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Issue 499 - August 2014

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September 2014

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August 2014

What glorious weather! It allows us to enjoy outdoor life at home and boating on the canals is wonderful if just a little warm working the locks.

There is NO August meeting as the hall is closed for maintenance.

July Meeting

The 2014 AGM in July, was attended by 18 members.

Our Chairman, Secretary and the Treasurer & Membership Secretary read out their respective reports, as detailed in the July Newsletter.

Two items on the Agenda to note:

  1. 1.  After a discussion it was decided that there will be no change in the Annual Subscription Rates for next year i.e.from April 2015 at £27 per couple and £16 single.
  2. 2.  Gill Herbert has been our Treasurer & Membership Secretary since 2010. During this time Gill has worked hard to bring the financial side of the Society up to date, producing up to date accounts at each of our Committee meetings and the end of year accounts. Plus she has spent time booking the Hall, sorting the Insurance for the Society and keeping the membership details updated.
  3. After some fifteen years involvement with the Society, including time on the Committee, Gill informed the Committee before the 2013 AGM that she was finding it difficult to get to all the meetings because of other interests and would not be seeking re-election at the AGM in 2014.
  4. May I, on behalf of the Committee and all the members, give a “Special Thank You” to Gill for her dedication, help, support and enthusiasm given to Southampton Canal Society.
  5. Aelred Derbyshire, a Committee member who during the last year acted as Treasurer when Gill was away, has kindly offered his services as Treasurer & Membership Secretary and was duly elected. We welcome him into his new role.

September 4th Meeting

This will be a two part evening.

First Eva Drinkwater with a talk and photos of the old days of the Society, showing restoration work and other involvement in the IWA.

Secondly, while at Foxton over Easter, we obtained from Mike Beech, the curator of the Foxton Canal Museum, a presentation (on a memory stick) showing the history of Foxton Locks, the inclined plane and the surrounding area.

Chichester Canal Cruise

This cruise will be on Tuesday 23rd September 2014 - see the article here for details. Please contact Aelred to book your place.

October Meeting

On the third of the month, we will welcome back Geoff Watts with his talk about “Memories of the Great War” in our area, taken from archives, letters and postcards.

November Meeting

November 6th will see Day-Star Theatre visit us again. More details later.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer break

Alan Rose

Barging around Britain ITV series

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FORMER BBC TV political correspondent John Sergeant is undertaking eight canal journeys for an ITV series “Barging Around Britain” which will be screened later this year.

He will be examining the history of the canal he travels on and will include canals in Somerset and the Crinan in Scotland.

A spokesman for the production company said the identity of the canals would not be disclosed until all filming had been completed.

Company controller Richard Klein said: “Britain’s canal network is a true national treasure, full of great characters and rich in history.”

Towpath Talk - August 2014

Cruise on the Chichester Ship Canal

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The trip boat Richmond

As reported in the July Newsletter, the Society is organising a cruise on the Chichester Ship Canal on 23 September. We have chartered their wide-beam trip boat Richmond for a two hour cruise from the Canal Basin, starting at 2:00 pm. The cruise will include a talk on the wildlife and history of the Canal and a Cream Tea (tea or coffee, scones with jam and cream and a selection of sponge cakes). The cost will be £16 per head.

There is limited parking at the Canal Basin but public parking nearby. The Canal Basin is a one minute walk from Chichester railway station and there is a regular service from Southampton Central at 13 and 33 minutes past each hour, with a journey time of about 60 minutes.

There is no meeting this month because the Hall is closed, but there will be a last chance to decide and pay at the meeting on 4 September, after which we have to pay the cruise operator and tell them the final numbers.

The cruise will only accommodate a maximum of 28 people so, if you have reserved a place but not yet paid, or wish to reserve a place, and are not planning to attend the meeting in September, please email us on or call us on 01794 512920 and we will sort out how you can get your payment to the Society.

Aelred and Sue Derbyshire

The English boatmen of the First World War

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By Tim Coghlan

This article first appeared in the June 2014 issue of Towpath Talk and appears by kind permission of both the editor and the author.

UNTIL the recent revival of interest in the First World War - with the impending centenary of its outbreak on August 4 this year - very little was known about the role of our boatmen during the conflict.

The reason for this is quite simple: the boatmen were very much an isolated and illiterate community at the outbreak of hostilities. Those who became directly involved in the war seem to have left nothing in terms of accounts or even letters home or diaries.

During the Second World War the same might well have happened, except for the books and diaries written by the middle class female volunteers, the Idle Women, who worked the canals as boatmen, leaving us with a profound insight into the boatmen’s way of life in the twilight of the working canals.

Because of this lack of information on the First World War, I and other canal history enthusiasts of the period, have been trying to piece together between us what little is known. Hopefully our forthcoming Historic Boat Rally, with its theme of the canal boatmen in the First World War - it is attended by many descendants of the working boatmen - will lead to more stories coming forward, to add to our store of knowledge of just what the boatmen did.

So what did they do? At the outbreak of war in 1914, there was no military conscription, and it did not really come in until 1916. From the outset, the boatmen were seen as an important reserve occupation, vital in the movement of heavy goods, especially iron and coal, which were essential to war production.

WWI service exemption badge

‘ON WAR SERVICE - 1915’ This badge was issued in WWI to those working in important trades - such as boatmen - who were exempted from military service.
Photo © Tim Coghlan

While military service remained voluntary, there was a hysteria about fit and able men who seemed to be shirking the war - especially among women who had lost husbands and brothers. To overcome this, the Government issued a badge for those in essential war production occupations to wear, which included the boatmen.

