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1 to attempt (eg the fulfilment of an obligation) by exertion of effort; 2 archaic to strive to achieve or reach ~ vi to make an effort to do something n a serious determined effort

Northampton Branch Newsletter - May 2011

Never mind the Royal Wedding – let’s go to Northampton! And that’s what about 70 boats and their crews did over May Day Bank Holiday Weekend to support our National Campaign Festival at Becket’s Park in the 250th anniversary year of the opening on the Nene Navigation, writes Festival Chairman John Pomfret. The Festival had two main campaigning aims: 1. to support greater use of Northampton’s riverside and encourage the process of reconnecting the riverside with the town; and Rosie and Jim in their Wedding outfits 2. to raise money for waterway causes. Boats and boaters descended on Northampton (in fact, gratifyingly, a greater number than usual ascended and we were pleased to see good representation from boaters arriving from Nene bases and even via the Wash). Continued on page 18

Boats moored at Northampton’s riverside

The IWA was founded in 1946 to campaign for the retention, restoration and development of Britain’s navigable waterways and for their fullest commercial and recreational use. The IWA is a registered Charity (no. 212342) , whose work is supported by members’ subscriptions.


AA unique opportunity to experience the delicate flavours of Indian cuisine at its best!





EDITORIAL MUSINGS At last all the snow and frosts that we had have gone and we can start boating, fishing and enjoying the wildlife again now the canals have thawed. I hope you didn’t have too many problems with frozen pipes. I had to replace my shower as it had burst, but it could have been a lot worse. Let us know of any problems that you encountered during the winter. Now spring has come with hot sunny weather let’s hope it stays that way as long as it doesn’t cause problems with water shortages, which happened last year when sections of canals had to be closed in the north. Now the winter stoppages have ended, I suppose we must be grateful that those works that were completed escaped the cut backs BW were compelled to make because of their funding problems. We can only hope that there is no major disaster as BW doesn’t have the money to cover them, or other routine work will get left and further problems occur. Cruising down the Northampton Arm to the Northampton Campaign Festival several lock gates only have one set of paddles working. Is this a sign of things to expect? Also, now a lot of mooring wardens have been replaced with volunteers, are we going to have problems finding somewhere to moor for the night in popular places without having to stop at lunchtime? I have had a request from a member to have a letters and answers page. This I would like to do, so if anyone has anything they want to ask please email me and I will put it in the next edition. Finally, if anyone sells their boat through The New Boat Company, they will give the Branch a donation. We thank them sincerely for this support.

FOR SALE £30,000 o.n.o. 45ft narrowboat 2+2 berth, reverse layout BL 1800 engine Boat Safety Certificate October 2012 For further details contact Bill Joyce at 01536 724337 or 07808 571101



June 3rd-5th 10th –12th 18th& 19th 25th & 26th 25th-9th July


MK Branch Lock Ransom, Three Locks, Soulbury Stoke Bruerne Gala Weekend (see pages 8/9) Waterside Festival, Campbell Park, Milton Keynes Braunston Historic Boat Show (see pages 10/11) Peterborough Festival, River Nene Embankment (01733 237073)


Northampton Dragon Boat Festival (Nene 250 Celebrations) Further details 22nd-24th Buckingham Canal Society Annual Festival at Cosgrove, including a Lock Ransom 29th –31st IWA National Festival, Shobnall Fields, Burton-on-Trent


6th & 7th 7th 11am-4pm

Blisworth Canal Festival (see page 27) Northampton River Festival (Nene 250 Celebrations) Buckingham Canal Society Work Party Dates June 2nd, 12th,16th 30th July 10th, 14th, 28th, August 11th, 14th,25th

For further details, please contact Athina Beckett on 01908 661217

REGIONAL NEWSLETTER ON-LINE Members are reminded that Aegre, the East Midlands Region newsletter which features information about all the Branches in the Region, including Northampton, is available (in full colour) to read on-line on the IWA website at: aegre_online Or just go to and follow the links to Regions & Branches, then East Midlands



Branch Chairman’s Jottings by Bernard Morton Writing this a few days after the Campaign Festival, I find I am still coming down to earth, somewhat tired, but reflecting that it was a rather successful occasion overall. Almost any event could have been better in hindsight, but generally everything went according to plan and everyone enjoyed themselves. The final boat count was around the 70 mark and several thousand members of the public passed through the site at Becket’s Park over the three days. I know for a fact that at least 2,200 of our specially produced promotional leaflets were handed out (often to groups of two or three people) so there is no doubt we got our message across. There were several other “competing events” in the area over the weekend, thus in this respect we did well. What we could have done with, however, was more volunteers on the ground. Those who did come forward worked tirelessly but there were several gaps we would like to have plugged but couldn’t. Nevertheless, we got through but it did illustrate the absolute necessity for an adequate team of volunteers to be available to ensure the wholesale success at an event such as this Festival. Now I must turn my attention to the question of poor attendances at the Branch’s social events during the past autumn, winter and spring. Quite simply: where were you? The omens were not good when only around 30 people attended our Annual Dinner last October. In fact, we became very close to cancelling the event. Do please let me know as a matter of urgency your thoughts on this matter. Importantly, your committee wants to know why you were not there? Was it cost, location, timing? Would a buffet rather than a sit-down meal be more acceptable? Do you want a speaker or entertainment? Attendances at the Branch Annual Dinner have been in steady decline in recent years. There must be a reason. Similarly, the monthly social meetings have never before been so poorly supported. Several years ago up to 60 – 70 people would be there on

