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Thursday 16 June 2022

Hospital, Creamery and Barns.

I had a look around on the internet to see if I could find anything out about Woodend Lock. It seems that it was at Woodend Lock and it seems that in the famous case of the murder of Christina Collins by some of the crew of a Pickfords Packet boat first reported her loss to the Lock Keeper at Woodend Lock. It was the Captain of the boat James Owen who reported that she had drowned her self. He body was later found at the Trent aqueduct near Rugeley, called Brindley Steps, or now bloody steps. I must research the murder at some stage as it was massive news in its day, 1839. Just south of the lock Lichfield Council built a sewage farm and Woodend lock was where coal for the facility was transferred to road haulage. In 1885 the council bought Woodend Farm and by 1890 the farmhouse and buildings had become an isolation hospital.

In this 1921 map extract Woodend Lock is at the top with the bend after the long straight from Shadehouse Lock off to the top right. Just south can be seen Woodend Farm now the Infectious diseases Hospital. To the left is the smallpox isolation hospital. This was an iron building built in 1904. I assume this means it was corrugated iron so that it could be easily disinfected. to the bottom is the Sewage Farm. Its early form was to take out the solids and then irrigate the fields with the rest. The resultant hay was cropped and sold. By 1920's you can see it was getting a little more scientific. In 1902 the engine driver (boilerman?) was evicted from the farm cottage so that it could be made ready for emergency isolation cases. As well as smallpox the main diseases were diphtheria, scarlet fever and typhoid. The main hospital was linked to the telephone system in 1920 but not mains water until 1924. In 1896 people who were sent to the hospital for the benefit of the rest of the public were expected to pay £2 towards the costs. This was felt too much for some, like a family that had three kids sent and the Council agreed to not impose the rule too strictly. Looking at maps of today it seems that the isolated smallpox hospital has gone but the main hospital/farm buildings look the same. It is said that during WWII the land was taken over by the air ministry and it was rumoured that aircraft were 'hidden' in the grounds.

The offside moorings above and below the lock may well have been put in by Swan Line cruisers of Fradley that had moorings for a boatyard and sales, although they are associated with Fradley more.

I was relieved the next morning to see the sick man from yesterday up and about this morning. He was thinking that he had a strain more than anything, but he and his wife had a long list of health problems so The truth could be anything. We re-emphasised that he should get checked out as soon as possible

It was a lovely evening as the sun disappeared and 

We helped a single hander up through the lock as we had just got ready to leave, but let him go first. The trip past Ravenshaw Wood is always good. That is him in the distance.

The rhododendrons were still a bright point in the forest of Ravenshaw Wood and the Sluish 

As we passed the boat yard before the bridge at Kings Bromley they were just pulling a boat out of the covered dock. It seems to be run by Jamie Franklin now and seem to do most things

I don't think I have got a complete picture of the Kings Bromley Creamery and wharf. I suspect that there are plans afoot for the place.

We decided head to Handsacre and wind there. As it was we backed down past the moored boat and 'parked' up. I rubbed down the painting that I had done the day before and touched up with another coat so that it would dry. Once we had done that we headed off for a walk.

When we moored up here last week I mentioned that this path was inviting us to walk down it. This time we didn't resist and headed off down the corn.

We were heading for Tuppenhurst Farm that lies between bridges 56 and 57. There is a little cafe that is open 10:00 to 15:00 and they do baguettes, baked potatoes, cakes etc and was very nice. They also have a B&B and there is a machinery museum. If you are around this weekend it is open for Father's Day. The collection is the lady of the farm's grandfather's that was passed to her father. She now opens the museum up on her father's birthday and Father's day in memory of her father. Look it up on Tuppemhurst Farm on Facebook etc. The Farmhouse is Grade II Listed and was built early 1700's and may be earlier at it core. The barn, now the cafe is a 17th Century barn conversion.

It was such a beautiful day and we walked back on the towpath. Bridge 56's red brickwork seemed to be soaking up the heat of the sun.

I had noticed on several other bridges the top bracket of the tow line roller, and her it can be seen and the two holes where the assembly was fixed to the bridge.

Following our blacking the tunnel bands really looked shabby so I have been touching them up ready to make them smarter. When I get it done fully is some time in the future. I find it hard to sit in one place long enough to do work on the boat as I like to move. But there is plenty to do on the paint work so I will have to make time.