However, many young boatmen did volunteer for the army - for a variety of reasons, including the relatively good pay, getting away from the crowded living conditions on the boats and the excitement of going to France to fight and being with their pals. They tended to join the county regiments along the canal routes. The Braunston boatmen volunteers mainly signed up with the Northampton and Warwickshire regiments.

Further south it was the Ox & Bucks and the Middlesex, and further north, the Staffordshire and Manchester regiments, and so on. Of the 31 named dead on the Braunston village war memorial, six at least and probably eight were boatmen, and this was from just one canal village community.

Although volunteering was only for those over 18, the recruiting sergeants soon turned a blind eye to the ruses used to join up. A young Kendall from Braunston is recalled by his descendants as volunteering at 14, using his much older brother’s birth certificate. Amazingly he survived.

But he was a lucky one. His cousin Clarence Kendall, who joined the Bedfordshire Regiment, was one of the Braunston six that were killed, having survived until March 23, 1918, when he died - no record of how or exactly where - during the great German March offensive. He was only 19, and has no known grave.

Another Braunston man was Harry Lewin, who joined the Northamptonshire Regiment at the outset, and was killed in action in northern France as early as May 9, 1915 aged only 17. The 1911 Census has him with his parents aboard the nb Venice at Middlewich, recorded one of only “two surviving children.” These tales show the scale of loss and human suffering.

To be concluded next month



At Braunston’s war memorial by All Saints Church, CRT chairman Tony Hales pays tribute to the boatmen who fell in the First World War. Photo © Janet Richardson

Timothy West and Prunella Scales with the Rev Sarah Brown

Timothy West and Prunella Scales with the Rev Sarah Brown at the service. Photo © Tim Coghlan

A MOVING service outside the ‘Cathedral of the Canals,’ All Saints’ Church, Braunston, preceded this year’s Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally and Canal Festival at the end of June.

The centennial tribute to the fallen of Braunston, many with boating connections, during the First World War was conducted by the vicar, the Rev Sarah Brown, with readings by veteran actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales.

Many boaters had walked up to the service at the village war memorial, which was accompanied by the Daventry Brass Band. The local branches of the Royal British Legion and the Royal Air Forces Association displayed their standards and poppy wreaths were laid by local dignitaries and Canal & River Trust chairman, Tony Hales. A collection during the weekend raised over £50 for church roof funds.

Wey & Arun Canal Trust launch bridge appeal

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The Wey & Arun Canal Trust (WACT) has already restored a section of canal near Alfold, in Surrey, on the summit (highest) level next to Dunsfold Park airfield. Their next aim is to replace the causeway with a new bridge which at present blocks the through navigation for boats. But before that can happen the Trust needs to raise £700,000 and carry out some major engineering work.

WACT hopes to raise £180,000 of the target for the Compasses Bridge project by the end of this year so that work to replace the existing concrete causeway can start on site in April 2015.

"The initial funding target will allow us to complete the design and planning work and choose our contractor," explains WACT chairman Sally Schupke. "We will then need to raise the next £290,000 by September next year to fund the construction phase and the final £230,000 to complete demolition and landscaping work that will enable us to reopen the navigation."

Completion of the project will result in a further 2km of the canal being restored and create more opportunities for trip boats and for boating events. According to Sally, the work will also enhance the "green corridor" and is all part of the Trust's strategy to make significant progress in Surrey.

"While the total cost of this work is a large sum, we are staging it over more than two years to match the sequence of construction and to maximise our opportunities to draw on a wide range of funding sources," said Sally.

If you would like to contribute to this element of the restoration being undertaken by WACT, which is one of three major projects currently underway, donations can be made via the website - or by sending a cheque to "Compasses Bridge appeal", WACT, The Granary, Flitchfold Farm, Loxwood, West Sussex RH14 0RH. Cheques should be made payable to "Wey & Arun Canal".

Wey & Arun Canal Trust Press Release - 15 July 2014

Canal restoration reopens historic Wey & Arun Lock

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Nearly 200 years after Southland Lock on the Wey & Arun Canal was built, restoration work is complete and boats can use it once again.

The official opening of the restored lock was marked by a special event organised by the Wey & Arun Canal Trust (WACT) on Saturday 21 June to celebrate completion of the three-year project. More than 150 people attended the event to see Mr Simon Carter officially open the lock and hear music from the Friary Guildford Brass Band before celebrating with a barbecue lunch.

The lock was originally built between 1813 and 1816 but was demolished in the 1930s when the canal had fallen into disuse and many of the bricks reused on other local building projects.

Reconstruction of the lock was a major challenge for the Trust, not just financially but also logistically as the site is located more than a mile from the nearest public road. WACT chairman Sally Schupke said that the Trust is very grateful for the help of the local landowners in easing the logistics of the work.

"None of this would have been possible without the enthusiasm of the adjacent landowners. Their support made all the difference," she said.

More than £125,000 was reduced from the cost of the £0.5M reconstruction work thanks to the Trust's workforce of volunteers led by Project Manager Eric Walker. Nonetheless, the project still called for the engineering expertise of others including Burras Piling, the main contractor for the piling behind the new lock walls and Hargreaves Foundry in Halifax who made and fitted the lock gates.

With Southland Lock completed, the focus of the restoration work will now move northwards. WACT is working on major restoration schemes near Bramley at the northern end of the canal and near Dunsfold at the summit of the waterway.

Wey & Arun Canal Trust Press Release - 24 June 2014

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Page created 6 August 2014 - last updated 5 September 2014.

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