7 a regular basis. Now we are often down to less than half that figure. Contact me please urgently by phone or email: 01604 858294 or on Or even if you wish, write to me anonymously at 14 Baker Street, Gayton, Northampton, NN7 3EZ. As I have said before, the IWA Northampton Branch is YOUR BRANCH. I fully realise that many of you are “armchair” members, quite happy to support the Association’s cause at a distance. Then there are those of you who have boats moored in the Branch area but who live many miles away and find it nigh impossible to get to meetings etc. However, there is a majority who do live in the immediate area and it is you in particular I would dearly love to hear from. I keenly await to hear from you … Meanwhile, those of you who do most of your boating in the more benign weather have been on the move for some time! So far the weather could not have been better. Did you take full advantage of glorious April? As a Nene boater I can report that the river and its surroundings were magnificent. The rains have to fall at some time (perhaps they already have but certainly not at the time of writing,) otherwise we are likely to be facing a depressing water supply problem. A canal/sailing colleague tells me that in mid May Pitsford Reservoir was virtually full to the brim, so locally we shouldn’t go thirsty come what may. Hope the canal situation is similarly placed. At the end of April there was certainly plenty of water passing down the Northampton Arm. Enjoy a successful summer afloat and around the towpath doing your thing – and at all times, have fun.

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Stoke Bruerne GALA WEEKEND Kate Saffin’s one woman show headlines annual event Kate Saffin, remarkable for her one woman theatre, is headlining at the up-coming Gala Weekend at Stoke Bruerne on 1112th June. Kate will be performing two of her shows – Isobel’s War and The Mary Rose - in the marquee on Saturday night. Isobel’s War demonstrates that there are better ways to spend the war than worrying about a RAF husband. Isobel joins the ‘trainees’ and finds a world she didn’t know existed – as well as lots of coal, calamities and cocoa! The Mary Rose; a boat of ill repute is all about sex in the suburbs! A boat, a brothel and a bygone law…all adding up to some pretty racy, and allegedly true, goings on in Wolvercote on the South Oxford just after the war. Other attractions over the weekend will be live music from Braunston’s Ramshackle and the Stony Stratford Folk Ensemble, a Hungarian dance troupe, Vintage Sunbeam motorcycles, boats of all shapes and sizes – working, trading, pleasure and models, a real ale bar, BBQ, waterway craft demonstrations, children’s activities and lots of trade and waterway society stalls. Admission is FREE (excluding boat entry and parking). For more information contact the Canal Museum on 01604 862229 or go to where entry forms are also available for download. Boats arriving on Thursday will also be able to see Mikron Theatre’s production of Hell and High Water on the Museum Green at 7.30pm.

Hell and High Water at Stoke Bruerne Mikron Theatre are bringing their highly acclaimed production of Hell and High Water to Stoke Bruerne in advance of the celebrated Gala Weekend on Thursday 9th June. In the turbulent times of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester's demand for coal was insatiable and there was an urgent need to get it there quickly and cheaply. Mikron's new show for 2011 takes us back to 1761, when three men had a vision and hundreds of others toiled to make it a reality. Over rivers, under rock, through "hell and high water", they proved that determination can literally move mountains. If you are attending the Gala by boat, why not arrive a day early and catch the show at 7.30pm in the marquee on the Museum Green. The performance is sponsored by Rose & Brian of nb Enigma. Bring chairs and a rug (if chilly) and catch up with friends at the same time.



BRAUNSTON HISTORIC NARROWBOAT RALLY TO BE OPENED BY CELEB ACTORS TIMOTHY WEST AND PRUNELLA SCALES The ninth Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally & Canal Festival will be officially opened by actors and canal enthusiasts Timothy West and his wife Prunella Scales. In the now well established tradition, at 11.00 am on the Saturday of the Rally, Timothy West (Brass, Winston Churchill) will steer the last surviving steam narrowboat President into the marina, towing butty Kildare steered by Prunella Scales of Fawlty Towers “I know, I know!” fame. Their entry will be fanfared to the sound of Braunston’s church bells and brass music on the quayside from the Midlands Salvation Army Band – to acknowledge the great work of the Sallies in times past in serving the poor working boatmen. (They are needed equally today in looking after the destitute living rough on the canals, and they will be a beneficiary from the Rally.) The actors will don traditional boatmen clothing for the occasion. Timothy West quipped: “We are thrilled to be coming at last. We usually charge to dress up, but to support the Friends of President we will waive our fee in this case!” Appropriately Timothy West will just have finished filming a cameo part in a new film about the Titantic. Timothy said: “The location is not the cold waters of the North Atlantic, but in a studio in Hungary, a part of the world which, like Braunston, is about as far as you can get from the sea.” Braunston Marina’s owner Tim Coghlan got to know Timothy West when they shared a platform at last October’s Cheltenham Literary Festival talking about the great canal author Tom Rolt in his centenary birth-year. They were invited to do so by Tom Rolt’s widow Sonia. The duo repeated the performance at the recent Bath Literary Festival. The 2010 Rally attracted a record-breaking 93 historic narrowboats making it the largest gathering of such narrowboats since the end of the working days on the canals. The boats arrived from all parts of the English canals, and together made a spectacular sight – especially when on parade, something that has never been successfully replicated at any other canal event. Over seven thousand visitors now come to the Rallies, some travelling from afar afield as Australia and New Zealand, Canada, the US and South Africa. Tim Coghlan says: “Looking ahead to this year, everyone wants to know if we will break the hundred historic boat barrier, now tantalizingly close. We cannot predict just how many will come, but we certainly are planning for it. President and its butty Kildare did not attend last year, so there’s two more for starters. And we have been contacted by several owners of boats that have not been before. The success of the eight Rallies to date has made this into The Historic Narrowboat Rally & Canal Festival. Here’s hoping we see you there.” FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT TIM COGHLAN ON 01788-891373 or