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Passing through Alrewas twice, and Fradley fast.

 We had a lazy start this morning and decided on a stroll back into Alrewas to get some more stuff from Coates the Butchers and the CO-OP before setting off. 

I can't remember if I have mentioned this before but as well as the main mill with the water wheel and the cotton mill earlier, there was another mill in Alrewas. This was known as the Alrewas Steam Mill and was built next to the canal just by Gallows Bridge, the foot bridge that crosses the canal by the church yard. It was on the land in the photo above. I'm not 100% sure but I don't think these buildings are any part of the old mill. It looks like it was three floors, top being the sack hoist and store. Two pairs of stones and an oats roller were on the second floor and the ground floor had the flour bins. Wheat was received from the canal.

By the mill itself there were two offices, saddle room, coach house and a six stall stable with three pig sties. These buildings look more likely to be the old buildings converted or else a great job has been done replicating it. The mill was built in 1888.

At the same time as the mill was constructed Alrewas House, fronting on the main road, and behind the mill, was constructed. It looks a lovely house. It looks as though it has been split into apartments now. Despite it being a new mill with a 13HP fixed engine and boiler two families went bust that took it on, Joseph Cartwright Jnr and Herbert Bakewell Whetstone. In 1900 a James Cross, 19, was killed when he had been left to look after the machinery over lunch. It seems that he had tried to oil the machinery and had been trapped and wrapped around the shaft and died of a fractured skull. H.B. Whetstone had other interests and was declared bankrupt in 1911. Afterwards he was known to have gone to Nigeria prospecting. He later went to Australia and died there in 1913. The road that leads from Gallows Bridge to the Main Street is known as May's Alley after the builders company that had the yard before it was changed to housing.

Unbelievably there was a queue of three boats ahead of us at Alrewas lock after we had stopped to fill up with water. Then there were another three after us. We were only penning down to wind and head back up to Fradley. We thought we may have to go up Wychnor lock and turn at the winding hole by there, but after the Trent joined there was plenty of weed free water to chuck the boat and head back.

The horse bridges above the Trent by waters always look attractive, and we were back on the landing to take the return pen from the boat that followed us.

The bridge \near Wharf Cottage is known as Gaskell's Bridge and this is after the family that had the last coal business at the wharf.

This is where we had moored for a few days and I had not noticed the date 1855 in brick in the gable. It is unmistakable as a Victorian Board School.

As we threaded our way through Alrewas there were several more boats heading towards Burton. Where were they all coming from?

After Bagnal Lock there is some art work about an Alrewas Art Festival. It seems they have it every year and this year it is 20th to 27th August and there are exhibitions, talks, craft workshops and a concert. Maybe worth coming over for a look see. Boats were still coming down from Fradley though.

There was a voluntary keeper on each lock. We had time to stop and get an ice cream between Keeper's and Junction Lock. I should have dropped the rubbish off, but I was too busy licking the cornet to stop it dripping!

We seemed to vacate the lock from a boat coming down at most of the locks before heading down the straight towards Woodend Lock. We were hoping that there would be space for us there, and there was. Helen was planning to take some cuttings and seeds from the lock house gardens, but since we passed the other day HS2 have surrounded the place with wire fence barriers, so she missed out. The moorings above the lock had been vacated but there was a boat there. It was a bloke who had a dog and didn't want to be next to a boat next to us that had four of them. He was visited a couple of times by HS2 security staff though!

I started to do some touching up of the tunnel bands and as I was finishing off a boat came passed and proceeded to moor up on the lock! It seems that the bloke was having chest pains and couldn't go on. Helen went over and had a bit of a check. We got him some aspirin and and chatted as he slowly got better. It was late on so I was pretty sure there wouldn't be much traffic. By the time we went in the pain had gone and he was chatting well. He seemed to have good colour but I wouldn't wait to get checked out. It made Helen and I think as his wife didn't know how to turn the engine off! Mind you it was an old 'chugger' engine, as Helen calls them, so not quite as straight forward as turning a switch. It made us think about what we should know and what I should make sure Helen can do. I'm pretty sure that she can do just about anything though, although she wouldn't want to get involved in anything to do with servicing the engine!

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Falklands 40.

