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Monday 23 October 2023

Bricks and Back again.

 We awoke to a sunny day. Last night we hoped that we may see the meteor shower on the way back from the folly but it was mainly cloudy but also the lights of the surrounding towns were extremely bright under the clouds. Several boats passed us both ways, mainly hire boats as it is half term down this neck of the month, but not until next week at home.

After Bridge 112 there are signs of industry next to the canal, remains of old brick buildings and low to the water wharf level bricks etc.

Napton Brick Works, 1885
This was the Napton Brick and Tile Works. It was said to have been started in 1878 by the son of a local builder who thought they could make their own bricks. This was Charles Watson who knew nothing about the process so went into partnership with Thomas Mason who was an established brickmaker from Leamington. By 1897 that partnership was dissolved as Mason was over 80 and Charles may well have learned sufficient to carry on alone. Just afterwards Watson modernised the business and nearly doubled the output to 75,00 bricks per week. His bricks were in demand for the building of railway as millions had been provided to the LNWR for the building of Rugby Station etc in 1884, The Daventry and Leamington Line in 1893 and the Great Central Railway too. In 1899 there was a great fire at the works where sheds and buildings as well as a new kiln were lost. It may have been this that prompted Watson to join with the Nelson Cement Co. in 1902. In 1934 the business became part of the Allied Brick and Tile Limited that seemed to be buying up smaller sites after the depression and I think Charles Watson had died by then. The business survived until 1970 and is now a business estate.

You can see a wharf area here and the warehouse shed walls behind still today.

Brick Works 1923.
In both map extracts you can see that there was a tramway from clay pit at the base of the Napton Hill where they digging the clay. It was said that the clay laid 140 ft deep, and in different bands that gave different colour and quality bricks, including engineering bricks. By the end there were several chimneys on site only one shows on this extract.

At the end of the area of the brickworks was this. It looks like a roll on/roll off ramp, but must have been of later origin. I wonder if anybody knows what it was used for and when?

At Bridge 111, where the main road crosses the canal, I remember the first time we passed this way as we moored close by. It was perhaps 2013. This building was an old derelict pub. It seems that it had originally being called the New Inn, dating from at least 1845. It seems that in the years just after WWII the pub changed its name to the Bridge Inn. I have a memory that it was painted dark on the outside then. It is good to see that it has been bought and is cared for now.

We were then soon at the Napton Junction turn and heading down the Grand Union back to base.

We got to the Calcutt top lock and a pair, not even in the middle lock had been an readied the lock for themselves. It gave us chance to see if anybody was going to happen along and join us going down. They didn't! We then met boats coming up at each of the next locks too. It was very busy for a short time. 

This is the Calcutt bottom Lock, and probably the last of the year. You never know we may get a trip out before Christmas, although I haven't checked to see if these are winter stoppages.

I managed to sail past the Sunrise Basin at Ventnor Marina as I had it in me that it was the second entrance for our new berth. A quick back pedal and in through the entrance and heading for the fuel berth. We filled up with fuel, 97.5 litres to Oxford and Back at £110/ litre (moorers price).
We backed down to our berth and as the boat on the same pier was out I managed to get a good photo. About an hour later they arrived so I was glad I didn't wait.

We had planned to go home the following day, but by the time we had filled the car with all the swag to take home and done all the jobs needed doing it was still only early'ish, so we shut up shop and headed home. We were back in just over 2 and a half hours, and started the washing straight away. Such is the return to 'real life'.

Trafalgar Day.

Once again, sorry for the late post as we had a internet black spot and then busy packing up to head home.

It was a very still morning as we set off from Fenny Compton. Just opposite the water point are some pigs and piglets. They look like Gloucester Old Spots to me. The piglets would have made a better photo but they had all just been fed so were head down in the trough! The Gloucester Old Spots are known for their intelligence and for being docile as well as been hardy too. The owners were feeding their sheep too

We went to the Wharf for a pint last night. We will probably go again.

After bridge 134 the vista opens up. The field on the off side has many lumps and bumps in it, and this is the abandoned Medieval village of Wormleighton. Shapes can be made out with the rectangles being housing and roads going up the hill can be discerned. The original village was Anglo Saxon and was founded in AD956. It was in the Domesday Book with a population of 200 to 250. It expanded in the 12th and 13th Century but contracted in the following two centuries. In 1490 the parish was bought by William Cope how moved the centre of the village up the hill and abandoned this area, making 60 people homeless, and turned the land over to pasture. As the land has never been cultivated the remains are well preserved below the sod. It seems that the original moated manor house was down by the canal. It had two islands and the NE one has been cut through by the building of the canal. In fact the canal travels through part of the original moat. The other part of the remains are on the towpath side, but as that field has been cultivated it has been lost. The Manor was owned by the Spencer family through the 16th and 17th Centuries. In 1645 it was burned down by the Royalists during the English Civil War. The Spencers moved to their other holding at Althorp. Yes this was the Lady Diana Spencer family of Princess fame. In fact Wormleighton Manor was four times the size of Althorp Hall, and there are some items from the original hall at the new gaff.