12 BRANCH COMMITTEE MEETINGS REVIEW March Blisworth Marina wants support for planning to change the top floor of its premises to holiday flat. The committee agreed they were unable to support such a commercial proposal as planning permission hadn’t been applied for at the time of the meeting. E-mails have been received regarding the work on bridges 79 & 80 on the North Oxford Canal. The committee agreed they would not support the demolition of any bridges .

Treasurer’s Report Accounts were distributed to the committee without comment.

Branch Meetings Friends of Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum would be joining IWA members at Branch meetings starting in April.

Branch Magazine Tony Clarke had received communication from a Branch member asking if Endeavour could include a members letters /question section. This was a good idea and would be included if any were received.

Boat Gathering/Campaign Rally Eric Young reported that he had approximately 30 boats booked in so far. It was agreed that the surplus from the rally would go to the Inglesham Lock Appeal

Reports from Local Societies Blisworth Canal Partnership have their Canal Festival on the weekend 6th & 7th August. Stoke Bruerne Partnership have put in a bid to the LHF for funding for the Interpretation Project. The Gala over weekend 10th – 12th June and Village at War in October are future planned events

13 Any Other Business

Alex Madisons was co-opted as a committee member. Proposed by Eric Young and seconded by Andy Timms. A discussion regarding the AGM followed, when it was considered who was retiring and who was seeking re-election.

April Urgent Business

Election of Branch Officers Chairman: Bernard Morton proposed by Graham Treagus seconded by Eric Young. Vice Chairman: Eric Young proposed by Lynda Payton seconded by Bernard Morton. Treasurer: Alex Madison proposed by Graham Treagus seconded by Lynda Payton. Branch Secretary: there were no candidates, election to be at the next meeting. The following agreed to continue in their posts: Branch Meetings and talks - Graham Treagus. Website and Publicity - Lynda Payton. Police Liaison Officer - Eric Young. Newsletter Editor - Tony Clarke. The following posts are vacant: Planning Officer and Nene Task Group Representative.

Branch Meetings

Colin Edmond (next week’s speaker) was looking forward to talking to the Branch and staying overnight at The Walnut Tree.

Boat Gathering /Campaign Rally

Bernard Morton outlined the situation of organisation for the Campaign Rally. Eric Young stated that approximately 61 boats had booked in so far. There was concern that there would be insufficient volunteers to man the Branch stand and additional volunteers would be asked for at the Branch meeting. Everything is organised for the Westbridge Arm clean up and time confirmed.

14 May Urgent Business

Sandie Morton agreed to be co-opted onto the committee— proposed by Lynda Payton and seconded by Alex Madisons. Sandie Morton was then elected as Branch Secretary, proposed by Tony Clarke and seconded by Geoff Wood. Alex Madisions and Geoff Wood agreed to share the role of Planning Officer

Branch Dinner

Following the disappointing attendance last year, a number of options were discussed (eg change of venue, change to buffet, speaker or entertainer).

Any other Business

It was proposed that IWA Northampton Branch should join the Daventry Canal Association, proposed by Lynda Payton and seconded by Tony Clarke.

AGM on 9th March 2011 The Chairman, Bernard Morton reported that it had been an interesting year, and gave a summary of events that had taken place. He noted that the Branch had won the IWA Branch Achievement Award in recognition of the activities of the Branch . He thanked Laura Sturrock who is retiring as Branch Treasurer after several years service. He also thanked Andy Timms, who is retiring as Branch Secretary. Rodney Hardwick was also thanked as Planning Officer; Rodney has been a committee member for 40 years, many as Secretary. The Chairman stated that as several committee members were not standing for re-election, there would be unfilled vacancies and the Branch was looking for new Committee Members.



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Inter-Branch Quiz

The Inter-Branch Quiz, which followed the East Midlands Region AGM at The Walnut Tree in March, was contested by three teams - Northampton, Leicester and a combined team of Nottinghamshire & Derby with Lincolnshire (which also contained two Northampton team members!). John Baylis gave a staggering performance taking his combined team into a strong lead. Although the Northampton team were snapping at their heels all through the contest and Leicester had a late flurry, Notts & Derby and Lincs took home the Arthur Chapman Cup. We look forward to contesting the cup at next year’s Region AGM. Members might be interested to know that the cup was donated in the early 1980s by David Chapman, a former Treasurer of Northampton Branch, in memory of his father Arthur as a inter-branch quiz trophy, Northampton Branch then being in the Eastern Region.