 We were up a little earlier than the norm today as we were on a mission. However the day didn't get off to as good a start as I had hoped. Tea in bed for Helen was fine, Macy Cat fed, other tasks done etc etc. It was after showering and getting ready I put the engine on so that Helen could dry her hair and the charge alarm came on for the domestic batteries. They weren't getting any charge through. Oh dear!! It was a good sunny day so I thought that they would be all topped up by the solar. However once away from the boat I realised that I hadn't tilted the panels for best effect, Double Doh!!

As we walked past Wharf Cottage I noticed another crest on the wall, but I have no idea what this may represent.

People may know that today is the day Grenfell Tower burned down five years ago and that it was the 40th Anniversary of the surrender of the Argentine forces on the Falkland Islands. I really had never associated this date with another major event of my life. That was the birth of my son and heir!! I have no idea why I didn't connect the Falklands surrender with the date of my son's birth, but possibly as I have never really been involved with remembrance of the Operation Corporate campaign before this year. I had been contacted by the Merchant Navy Association asking if I would like to attend the event at the National Arboretum this year. As it was close to where we have the boat I thought it would be good to arrive by boat and combine been away on the cut with a 40 year remembrance, so I got two invites.

I have blogged previously about my part in the campaign. I had often thought that we were late to the party but I joined my ship on April 23rd and sailed off to war five days later. I didn't get back to 'Blighty' until the end of August, a long time after all the brew ha ha had died down. 30,000 people were attending the 'do' and the weather was perfect, if a little too warm and sunny. As it was all outdoor I'm not sure what we would have done if it rained?

We got there early as it is just a walk up from the village. I was able to take a photo of the memorial to the Falkland Campaign with nobody in the way.

From the seas, freedom is the motto of the South Atlantic Medal Association. I always think the Falkland Island map looks like a Chinese Dragon with flames behind it.

I have a little bug bear about many of the speeches, epitaphs etc as, like the above on the main memorial, they infer thet all those that gave their lives in the conflict were in the Armed Forces. Many were in the Merchant Navy, or the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, that are not part of the Armed Forces
, and this sort of writes the Merchant Navy out of the history books. There were also three Falkland Islanders killed too!

The Merchant Navy Organistation had organised a service in a clearing of the convoy of trees that represented every Mercant Navy vessel that was lost during WWII. The centre piece was an anchor of Sir Percival, an RFA landing/logistics ship that had served in the Falklands. It was quite moving and at the end I met an old Captain of mine from the Irishman, and I served with him later, after the Falklands. We caught up and found that we had both been Pilots for a while. He in Barrow in Furness and me on the Humber.

I had asked a couple of the volunteers where I would be able to find the plaque of somebody from Hedon and whilst the service was on they very kindly traced it and guided me there afterwards so I could record it for his mother. She will be 'made up like a bag of chips'. I was very pleased to find Stickman there too. I have read this story to my Grand daughter so many times, and watched the film too, that it is a great favourite of mine, and her.

At the main memorial it was very moving as there were several people their in tears as they found their relatives etc. It was also quite sobering to see the number of panels that were blank, waiting for the future sacrifice of the men and women of our forces, and there will be many more I fear. The Merchant Navy dead are recorded at the Tower Hill memorial in London

The main service took place down below from this needle. It was a very moving and interesting ceremony. Max Hastings, the Historian and Journalist, who was there at the time, narrated the event. Personal stories were spoken along with music from the Welsh Guards, Scots Guards pipers and wonderful small choir. I was moved to tears several times. It maybe wasn't the life changing event it was for many people there, but it was forty years ago, and if nothing else it was a remembrance of my youth, and different times. I was very moved by a film from the Falkland Islanders children. They spoke of not forgetting the sacrifice that was made to ensure they remained free and British, and was the springboard for their great success today and all there swear never to forget.

There were no Royals at the ceremony but Boris Johnson was present. There was no booing but whether by design or accident we will never know, but the timing of the helicopter flypast seemed to encroach over his speech, which was not controversial at all. The speech that is.

It was a full day and we were given a free lunch, which is always nice, and it was more emotional for me than I had expected. We stopped for a pint on the way back to the boat and had decided to have our meal in the pub too, later. Once back at the boat I lifted the boards to the engine hole and started checked all the connections I could find. Nothing looked loose, but with fingers crossed I started her up... and everything was fine. There were no alarms and not lights and the batteries were charging. Hurray. Just then there was a funny noise and the alarm sounded and then quickly stopped when the noise did. I am suspect that the bearings in the alternator are on the way out. I will have to check out to see if I can see what is what on line. It has been in place for town years and the engine has done 3,700 hours so maybe that is not too bad!!!? The noise didn't return and charged up again I stopped it. Everything seemed fine so maybe it will get us back to the marina in a day or two.