This all wooden construction bridge is now numbered 113A but previously had no number. Looking at the old maps there has been a footbridge here since 1885. I am not sure whether it was named the Wedding Bridge all along, or just when it was replaced in 2009

It was good to see that there was somebody who was enjoying the wet weather and the HS2 works. The ducks looked like they were having a great time.

Just round the corner from the construction and it seems it has vanished.

I was hoping to see somebody taking advantage of the open air hot tub at this glamping site, but unfortunately there seemed to be no takers this weekend.

As we approached Marston Doles I saw that the old warehouse at the wharf was actually a trapezium shape, and there is the date in dark brick, 1865, in the gable end too. The large windows indicate where the crane accessed door were and there is the little gable where the pulley would be suspended at the left.

As we were going down hill Helen drove and quite surprisingly we met several boats coming up so we were able to swap at at least some of the locks.

Helen was just getting ready to swap with a boat coming up the last lock, their first. I managed to drop off our rubbish as we penned down and then we were lucky enough to find a berth waiting for us just round the bend after the water points. Day done.

As it was Trafalgar Day we had booked to eat at the Folly to celebrate the Victory of the Royal Navy over the old enemies., but alas at the loss of Admiral Horatio Nelson, and many other seamen. Oh yes, and it was also my birthday.


Friday 20 October 2023

Floods and Foul Murder.

 the rain went on all through the night, but gave up the ghost at about 0700. It was very damp and dark though. By the time we had got ready and Helen had gone to post a letter and buy some milk it was looking much better.

We got underway and when we approached Cropredy Marina we saw this boat that appeared to be stuck in the first entrance as it wasn't moving at all. As we approached it started and was winding.

First lock of the day was Broadmoor and it was very colourful with berries. Mind you there wasn't much headroom when I came to close the paddle.

The offside moorings between Broardmoor and Varney's Locks seemed to not be contact with having a boat, but a shepherd's hut or gypsy van are also required.

A boat coming down told us there was flooding at the next lock and as you can maybe see the water was coming over the topm of the gates but also flooding over the top of the lock sides and flowing down the slope to the tow path. I seem to remember this was how the breech near Middlewich occured.  We ran some water down as well as lowering the lock to get in. Obviously when we got to the top it started over topping again. There was a boat to take our lock and then one below so I think that may well have dropped enough down. I did contact C&RT as there was no evidence of a by-wash running so either there isn't one or it is blocked! There is a notice at Elkington Lock warning about not running water down to maintain levels, so it looks like there is the opposite problem for most of the time.

At Clattercote wharf moorings there are more shepherd huts etc.

We arrived at the bottom of the Claydon Locks and swapped with a couple who had been continuously cruising for five months in a new boat. Maybe they are one of the few that do not produce a vlog these days!

By Wormleighton Reservoir are the remains of the rail bridge over the canal of the Stratford and Midland Railway Co. The company was formed by the amalgamation of four companies, The East West Juncion Railway, The Evesham and Redditch and Stratford Upon Avon Co, the Stratford Upon Avon, Towcester and Midland Junction Railway and the Northampton and Banbury Junction Canal. The company was s et up to transport Northamptonshire Iron Ore to the steel works in South Wales where their other supplies were growing scarce and of poor quality. It closed, bit by bit after 1964. On this line the 'railophone' was tested. An inductive conductor was laid along the track and two coils on the train so that speech could be transmitted back and forth. As well a signal could be transmitted to automatically apply the trains brakes. The system worked extremely well but costs seem to have prevented it being generally adopted.

With all the rain overnight there is a red hue to the water. This is all topsoil that has been washed into the canal, and will ultimately cause silting.

As we entered Fenny Compton 'tunnel' there was a deluge of water entering the canal. It is a shame they can't pump excess water like this back up to the reservoirs if needed.

Looking down the length of the 'tunnel'. At the Fenny end was a young lass who was walking along the tow path, not with the right footwear for wading through the puddles, and in flooded areas the bank was too steep and muddy to get round the flooded area. We advised her to find another way. She took our advice.

I thought that the office at Fenny Marina looked vaguely WWII vintage, but it seems that the marina was dug out in 1973. Last year it was up for sale with the 3 bed bungalow for £1.35 million.