Winning team captain John Baylis collects the cup and a case of wine from question master Sam Samuells (Northampton Branch)

The winning team with John Baylis on the right

The IWA Waterways Festival 2011 There will be so much to see and do on the banks of the Trent and Mersey Canal when Burton upon Trent hosts The Waterways Festival, previously known as the National Festival and Boat Show, from Friday 29th to Sunday 31st July 2011. This new date is a change from the normal practice in recent years of holding it over the August Bank Holiday, and has come after significant consultation with exhibitors, attending public and IWA volunteers who are all vital to the staging of the event. The three-day festival is an exciting and colourful extravaganza packed with an array of attractions all aimed at providing an educational and fun day out for all the family. Around 350 boats, many decorated, will line up along the water’s edge. Heritage crafts will also feature strongly at the Festival, with historic working boats on display. The event is renowned for its high quality entertainment and history lovers will be drawn to the major Viking battle re-enactment and living camp being staged by the world famous Regia Anglorum. With a reputation for vivid and dramatic entertainment, the Mikron Theatre Company will present a new waterways show called Hell and High Water. More on page 32


What a load of rubbish from this year’s clean-up On Sunday April 17th members of IWA Northampton Branch carried out their regular clean-up of the Westbridge Arm and the river above the Town Lock at Becket’s Park, with the help of the Environment Agency with their lorry and grab to take the rubbish away. The clean-up collected another load of rubbish that had been dumped into the water, including several shopping trolleys, a pushchair, traffic cones and the usual plastic bags and this was from the Westbridge Arm alone.

Brnard Morton , Tony Clarke, Bill Joyce, Athina Beckett and Mick Butler removing a pushchair from the Westbridge Arm

Catriona Butler with the rubbish that was collected from the Westbridge Arm and surrounds

We then moved on to the river above the Town Lock and recovered five motor mowers, six bicycles, several shopping trolleys, a car battery, a pair of knickers (don’t ask!) and a lot of plastic bags. Right: Lynda Payton with the knickers while Bill Joyce is pulling out another bicycle wheel

Roger Hasdell and Lynda Payton with a motor mower and bicycle


FESTIVAL REPORT continued from front page

The new marina, now complete apart from the facilities building, saw its first significant use, with a number of boaters electing to pay the extra for a pontoon berth. After a slow start, all seemed to enjoy thoroughly the boaters’ events on the lock island, not to mention the boaters’ bar (where valiant efforts of drinkers on Sunday evening meant that the amount of beer ordered and the amount sold were exactly in balance, giving the maximum surplus to support waterway causes).

Left to right: John Pomfret (IWA Regional Chairman), Tim Coghlan of Braunston Marina, and Bernard Morton (Northampton Branch Chairman) Following the official opening of the Festival by Tim Coghlan of Braunston Marina, daytimes saw the public visiting the attractions on Becket’s Park, including society and trade stands, catering outlets, children’s activities, including Wild over Waterways, and entertainment ranging from the Limelight Theatre School to belly dancers. St John Ambulance provided very popular boat trips, while the Sea Cadets did what they could to keep the river alive with activity, despite very strong winds throughout the weekend. Unfortunately, winds were too strong to run the usual boat handling event, although we did manage to get in some racing between Sea Cadets and narrow boats. A number of boaters rose to the Westbridge Arm challenge and, for the first time for some years, one boat managed to reach West Bridge

Sea Cadets racing a narrowboat. They won last year but not this time!

19 Northampton Branch Chairman Bernard Morton presents a commemorative Festival plaque to Northampton Mayor Marianne Taylor and Mayor’s Consort Martin Taylor. Also seen from left are Michael Ellis (MP Northampton North), Adam Alexander of Festival supporter Briggs & Forrester, and IWA National Chairman Clive Henderson The problem of Northampton’s attitude to its riverside was exemplified by the poorer than hoped for public attendance (or maybe it was one too many Bank Holidays in quick succession). However, we were fortunate to have had the Mayor and two local MPs on the VIPs’ boat trip when we were able to put across our concerns and our vision for the riverside to what turned out to be very receptive ears. We will be following up these issues with the Mayor. The Festival was a huge success financially, producing a net surplus of nearly £2,500 which, with the grant received from NWF, gave us nearly £3,000 to distribute to waterway causes. The main beneficiary will be the IWA’s Inglesham Lock Appeal, while the Sea Cadets and St John will also receive donations (amounts still to be confirmed by Branch Committee). The proceeds of a raffle will also go to support the local Air Ambulance whose ability to reach remote spots on our waterways, in particular parts of the Nene with no road access, helps to support IWA’s aims by making the waterways safer for boaters and towpath users alike. Evenings on the lock island saw boaters and their guests enjoy a beetle drive on Friday and music from Enzo on Saturday. On Sunday evening the quiz night was, as usual, excellently organised

