Sunday, 1 April 2007

Foggy and cold.

1 lock and 5 miles,, Now moored at Welford Basin.
Total of 174 locks and 163 miles and 2 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

Saturday 24th started out foggy and cold as we set off for Welford. It took us an hour to reach the turn off onto the Welford Arm where we ascertained from another boatie that the Welford’s sole lock was open. We had received a notification some time ago from BW that the lock was to be closed for 4 days at the end of the month but without internet facilities we were unable to confirm the dates. Luckily it doesn’t close until Monday by which time we will be on our way to Market Harborough.
The sole lock on today’s journey was only a rise of 3’ 6” up to the basin which has 2 small marinas and quite a lot of boats for such a short waterway.
Part of the original wharf area is now partly covered by boat builder’s facilities where coal and limestone were originally unloaded directly into lime burning kilns. It was recorded that there could be as much as 1000 tons of coal stored on the wharf at times.
Parts of the old kilns have been excavated as seen in the photo. The kilns would have kept the old boatmen busy as a barge (narrowboat) would carry between 25 and 35 ton and 2 of the kilns could take 20 tons of limestone and coal each. The smaller kilns only took 7 tons. I would imagine that the boatmen would also be guaranteed of a load from the wharf after unloading the bulk coal or limestone in the form of bagged lime for the glass and building industries around the country and of course the rural sector for spreading on pastures as fertilizer. Another product that was shipped out of Welford was roadstone (road making material) from local quarries.

One of the boatmen or should I say woman was a Mary Gilbert who had a boat called Gwen Mary which she used to transport coal, coke and other provisions around the district from her wharf side delivery business. She also ran the George Inn, previously owned by her father William. The Inn is now the Wharf Inn and still in the same building. She was a busy lady especially since she had 2 daughters, Julia and Gwen who are pictured on the Gwen Mary with Mary in 1907. I must investigate this more as I know I have several historic links through my family name of Canvin to the canals and my mother’s maiden name was Gilbert. Coincidence? We shall see.
As usual we went off in search of anything of interest around the village and found that the village had been very self sufficient right up to the middle of the 20th century with butcher, baker, cobbler, saddler, builders, plumbers, stonemason and many other tradesmen. In the horse drawn days many carriers with their horse drawn drays and wagons would have abounded in this rural community.
Many of the houses displayed a plaque with a name indicating who had originally lived there (i.e.) Butchers cottage, which had a building behind it which originally may have been a slaughter house as butchers in the old days killed their own beasts on site , bakers cottage and the old post office. The arrival of the canal in Welford bought new prosperity to the district.

While wandering through the original part of the village it was interesting to see a lot of houses with an archway through the building which would have been for the owner or tenant to take his horse(s) through to the stable(s) in the back yard. Many of these stables still exist having been converted to accommodation, garages or just sheds.

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