Report on a joint ACA/University of Leicester talk on Ilott Wharf on 7th May 2019

30 people attended an illustrated talk by Matt Beamish, a professional archaeologist, on the history of Ilott Wharf. The event was held at Measham Leisure Centre on Tuesday 7th May 2019.

Using archive maps and coloured explanatory slides, Matt traced the history of Measham, and Ilott Wharf in particular, back to the early days of its history and explained that traces of Roman and Anglo Saxon and Medieval settlements had been found in the area. However, the industrial history of Ilott Wharf really began with coal mining and the building of the canal in 1804. Ilott Wharf developed into a significant transshipment point. Using original maps and drawings Matt illustrated how the site had developed over time; initially horses drew wagons from the Measham collieries to Ilott Wharf. These were soon replaced by steam trains and Ilott Wharf became a busy hub with sidings, bays and a loading gauge. The latest archaeological tools, such as Lidar, had revealed the humps and bumps on the ground, that were invisible to the naked eye.  The sides of the wharf had once been built up above the height of the roof of the boats, so that the coal could be tipped down into the boats. An archive map also showed the presence of an arm, which may have doubled as a winding hole. One member of the audience observed that the towpath was on the opposite side to the wharf facilities; how then,in the absence of a bridge, did they manage to uncouple the horses and bring the boats across for loading or unloading? Unfortunately the archaeology could not reveal the answer to that intriguing question.

With the demise of the coal mining and the severing of the canal at Snarestone, Ilott Wharf soon fell into disrepair and remnants of its busy past now lie buried as distant memories.

Following the interval, ACA President, Professor Orest Mulka, gave a brief talk on the future plans of the ACA in relation to Ilott Wharf and drummed up support for its restoration. ACA Chairman, Peter Oakden, concluded the talk by offering half-price annual membership of the Association to those present in the room,  and a number of attendees took up this special offer.