20 by Sam and Lynda, with the Titchmarshers proving worthy winners. Other competition prizes presented that evening included:

the Duckham Trophy (a National Festivals award) for the best turned out boat, which went to Jules Cook on Towcester, immaculate from stem to stern despite spending its life delivering coal. Highly commended were Raymond, Ruff, Jupiter, Red October, Caravelle, Woodlander, Hineroa and Polveithan, while the crew of Inchy received special mention for efforts in illuminating their boat (pictured on front page) Left: Jules Cook on Towcester

the Ted Bavister Trophy for the Westbridge Challenge, awarded to Gareth Hampson and the crew of One House Mouse, which actually reached West Bridge and got all the ribbons – even the sneaky one on the Council Depot wall; • the Becket Boot for boat handling to Bill Mann for taking part in the Sea Cadets race (also thanked for sterling efforts with the barbecue); • the prize for the photographic competition, donated once again by Skears Photographic, of Wellingborough Road, Northampton, which was presented by Steve Skears to Sam Samuells; • a prize for the boaters’ quiz, which went to John and Angela Cheesbrough on Time Out, with a score of 100% (V.G.!).

Entertainment for children in Becket’s Park


Entrance to Northampton’s new marina with boats moored Feedback from boaters suggested that budget cuts are already being felt on the GUC Northampton Arm, where a number of paddles were out of use (not counting those at the top lock which are used to control the water feed to the Arm). There was a decidedly loose (thus dangerous) handrail at one lock and deeper draughted boats had difficulties in the long pounds. The Branch needs to remain vigilant and press BW to remedy problems as they arise if we are to encourage visitors to our Branch waterways. The Festival Committee will communicate reports they have received to BW but please can all Branch members make sure that, if you do spot a problem, it is communicated straight away to BW, with a note to the Branch Secretary too, so we can keep a record.

Sea Cadets practice windsurfing near to the boats moored along the waterside

22 Evening entertainment Left: on Friday, the final of the Beetle Drive Below: on Saturday, dancing to Enzo

Bottom : the Northampton Sea Cadets in action

These events do not organise themselves and I would like to end by thanking all those on the Festival Committee who worked for six months to ensure it happened and ran smoothly; also those IWA members who turned up and helped on the weekend, whether it was running the WoW activities tent, manning the Branch stand, setting up and taking down equipment, manning the bar or a host of other jobs. The Environment Agency came up trumps as usual, allowing us use of the island and their store and Andy Hall was on site all weekend assisting and joining in with the evening activities; thanks, Andy. Thanks also to other organisations who participated, St John Ambulance for their trip boat, the Sea Cadets for river activities, waterway societies who put up stands but also the Ramblers, Wildlife Trust and RSPB who helped us to spread the message that the waterways have other attractions besides boating. John Pomfret Festival Chairman


Sincere thanks to our supporters and those companies, organisations and individuals who donated raffle prizes. The list below is not comprehensive - we may be adding to it in our next issue!

Supporters Briggs & Forrester Energy Ltd, Northampton T&W Civil Engineering Ltd, Northampton K. Gray Plumbing & Heating Services, Kettering

Donors of raffle prizes ABC Gayton Marina (Alvechurch) Aladdins Balti, Bridge St., Northampton The Boat Inn, Stoke Bruerne The Canal Museum, Stoke Bruerne The Cock Inn, Roade Grand Junction Boat Company, Blisworth Arm In n’Out Northampton Mill Wharf Boat Company Midland Chandlers The Navigation Inn, Stoke Bruerne Stowe Hill Workshop Topiary Gift and Party Shop, Stoke Bruerne Walnut Tree, Blisworth Wharf House Narrowboats Ltd Whilton Chandlery Whilton Marina

Donor of Photographic Competition prize: Skears Photographic, Northampton


The River Nene Navigation by local historian David Blagrove The River Nene, one of the lesser-known of our navigations, forms an important link between the navigations of Fenland and the Great Ouse system of rivers on the one hand and the main Midland canal network. It rises in West Northamptonshire, near Badby and is little more than an upland brook for its first 17 miles or so, during which it falls no less than 300 feet, but in the Northampton area its course is joined by several more streams, including the “Northern Water”, coming down from the Market Harborough area, and here it becomes navigable for boats up to 80 feet long and 14 feet wide all the way to the sea at “Crabs Hole” near Sutton Bridge, some 91 miles away. In this distance it falls less than 200 feet and of this length, 25 miles are tidal, the rest being a locked navigation. With the arrival of the Romans after 43AD the entire valley of the Nene took on much economic importance. Potteries and iron working developed in the Caistor area, some miles upstream of Peterborough, while a series of Roman canals ran along the western edge of the fens, to Lincoln in the north. The canals helped drain the fens and acted as a catchwater for the rivers Great Ouse, Nene and Welland, diverting flood water harmlessly out to sea and thus bringing areas under cultivation. The produce of the newly-drained land went north by barge to serve the garrisons of Lincoln and York; part of the network that still survives in navigable condition is the Fossdyke. The centuries that followed the end of the Roman Empire saw the decay of this infrastructure, but the incoming Anglian tribes used the slow flowing rivers of Eastern Britain to penetrate inland with their shallow draft boats. Not surprisingly early Anglo-Saxon place names abound in the lower Nene Valley. The nomenclature of the river changes somewhere in the Oundle/Thrapston area. Downstream its name is pronounced “Neen”, upstream it is “Nen”; again this is probably a survival of an ancient racial division. By the seventh century AD the valley was well-settled, although regular and unpredictable floods caused most settlements to be built on rising ground, away from the river. The valley bottom was mostly meadowland. A large abbey arose on the edge of the fens at a place then called “Medeshamstede” (literally “the farm amid meadowland”), but with the onset of the Viking raids in the ninth century the lower valley became liable to sudden raids, either by mounted bands or ship loads of piratical plunderers. In 868 Medeshamstede was destroyed by the Vikings, to be eventually refounded many years later as “the fortress of St Peter”, or Peterborough. Whether or not the Vikings used the upper river is uncertain, but they captured Northampton in 872 and turned what had been an estate centre into a fortified town. From this time on it appears that the middle part of the river was put to work to drive mills. So far as navigation in larger boats is concerned, this probably only took place from the Peterborough area to the sea, but the upper river would still be navigated by small craft for


