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.
The Moira Festival takes place for its 19th time on the weekend of 18th to 19th May 2019. As ever there will be a wide variety of stalls and entertainment for the whole family, including the ever popular duck race. The Ashby Canal Association will again be present at this annual event, and the price for entry has been held at £5.00 for adults, and £2.50 for children age 5+.
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The Warwickshire branch of the IWA undertook a short walk along a stretch of the Ashby Canal on Sunday 14th April 2019. Assembling at Sutton Cheney wharf they walked up to Bosworth Battlefield Centre before descending to Shenton, from where they embarked on a round trip to Shackerstone on board a DMU of the heritage railway. Once back at Shenton it was a short distance along the towpath back to the wharf, where they enjoyed lunch at the cafe.
The Warwickshire branch were very appreciative of the canal, and many of them continue to cruise the full length of the canal from their various bases.
A trio of rare photographs, which were recently posted on the Facebook page, have been presented to the ACA. They show views of Measham and its close relationship to the canal, whilst it was still in water.
The ACA is looking for volunteers who are willing to act as ‘lengthsmen’ along the whole 22 miles of the canal, in order to keep the towpath free of litter and generally care for its managed appearance. You can choose which section you wish to adopt and maintain, and the ACA can help you out with any tools you may require. Above all, please let us know if you find any tasks that may require a larger team effort. There are no set times for this volunteer work; how and when and where you maintain your ‘patch’ is entirely up to you.
If you are interested in becoming a lengthsman, please contact any member of the committee.
Held on a Thursday for the first time, the social evening at Donisthorpe Woodlands Centre was well attended. ACA President Orest Mulka presented an illustrated talk on the history of Ilott Wharf, from its working days up until the archaeological survey in July 2018. After the canal was closed off in 1966 Ilott Wharf gradually fell into disrepair, and its land was used successively by a model aeroplane club who landscaped the ground, and then later by a company specialising in tank rides who despoiled the ground, before it began to be tended by volunteers from the ACA.
Professor Mulka’s talk was supplemented with a short documentary film, which includes interviews with relatives of inhabitants of the houses that used to occupy the site. This film, entitled “Investigating Ilott Wharf’s Hidden Heritage” is currently viewable under the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtQJVfg2d_g
After the interval Geoff Pursglove gave a short talk on the history of the Pump House at Snarestone; how digging for coal led to a chance discovery of a well on the site and hence construction of the listed building and its impressive beam engine. Thanks to the generosity of ACA member Rod Smith, the beams were saved from the scrapyard. They have been lovingly restored by a group of volunteers and are now on display at Snarestone Wharf.
During the interval Rod displayed an interesting array of historic ironwork that had been salvaged from various sections of the canal after their closure. Included in the display was an authentic 18th century issue of the Act of Parliament authorising construction of the Ashby Canal.
A short story by the late Tom Henshaw is now available to buy at the shop in Snarestone Wharf, or by post.
The book is a 28 page paperback and all profits made will go towards the restoration of the Ashby Canal.
The paperback costs £3.50 + £1.00 p&p. It can be bought in person at the shop, or by card over the phone by contacting Michael Wooding on 07805 602618.
The Ashby Canal Association held its AGM at Donisthorpe Miners’ Welfare Centre. It was attended by around 40 people. Chairman Peter Oakden announced the progress made in negotiations with Leicestershire County Council to have ownership of the Transport and Works Act Order (2005) transferred across to the ACA. This will enable work to begin on the restoration almost immediately. The treasurer, Bob Taylor. announced an increase in funds since 2017 to bring the total in 30th September 2018 to a very healthy £236,173.45.
Long-serving committee member and life member, Audrey Boston, stood down from her role as a committee member and director, as did Ian Palmer. We are indebted to both for their services. The directors retiring by rotation – Cyril Blackford, Cindy Aston and Clive Walker – were all re-elected into their posts.
The short meeting was followed by a talk by a speaker from The National Forest on “Coalpits to Treetops”, which illustrated how the “Back to Green” Lottery Funded Initiative transformed the area around the top end of the Ashby Canal from an area once dominated by coal and clay workings into green countryside.