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Thursday, 8 September 2016

A tale of two villages and one tunnel.

This morning was beautiful so we just took our time as we were planning to go to the Canal Museum that opened at 1000. It was many years since I had been round and it has changed somewhat. An added extra was an audio tour of the towpath to the tunnel and back. To be honest it was too much information and became quite boring in the end. Too many facts and too much information meant that you couldn't take it all in. However I did learn things as I went. We got back to the boat and had lunch before setting off up the last two locks before war broke out at the weekend.

The Bickyard wild life area was once an area where clay was dug to form bricks. These bricks were probably used in the Stoke Locks and the Blisworth Tunnel.

Where the brick wall and cut in the bank is where there was an arm dug into the brickyard to service the brick kilns.

From the top floor of the Museum you can just see that the building on the left is on a different orientation than the other  buildings. This shows where the original road ran before the canal came to the village. The stone built house was the Wharfinger's House from which the wharf in front handled goods for the Grafton Estate. Beyond that was the Rectory Wharf that handled farm products.

As we walked up to the tunnel entrance Maris Otter was just coming out. The old engines certainly make a row as they are coming through.

On the other side of the canal was the stone mill building which is now the Canal Museum. It had a tall brick chimney and the steam engine was housed where the cafe is now a days. Just beyond that on the green was a small arm where coal was brought in and the flour taken out.

Helen brings the boat into the top lock and had a bit of an audience. It will be a spectator sport over the weekend I'm sure. It will be even more full of gongoozlers than Foxton on a nice day.

I hadn't realised that there had been an abandoned tunnel at Blisworth. It was started in 1793 but they found a water bearing strata and it flooded. Work stopped in 1796. After that there was talk of locks over the hill but sense prevailed and a new tunnel was started in 1802 and was completed in 1805. In the meantime the canal had been completed to both sides of the hill so a road and then a tramway was built over the top to transship cargo until the tunnel was opened. The building on the left was for the boat horses

As we passed by Westley's Mill that was steam driven and built in 1879 we passed 'Southern Cross'. The mill closed in 1929 and was converted to flats in 2000. We didn't go too much further, just through Candle Bridge where a lady used to pop out of her cottage to flog the boaters candles for the tunnel.

We had letters to post and needed more milk so we walked up into Blisworth village. There are some nice thatched cottages and iron stone buildings and whilst buying milk we spotted a leaflet for a walk round the town  so did that whilst we were there.

This is Stoneacre cottage from the 17th Century. It is one of the best examples of the alternate banding of local limestone and ironstone. It was lived in by Mr. and Mrs Goodridge. He was a blacksmith and she made lace. Richard Goodridge also extracted teeth!

Blisworth had several ironstone quarries and this was moved to the canal by plate ways and this is a footpath that is on the route of one of them.

One of the beautiful cottages in the village.

The railway came through Blisworth in 1838 and was a stop on the first route from Birmingham, Curzon Street to London Euston. The station was just a wooden hut and a wooden staircase up the embankment. The arch was built by a local builder made good, Richard Dunkley. The road below was a toll road.

Another plateway from a quarry came in to the canal from the right. The ironstone quarries in the area continued working up until 1967 so provided work for the locals and the canals. There were also ironstone workings on the other side of the hill at Stoke Bruerne and there is still evidence of a wharf between the tunnel portal and the village.

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