At dusk on Monday 15th February 1886 Constable William Hine went on duty from his home at Fenny Compton. We walked over to the George and Dragon pub by the wharf, (the old name for the present Wharf pub) as they had had a cattle sale there earlier. He was never seen alive again. He was supposed to be on duty at Warwick Races the following day and the alarm was raised when he didn't show. His mud covered stick was found in a field and later his dented helmet and handkerchief were found near the site of blood soaked ground with clear signs of a scuffle. A nearby pool was dragged and drained but with no luck. The police flooded the area and the next day found the missing Constable's blood stained pocket knife was found in an hedge.
His body was finally discovered four days later in the canal and he had signs of heavy blows to his face and head and knife wounds in his neck. PC Hine was 30 years old and was married to Elizabeth Edwards in 1880 the same year that he joined the force. They had two sons Arthur and Harry in 1882/83 and another child too, when stationed in Shipton on Stour.  Inquiries discovered that somebody had heard a group of men late at night speaking in hushed voice before running off towards where the struggle took place. Another said they heard a cry of 'murder' around 10pm the night of the murder from the direction of where the helmet was found. Two poachers who had attacked him at another posting were questioned but released as they had alibis. The lead police officer was sure that he had been murdered by two or more men and they had used an hurdle to carry the body to the canal to dump him. Despite extensive inquiries and resorting to dressing as women and hanging about on street corners to try to glean information from gossip the killers were never found. The inquest gave death by willful murder caused by stabbing of the jugular. He was buried in Stratford Cemetery with a 150 Police Constables and officers in attendance. The fifth policeman only to lose their lives. His widow Elizabeth was granted a sum of £67 12s which was equivalent to a years salary. A fund was also raised to raise money for the family and by the end on April at least £124 17s 11d was raised.

We now travel to 1993 when a book was written about the case. This raised sufficient funds to actually erect a grave stone for PC William Hine who was killed whilst carrying out his duties and his body discovered in the Oxford Canal near to where the marina service wharf is today by a drag line.

Thursday 19 October 2023

Climbing to Cropredy.

 I had rained quite heavily in the night but other than that a peaceful night was had. Helen decided that she should head back into town to sort out her bank card that wasn't being accepted to 'tap and go'. As our bank branches are difficult to find we thought going here to order a new card would be a good idea. of course she needed to test it on the way back. It hammered it don whilst she was away but she was in the shopping centre so missed it. I stayed on the boat and investigated our batteries. I can't remember when we bought them, but a good few years ago now, and we have had erratic reading from them this last few days. They all see fine having checked so we will just monitor until we get back to the marina. I did a few other chores before she got back and then headed off.

The facilities were free so we stopped to fill with water and get rid of the rubbish, more than normal with the carpet off cuts etc. Just as we were prepping to go up the lock, which was out way, another boat arrived to go yup, but they wanted the facilities so we got the lock anyway.

Tooley's Dry Dock is preserved, not quite in amber, but not like the scruffy old place it used to be, judging from old photos, but it is still there.

The arm that was left when the canal was diverted for the modern road layout is now moorings, but is announced with a tall flag pole with a Union Flag, a cactus statue and model of a crane!

As we approached Hardwick Lock I was intrigued by the mention in Pearson's Guide that a railway was built by German Prisoners of War in WWI. It turns out that this was true as the Ministry of Munitions was keen to exploit home produced iron ore rather than bring it in on ships. The line was built by Prisoners of War from the main GWR line north of Banbury, that bridge still crosses the canal. The Oxfordshire Ironstone Line ran on the west bank of the canal, now massive warehouse, to the the Wroxton Quarry to the west of Banbury. The North Oxfordshire Ironstone Company was set up in 1917 and the line was built by the POW between 1917 and 1919. Blascote Quarry was opened after Wroxton ran out and others followed.  The Line was never part of British Rail and was run by the company with their own rolling stock, and they had their own rolling stock. The line closed in 1967 when the ore ran  out.

These swans were camera shy. A little later we saw a couple of cygnets that may have been booted out so you can understand it!

The was the odd little drizzle or shower, but there was a fair bit of sunny periods too. The contrast of patches of light and the autumn colours made for a good picture.

It is always interesting to see how far the bank sticks out on the off side. The cattle wandered quite far out so it is quite shallow there.

This looks like it was a warehouse that belonged to Cropredy Mill that was on the towpath side of the canal. Some remains of the mill remain around the road bridge, The mill was built in 1819 and in 1905 the signalman at Cropredy station spotted a fire at the mill. He couldn't leave the signal box, but got passing trains to sound their whistles to try to raise the alarm. Eventually a man was sent on horseback to Banbury to rouse the fire brigade. They arrived 15 mins after hearing of the fire with a steam pump and a manual fire engine. There was no hope of saving the main building as the roof was already going. They managed to save the engine shed and boiler and the out buildings and nearby cottages. The hoist over the canal collapsed into the canal, with molten lead and many sacks of grain and rubble fell into the canal that had to be removed before navigation could continue. In the end the boiler and engine house were all that were saved, along with the outer walls of the main building. It was said the the costs would be £7 or £8,000, two thirds of which was covered by insurance.