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26 fishing and even the local transport of small quantities of commodities such as grain. We know that by 1087 at least three mills were working in the Northampton area alone. Lower downstream the stone for Peterborough, Lincoln and Ely Cathedrals was brought overland to the river from the Barnack quarries and then taken down river and across the fens, probably on rafts, but possibly by ancestors of fen lighters. Later the same quarries provided stone for the Cambridge colleges. Over the centuries the river’s course was bridged in many places, which made the settlements adjoining such crossing places into strategically important places and consequently places of local trading importance. Oundle, Thrapston, Wellingborough, Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough as well as Northampton and Peterborough grew in wealth and status. As far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first proposals were mooted in Northampton to make the river properly navigable. By the Eighteenth Century the time was becoming ripe for transport improvements and an obvious improvement to the merchants and landowners of the Nene Valley would be the making of a navigation from the sea to Northampton. At that time the principle of joint stock companies undertaking public works was almost unheard of. However a number of gentry in the counties of Northampton, Huntingdon, Cambridge and the Soke of Peterborough formed obtained powers as Commissioners to make the river navigable between Peterborough and Northampton in 1713. It would appear that the river was already navigable as far inland as Alwalton, probably by means of staunches. A staunch was a simple device for raising the water level in a river reach. A moveable dam, often in the form of a rising gate, was erected below a shallow spot and “closed in” or “set” behind upstream craft. Going downstream it would be set ahead of any expected vessels and then raised when the craft arrived above the staunch. It was very wasteful of water and unpopular with millers. The initial Act however proved a dead letter, partly because of the numbers of Commissioners appointed, none of whom would take overall responsibility for overseeing the task. A further Act of 1724 was more successful. Two contractors made the section upstream as far as the North Bridge at Oundle navigable as a speculation, being permitted by the Commissioners to recoup themselves from tolls. Work commenced in September 1726 and was complete by 1730. The navigation used the existing headwater of mills mainly with locks built nearby and was intended for use by fen lighters. The locks were thus made long enough for two lighters to enter in tandem, so having the unusual dimensions of 84ft long by 11ft wide. In several places the new navigation entered the existing mill head at right angles, making for difficulty at times of fast flows. By 1737 the navigation had reached Thrapston Bridge, where a basin and warehouses were set out for transhipment to and from the local road system. Nearly twenty years then elapsed before a further Act was obtained in 1756 empowering the Commissioners to raise money to continue the work up to Northampton. This was a major project, requiring 20 locks and considerable ancillary work. A Yorkshireman, John Smith of Attercliffe, was appointed in June 1758 and work thereupon commenced above Thrapston. On 31st March 1760 a gang of lighters reached Wellingborough carrying “fifty six chaldron [about 72 tons] of best Sunderland coals”. They had taken “less than two days” to cover the twelve and a half


Saturday 12pm—Late

Sunday 11am—5pm This year’s Blisworth Canal Festival will be bigger and better than ever before so why not come along?

There are numerous attractions, with something for the whole family throughout the whole weekend. Here are just a few of our confirmed attractions: ECO BOAT FUDGE BOAT CHEESEBOAT BOOKWORMS MORRIS DANCERS COSGROVE NARROWBOATS RNLI ST. JOHN AMBULANCE BOAT TOWPATH TRADING RAYMOND & NUTFIELD LICENSED BARS LIVE MUSIC MAKET HALL STALLS

To find out what’s going on visit our dedicated festival website at… Or contact us for more information Jan Andrews 01604 858023 Paul Chapman 01604 858384


