Latest News & Events

ACA at The Ashby Steam Fair on Saturday 22nd June 2019

The ACA set up a stall at this year’s team fair at Scamhazel Farm, Boundary, near Ashby de la Zouch, It was the first time the ACA had attended this fair, and we were given a prime pitch at the end of a row of craft stalls, close to the main arena. Several visitors came to the ACA stall to learn about the proposed restoration plans,  enquire about membership, or to browse through the leaflets and a small range of merchandise.

Our thanks go in particular to the volunteers who helped man the stand for the day. The Ashby Steam Fair is a well-organised, lively and popular event, and we look forward to the possibility of being present at next year’s event.

Report on Mikron Theatre Company’s Performance in Snarestone on 8th June 2019

 

The four cast members of  The Mikron Theatre Company  told the history of Butlins in their inimitable mixture of music and theatre in Snarestone on Saturday 8th June 2019. They had been due to perform outside, on the fields of The Conery, but owing to heavy rain that afternoon, it was brought indoors to Snarestone Church. Around 50 people watched the “Redcoats” show, most of them from the local area.

If you missed the Mikron group , there’s still a chance to watch them at one of their forthcoming venues: https://www.mikron.org.uk/shows/

Spring Additions to Snarestone Wharf

If you have been to Snarestone Wharf recently, you may have noticed a few changes and additions:

There is a sturdy noticeboard in traditional ACA colours welcoming visitors  to the Ashby Canal Restoration. It is situated alongside the winding hole, for all to see.

At this time of year, many of the shop’s contents are brought outside. Their display has been enhanced by a colourful painting created by Emma’s Crafty Kids at this year’s Moira Festival. 

 

Hot drinks are now available to purchase from the shop at £1.25 a cup.

The Ilott Wharf Project with Funding Awarded by The Heritage Lottery Fund

 

The Ilott Wharf Project

For the last 2 years the ACA has been working on the Archaeology and Social History of Ilott Wharf which is on the line of the Ashby Canal, just west of where the Gilwiskaw Aqueduct once stood.

Through the generosity of Lottery players we were given a grant of £10,000, to which we added £1000 of our own money. We have also put in many hours of voluntary work.

The purpose of the project was to find out what state the underground remains of the structures at the Wharf are in, with a view to possible future archaeology excavations before the canal is restored through the site. We also did a social history investigation: who lived there, what their lives were like, and what did they do on this industrial canal site.

What did we find? Basically, because of repeated destruction and vandalism on the site, there were no remains underground which would justify excavations. We used state of the art geophysics investigations: LIDAR, magnetometry and ground radar. Whilst disappointing, this result means that we can now go ahead with restoration.

In fact, there was one small corner of the site near the level crossing on Bosworth Road where we found some remains of walls and a street lamp, so ACA members and others were able to do some supervised archaeology.

The social history investigation was also successful. We traced several people who lived on the site in both the houses there. Amazingly, we managed to identify two people from the same family who lived there 60 years ago and had completely lost touch after the site was demolished in the 1960s after which the occupants went their different ways. Just like “This is your life”!

We have a film of some of the findings on YouTube: https://youtu.be/OtQJVfg2d_g

These are some of the photos which show what we did:

This is a map of the site a few years before the closure of Ilott wharf. You can see that the left arm of the canal had already been dewatered in the 1950s when Measham town lost its stretch of canal.

The lads putting up the sign at the car park at Ilott wharf. They had previously scrapped the car park so it could be used again.

The chute at Ilott wharf in about 1965, just before demolition and dewatering of the canal back to Snarestone Wharf. The trains from Measham Mine were backed up on the siding, and men shovelled the coal into narrowboats moored on the canal.

The engine used to pull the coal wagons crossing Bosworth Road just west of the old coaching inn.

Referring to the previous steam engine photo, Peter Oakden is seen here having excavated the base of the street lamp, with even the electricity cable sticking out of it.

Trains crossing the fields coming from Measham Mine (on the horizon), heading towards Ilott Wharf.

In 1965 the canal was dewatered. Just before it happened the Ashby Canal Association was formed in order to try to stop the closure. Sadly, the ACA failed, but one of the protests was by “Prince” seen here at Ilott Wharf, having just passed the gauging station.

This house, one of two at Ilott Wharf, had been a coaching inn on the Measham to Bosworth route. It was demolished in 1965. It belonged to the Coal Board and the last occupant was a manager from the mine.

The house in the background was the Ilott House which belonged to the Midland Railway Company, which also owned the canal. The little black shed in front of it was the tally shed where canal records were kept. Also shown are the loaded wagons on the raised siding and boats waiting to be filled.

 

This is a view from the east side of the aqueduct looking towards the gauging station. This was around 1965 and Ilott House had already been knocked down. Margaret Goodwin, the last tenant, remembers, that whilst they liked living there, the house had no electricity or running water. It was condemned as unfit.

Another view taken at around the same time. Ilott House has been demolished. The dilapidated tally hut is still there, as is the greenhouse seen in front of the tree.

Life on the Wharf

Although life was hard, there was fun to be had for children. In the background, there is a train on the siding, and the coal shute can be seen on the far left.

Margaret and Brian Goodwin outside Ilott House 60 years ago.

The Goodwins at Ilott wharf. The gauging station is in the background. They borrowed the canoe from Bill Bradford, the local carpenter and undertaker, who lived at Bosworth Grange just east of the aqueduct.

“A Canal Boy’s Story” by C. S. Sidaway

Black Country author, Colin Sidaway, popped into the ACA tent at this year’s Moira Canal Festival, in order to promote his most recent novel “A Canal Boy’s Story”. His paperback is now on sale at Snarestone Shop, price £9.99.

ACA Patron Andrew Bridgen MP becomes the 2019 Waterways Parliamentarian of the Year

Mr Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, has been named the Inland Waterways Association 2019 Parliamentarian of the Year at a reception held at The Houses of Parliament on 13th May 2019.  Mr Bridgen was nominated for the award by members of both the Ashby Canal Trust and the Ashby Canal Association for his unwavering support and assistance regarding many difficult issues that have arisen on the Ashby Canal restoration.  The shortlist of nominees for the award included John Bercow, MP for Buckingham; Prime Minister, Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead; Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon; Lee Rowley, MP for NE Derbyshire and Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton SE who were all commended for their high level of support for the waterways within their constituencies.

Photo: Dave Watts, ACA’s Volunteer Coordinator. Orest Mulka, ACA President, Andrew Bridgen MP and Peter Oakden, ACA Chairman.

Presenting the award, IWA Chairman, Ivor Caplan, commented:  “Andrew Bridgen is a very worthy winner of this year’s IWA Parliamentarian of the Year award. He has supported both the Ashby Canal Trust and the Ashby Canal Association in what would have otherwise been very difficult circumstances. He has worked with the District and County Councils to help resolve progress issues and has also been instrumental in securing funding for the project. We are seeing more MPs getting involved in waterways restorations and really appreciate all the help and support they provide.”

For more information, please visit:

https://www.andrewbridgen.com/content/inland-waterways-association

https://www.waterways.org.uk/news_campaigns/press_releases/andrew_bridgen_mp_named_iwa_parliamentarian_the_year_2019

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.

 

Moira Canal Festival 18th to 19th May 2019

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+.

For further information please visit their website:

http://www.moiracanalfestival.co.uk

or their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=moira%20canal%20festival&epa=SEARCH_BOX

 

IWA Walk from Sutton Cheney on Sunday 14th April 2019

 

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.