We stopped just aove the lock, and just before a heavy shower come down too. After a bite to eat I did a couple of jobs replacing some of our homemade double glazing in which the perspex had cracked. We then went for a walk around the village. This is Red Lion Street, right next to the church and shows off the ironstone coloured cottages of the area. You can see the pub sign of the Red Lion pub that dates from mid 1700's.

The Brasenose Arms has been revamped during COVID when three friends took on the lease. It has been altered to a nice relaxed eatery and they have rooms too. I must say the beer was well kept too. They had Tim Taylors Landlord and Wadsworth 6X. After a couple we headed back to the boat for tea.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Two Connections To Hull.

 I did hear the trains pass occasionally, but I slept well the rest of the time.

We got going about 9:45, just as boats were passing from each direction. A little after getting away we passed a weir and I noticed on the concrete posts was the OCC of the 'Oxford Canal Company'.

The ironstone buildings at Twyford Wharf look attractive. In 1882 the wharf consisted of a dwelling, a barn and a stables along with four enclosed fields, making over 17 acres. It looks like there is a camping and caravan field there now as well as a a few  narrow boats for hire too.

This photo was taken not for the lifting bridge really, but to show that the sun was really trying to break through. I didn't succeed!

Once again there was a mile post where their was supposed to be on this morning. I wonder why most of the others were removed? This one doesn't reveal the four holes for a plate to have been attached though.

As I looked back from Grants Lock I could see the lift bridges where we had come from. For some reason they made me think of a couple of dinosaurs crossing the countryside.

Just before entering Grants Lock is bridge 174. As you can see there is an older number built into the brickwork, 148! Where did the extra 26 bridges come from? I was wondering if it was the addition of the strecth from Napton to Braunston but this is only 14 bridges. I'm sure somebody will be able to tell me.

It seems that the original route of the canal went more or less straight on here, but has been diverted slightly so the bridge under the M40 is at 90 degrees rather than at a slant. It resumes the original route just the other side of the motorway. The lady leaning against the wall is a littler picker. This seems to be the limit of her beat from Banbury. When we passed this way south she was out and about with the tools of her trade too.

As we cleared the motorway I took a fancy to the trees up ahead. Their scale and shape attracted me.

Today was the first time I had a close look at the 'hinge'of these iconic Oxford Canal Lift Bridges. It looks like a Scherzer rolling bascule type bridge. These are named after the American engineer who invented them. The first to be built was in Chicago in 1895. The advantage of them is that the rolling motion along the rack reduces friction and actually means that the base of the bridge is moved clear of the gap intended for passage, rather than still jutting out. Several of the bridges across the River Hull at home are like this, but on a much larger scale.

The new housing south of Banbury seems to be growing. We did notice that there is a green space park already laid out with lit walk ways and a nice kids playground there. I did wonder if this was old industrial land but it looks as if it was agricultural until built upon.

I noticed that the permanent mooring as you approach Banbury are called Banbury Tramway Moorings. I looked on the old maps thinking that an old plateway or tramway ran alongside the towpath in the area, but it seems not. However It seems that the tramway ran from the west bank to the east connecting two sections of the Britannia Works. A small agricultural implement maker had been bought in 1848 by Bernhard Samuelson who had been born in Hamburg, but brought up in Hull! Under him the company grew and expanded over the canal to close to the railway station. To connect the two a tramway was built.

This extract from 1898 shows the extent of the works and the tramway. Samuelson was a great employer paying well above the going rate and looking after his workers in many ways, housing recreation, pensions, education etc. The company made digging and mowing equipment, chaff and linseed cutters, lawnmowers, rollers, reapers, churns and turnip cutters etc. He became the areas MP in 1858 and mostly stayed so for 30 years, and was made a Baron in 1884. He died in 1905 and the lower works (near the station) had a massive fire which, despite rebuilding etc started the company of the slippery slope. The works closed in 1933.

We moored up before the rain before Albion Bridge and after a bit to eat Helen went off to do some shopping after a walk to Sainsburys. I stayed and laid the new carpet in the bedroom. The lack of space was a real trial trying to cut out from a large piece. I managed tolerably well, and Helen said she was pleased with the results. (She would have to say that wouldn't she). We then went into town for a bite to eat. Helen was very pleased to have a small experience of of the 'fun of the fair' as she had missed Hull Fair which almost never does. It is the largest travelling fair in Europe. She actually only goes for the Carver's chips, brandy snap and chocolate cinder toffee! After leaving Hull they rides etc disperse and some have found there way to Banbury for their Michaelmas Fair that has been going for 500 years or more. Some of the roads and squares were closed off until Sunday. Shaming it was raining. 

On the way back to the boat we saw this 'mural'? Banksy'esque I suppose.