration, and the progress being made, has led to calls for the Stockport Branch of the Ashton canal to be restored.

Following expressions of interest from local people, an informal meeting was held in December, at which David Sumner, former chairman of Huddersfield Canal Society spoke, and those present decided to form a society. An inaugural meeting of the new society is due to be held on Tuesday 3rd February at 7:30pm at Stockport Town Hall. Click here to return to the Chairman's Report

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