28 miles, seven locks and two staunches from Thrapston. Soon though local politics took a hand, for Smith soon found that he was overrunning estimates. The Enabling Act permitted lenders of money to become proprietors of the Navigation, so several nearby landowners joined in the rush to complete the navigation to Northampton. Among these was John Spencer, a forebear of Prince William, and then an aspiring Whig politician. One subtle way of bribing the electorate was to put up the money for locks on the river and in January 1756 the Northampton Mercury reported that Spencer had “subscribed £1,000 towards carrying on the Navigation of the River Neen from this town to Thrapston Bridge; and that he will be at the further expence of erecting the first lock”. Spencer’s political rivals for the prize of the Borough of Northampton then took a hand in the race and provided money for building more locks between Wellingborough and Northampton. On 11th June 1759 the Northampton Mercury told its readers that Sir John Langham, Bart. and John Spencer had already given a lock each (the two uppermost locks, Nunn Mills or “Cow Meadow” and Rush Mills) and that the new MP for Northampton, Frederick Montagu, kinsman of the Earl of Halifax, made Northampton the present of a lock “instead of the usual Entertainments at Public Houses”. This was probably the lock now known as Weston Favell Lock. Altogether seven locks, from Cogenhoe upstream, were donated and the Commissioners ordered that inscribed stones be placed at each one to commemorate this self-interested benevolence. Only two survive today in very poor condition, of which one is at the derelict and by-passed Abington Old lock and the other at Clifford Hill. The river was finally opened throughout to navigation on 7th August 1761, and the Northampton Mercury told its readers that “No less than thirty eight barges laden with Coals and other Merchandize and adorned with Flags and Streamers, came up with the greatest Ease to the publick Wharf at the South Bridge”. Northampton town fired cannon, lit bonfires, rang church bells and gave “every other demonstration of joy”. Coal in Northampton halved in price that day. From that time onwards the river enjoyed a steady, though not spectacular, prosperity. Thirty two years later came the first practicable proposals to link the Navigation with the growing system of Midland Canals. The Grand Junction Canal Company was given powers to build a branch to Northampton in 1793 and it was intended that the Leicester & Northamptonshire Union Canal should come southward from Market Harborough to meet it. Neither proposal came to fruition as intended. Eventually the GJCC was connected to the Leicester & Northamptonshire Union Canal by means of the (old) Grand Union Canal from Norton to Foxton. This had its tunnels and bridges built to wide gauge, but narrow locks. This was intended as a temporary measure and consequently the Northampton Arm was built with narrow locks so as to save water. The completion of the Northampton Arm brought much greater prosperity to the Nene Navigation. A short but important extension, using widened existing streams, took the navigation up as far as West Bridge, Northampton, where it served the town’s gas works, timber yards, breweries and tanneries. In 1845 the railway from Northampton to Peterborough was opened and this began a slow decline in traffic, but a greater decline in toll revenue as tolls were reduced to compete. Henry Rodolph de Salis navigated the river in his steam launch “Dragonfly III” and recorded his findings in his monumental “Bradshaw’s Canals and Navigable

29 Rivers” first published in 1905. Some traffic worked downstream from Northampton to Wellingborough and there was a little upstream trade as far as the quarries at Wansford, but by the start of the Great War in 1914 the middle reaches of the river were decaying fast and the Nene Commissioners had long ceased to hold meetings. The 1928 Edition of Bradshaw stated: “the navigation is in indifferent condition, and very liable to interruption caused by drought and flood. The numerous staunches on the portion of the river below Wellingborough are also a great hindrance.” Downstream of Peterborough the old course of the river became partially abandoned. Once upon a time the Nene and Ouse shared an outfall into the Wash at a place called Tydd Gate, but the Ouse was diverted in 1236 for the convenience of Kings Lynn and the old course of the Nene began to deteriorate. Bishop Morton of Peterborough ordered the construction of a new direct channel during the 1470s; this channel still exists and is known as Morton’s Leam. This was twice improved over the next two centuries and was then superseded as a navigation in 1728 by Smith’s Leam from Peterborough to Guyhirne. In spite of opposition from the town of Wisbech an Act was obtained in 1827 which enabled the river from that town to the sea to be straightened and the banks protected with stone. This scoured the lower river effectively, enabling larger ships to come as far inland as Wisbech, which became very prosperous as a result. However the river upstream continued to deteriorate, even though some sea-going barges still came upstream to Peterborough and fen lighters continued to work over the old course of the river in and out of the Middle Levels. In 1852 a new Act set up the Drainage and Improvement Commissioners with wide powers, but the administration proved to be largely unworkable. By 1930 the entire river upstream of Wisbech was in a state of virtual dereliction. The original Navigation Commissioners now were completely defunct. Nevertheless the river was popular in the early years of the twentieth century for recreation in the towns, with a boathouse provided by Northampton Corporation as an adjunct to their nearby Cow Meadow Park. In 1930, following the passing of a long-overdue Land Drainage Act, a Nene Catchment Board was set up with power over the entire river catchment area and with navigational powers. This last came about owing to the advocacy of George Dallas, MP for Wellingborough from 1929 to 1931. One of the points that Dallas made was that since most of the Nene locks and weirs were situated in remote meadowland, access by road was difficult and so it would make sense for them to be maintained by water-borne craft. In order to justify the complete rebuilding of the navigation he proposed that the locks be adapted to pass flood water when required. This was done by providing rising bottom gates as well as specially designed top gates that would keep a navigation head of water but allow a certain amount of flood water to spill over into the chamber. Once flood conditions became too severe, the top gates would be chained back, the bottom gates lifted and the lock chamber then became an extra weir channel. At such times navigation would be halted. Furthermore he was impressed by the plans of the Grand Union Canal Company to modernise their route from London to Birmingham and possibly to widen the Northampton Arm. Accordingly, when the time came to design the replacement locks from Peterborough upwards, he insisted that the chambers be compatible with the new locks then being built for the Braunston to Camp Hill section of