Monday 13 June 2022

Plenty to see.

 We have stayed put today as we have a date tomorrow so there were a few odd jobs, a bit of shopping and a walk around the village.

All Saints Church has an extensive church yard by the canal. There has been a church on this site since 822. Some say it was founded by St. Chad himself. I would love to have a look a round the church at some time.

The lych gate dates from 1891. I suppose it dates back to the Victoria ideas of a formal death when the coffin would rest here before the Vicar arrived to conduct the service. It has already been restored twice and does look splendid.

Mill End Lane is the oldest part of the village and there are some lovely buildings in the area. As there is no through road it is a nice and quiet spot too.

At Church Road Bridge is Wharfingers Cottage and this was one of several coal wharves in the village. On the chimney breast is a coat of arms. It may represent the Stafford family or the Lane family of King's Bromley. The building may also have been used as a chapel for the boat families.

William Dumolo was born in Alrewas in 1845 and was a butcher. He had the house and shop built in 1892 and it was/is called Victoria House. The butchers were taken over by three generations of Coates family. There is a black and white building in the back that was their abattoir but is now their office. There must be a modern abattoir as they still do the whole process on site. The shop is well know to boaters, and we couldn't resist a pork pie, and several other bits and pieces.

I noticed this little building down Main Street. I wonder if it housed a generator at some stage.

Down Post Office Road we spotted this car that seems to be waiting for full restoration, or maybe just a polish!

By the Main Street canal bridge is the old canal horse stables. There was a full blacksmiths there as well so the full service could be offered. In 2005 it was bought in a dilapidated state for £340,000 for a to bedroom place. It is now worth about £550,000

It is the old stables that has the mural and quote from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

I'm sure that I have been close to the mill in Alrewas previously, maybe on a walk through the fields behind it, but you can't now approach it at the front due to a gated housing estate on the land. There has been a mill on this site since before 1660 and the present one was built 1784 and was a cotton mill and was built by Thomas Dicken. It was 1800 that the first consignment of cotton was brought via the canal from Liverpool rather than up the Trent Navigation.It spun cotton and worsted. It its peak in the late 1790's about 300 were employed. Children and women were employed in numbers. There was also a corn mill on the other side of the mill stream. Dicken went bankrupt and the cotton mill was up for sale for a knock down price of £4,000. It had cost £20,000 to build! A year later it had a 45HP steam engine and boiler added. It had its own gas works to light the buildings. There was an Apprentices house, maybe for children to be housed and a row of workers cottages with a managers house.
In 1808 the front and roof were badly damaged by fire. It seems that at the time it was owned by Sir Robert Peel. In 1811 William Farrington, 22, confessed to the fire, and after trial was condemned to death. However the judges met again as the man was considered an 'idiot' and the sentence was commuted. After the fire it was going to be demolished but in the end was rebuilt. the cotton and wool mill declined and by 1861 the cotton mill was closed. The Earl of Lichfield then acquired all the site. The corn mill had been going strong all this time and driven by a water wheel. The site was leased by M and W Bond tape manufacturers and William Shaw miller in 1844. The Bond family were involved in the tape mill until 1908 when they moved to Mayfield and confusingly called their mill there Alrewas Mill. The corn mill was run by the Alrewas Flour Mill Co. owned by the Earl of Lichfield and run by Joseph Cartwright. 
To cut a long story short in 1972 Alrewas Flour Mill was amalgamated with several other mills under Rank Hovis McDougal and became DALCO Agriculture making animal feed. It was sold to Midland Pig Producers. In 1989 the first application to change use to residential was submitted with the mill becoming apartments and 90 homes in the grounds. Eventually this was passed in 1994 with only 20 homes and in October that year manufacture ceased.
The 5 storey mill

Alrewas Mill in 1990.

Sunday 12 June 2022

All the Way to Alrewas.

 I went up the road to buy a Sunday newspaper. There were folk talking about the local Ironman event and I remembered that the road by Kings Bromley Marina was closed for a few hours due to it. We weren't too late when we got going but as usual there were plenty of folk off before us, in both directions.

It is still a little breezy and when the sun went behind a cloud it was cooler than a T shirt and shirt could cope with. Helen was up and down from 5 to 3 layers all day! However most of the time it was extremely pleasant chugging along down the green corridor.

The rhododendrons were out as we passed the Sluish Wood after Kings Bromley Marina 

The permanent moorings by Woodend Lock have been vacated due to the HS2 work. I have come to the conclusion that the bare poles of trees are not one that have been left in situ and stripped to the trunk, but mature trees that have been uprooted from woods that have been cut don to make way for the route. Part of the conservation remit was to shift some of the ancient woodland soils and trees to areas that were to be replanted as compensation for the loss of the old woods. The foxgloves have thrived on the disturbed soil.

I have heard that Woodend Lock Cottage has been bought by HS2. They were thinking of demolitioning it so that there would be no complaints from tenants, but have decided to hold fire and see what it will be like once the track is up and running. I'm not sure if it will be worth anything in ten years, or how ever long it will be before it is all completed! The tea pots are still in place in the niches in the lock bridge.

I am assuming that the niches were to facilitate a different sort of gate beam in the past. There are several locks hereabouts that have the access bridge right by the bottom gates and now employ these cranked beams. They can be pretty tough to open as you haven't got the benefit of the lever of a long beam. Helen got her back into it though. I reported that the gate paddle at the top gate was jammed partly open which didn't make it any easier.

It wasn't too busy at Fradley, nor too windy as there was a lot of shelter, so there wasn't the banging and crashing that sometimes goes on at the junction. We were heading straight on, continuing on the Trent and Mersey.

There were few boats about maybe, but there were still plenty of weekend gongoozlers. The cafes were doing a roaring trade with the very multicoloured cyclists with all the gear, and bikes that must have been worth as much as the boat by the look of them. The other group that were well represented when the men and women in black who sat on big, very loud motor bikes dressed in leather! We stopped for water at the very slow tap outside the cafe. There was a hire boat filling up, but we didn't mind as Helen was making us a bacon butty, and we dumped the rubbish whilst we waited. When they left we plugged infor a top up and another boat coming up took their place. It was the 'Meander' and they came over to say hello. We were pretty lost but then realised that we had come down the Manchester Ship Canal with them, so, it you read this please accept my apologies for being vague!

There was a boat shaping up to leave the new marina but the wind was making it difficult and it doesn't look very well fendered etc. There is a massive brick building there now there seems to be a trolley to bring up the boats into its confines. I'm not sure why the door has to be so tall, but it will be interested to see what they get up to in there. There are more boats in the dock now and they berths seem to have a larger gap than many marinas.

Just below Common Lock and the new marina was this building and a house further away from the canal, and they were for sale. The stables looked interesting so I took a photo to look up afterwards. It turns out that this was once the Fradley Plaster Mill, though the current buildings have nothing to do with the old mill. The earliest reference I can find is in 1863 when it was owned by Midland Counties Plaster and Cement Works which was part of the Hargreaves and Newton company that was established in the midlands in 1837 and had works at Burton and Hartshay and supplied cement to many of the Victorian project in the Midlands. They were suppliers of mineral white, terra alba, potter's and builder's plaster, gypsum, floor plaster, Portland, Roman and other cements. In 1877 this was their works and the offices were on Brook Street in Stoke on Trent. In 1899 the works and house, along with 91 acres of turf land were for sale. There was no mention of a deposit that was worked, and maybe that is why it was sold as on the map of 1901 the old works was gone.

This OS map extract of 1881 shows a works close to the canal. I suppose that the stable type building of today could be the remains of the east side of the works but looking at google it seems to be at the wrong angle. The house with orchard garden is behind.

This extract of 1900 shows that the works has gone, probably after the sale in 1899. The house has become cottages and looking at the modern building that is there it is built on the same footprint. As to the round structure where the works was I wonder if it is a windmill, or maybe a horse mill that powered the old mill.What ever it was was still there on the 1920's map.

Bagnall Lock on the outskirts of Alrewas is quite picturesque and a fitting entry to the pretty village. In Fradley Helen had chatted to a couple of boats, the first said there was plenty of room and the second that it was very busy, so we ventured past thee winding hole and parked up in a gap between boat that just fitted us. It is close to where we had an engineer come to fix our Hurricane heater during out first year with the boat (I think). I don't think there is a time limit on this mooring so that will suit us very well.