30 the Grand Union, reasoning that a modernised waterway system would work out cheaper for the nation than a network of new roads. During the 1930s the river was entirely rebuilt to Dallas’s specification, and the locks on the Arm would undoubtedly have followed had not the 1939-45 War intervened. In October 1939 the same meteorological events that caused a disastrous breach of the Grand Union Canal at Weedon, brought about heavy flooding in Northampton, only partially mitigated by the new locks and weirs. A consequence of this was that the Catchment Board were permitted to continue their flood-prevention works in the Northampton area in spite of the onset of war. The final flood-prevention walls were completed in 1941. Sadly by 1998 changes in administration and general neglect meant that once more Northampton suffered disastrous flooding. One matter that had precluded improvements below Peterborough was the presence of a large gravel shoal at Northey, near Dog-in-a-Doublet. Along with a sluice this had prevented saline water from entering the Thorney River and consequently any attempt to remove it had been strenuously opposed by the local landowners, the Duke of Bedford having gone so far as obtaining a High court Injunction in 1865 to prevent the shoal’s removal. The new Authority overcame these objections by building a large sluice and associated navigation lock at Dog-in-a-Doublet to prevent saline water penetrating further inland. The new lock was large enough to accept craft of 21ft beam and 140 ft length and was completed in 1937. New quays at Wisbech and considerable bank protection were also provided and the Northey shoal finally removed. All these works turned the River Nene into a model navigation for its time. Commercial traffic improved, although the terms of the Enabling Act of 1930 did not contain powers to charge merchandise tolls. Although little commercial traffic returned to the river between Wellingborough and Wansford, imported grain traffic from Brentford remained heavy at times until 1969, when it ended with the establishment of a new grain terminal at Tilbury. The traffic was transferred to rail but ceased after a short while and now moves entirely by road. Other traffics were undertaken form time to time, such as a load of plate glass from a ship at Wisbech to Brentford in early 1962 and a number of imported loads of timber through Wisbech for Leicester during the mid-1960s. The stone traffic from Wansford downstream continued until 1980. Since then a few loads of timber have been taken up river from Wisbech by narrow boat, the last known load being discharged on the Grand Union Canal in May 1999. Pleasure traffic on the other hand has increased steadily since the immediate postwar years. Boat clubs have been long established on the river, The Weston Boat Club, subsequently the Northampton Boat Club, established itself as long ago as 1911 near Weston Favell Lock, downstream of Northampton; such organisations helped popularise the river and are happily still with us, but in later years marinas have also appeared on the river at various places. In 1968 the Inland Waterways Association set up a Branch at Northampton, which was soon followed by a Peterborough Branch, both of which have kept a steady eye on developments on the river and adjacent waterways. In 1971 the Inland Waterways Association held its National Rally of Boats in Becket’s Park (renamed from “Cow Meadow” in the 1930s) and

31 have held waterway-based activities annually ever since, save when prevented by floods. In 1974 the Welland and Nene River Authority (successor to earlier boards) disappeared to be replaced by the Anglian Water Authority. Major works were undertaken in the Northampton area for the mitigation of flooding following the expansion of Northampton and the subsequent increase in non-absorbent land surfaces. The navigation was diverted downstream of Rush Mills Lock and the old course through Abington Lock was abandoned. A large new weir was built near the Bedford Road, above Rush Mills and a wide new channel built from thence to Midsummer Meadow, again as a flood relief measure, while the old winding course was allowed to silt up gradually. The radial bottom gates of Becket’s Park and Rush Mills locks were removed and replaced by mitred gates (or “pointing doors” as the Authority likes to call them) and the replacement Abington Lock was similarly provided. These works have not proved universally popular and during the major floods at Easter 1998 failed to make any significant alleviation of damage in the town. AWA also began the long-overdue mechanisation of the lower guillotine lock gates. In 1989 the short-lived National Rivers Authority took over the administration of the river following the privatisation of the water industry. In 1996 this in turn became part of the Environment Agency, which currently controls a number of other navigations, including the Great Ouse (but not the connecting Middle Levels) and as navigation authority has carried out a number of works to benefit navigators, including more mechanisation and better landing arrangements above and below locks. ▄


Continued from page 16

Record Breaking Number of Historic Narrow Boats on Show at Festival A record number of historic narrow boats will be on show at The Waterways Festival, being hosted by Burton upon Trent from 29th to 31st July 2011. At least 28 historic boats, the largest number ever to have attended the Festival, will offer waterways enthusiasts and history lovers a chance to see how people lived and worked on the waterways in years gone by. The boats and their crews will travel from all over the canal system, just as they did in their previous “lives” as working boats, carrying goods all over the United Kingdom - from London to Birmingham, from Bristol to Manchester and from Liverpool to Leeds and the East Coast. Making a special guest appearance will be the only restored ex-Fellows Morton and Clayton steam powered narrow boat, The President. Owned by The Black Country Living Museum, the boat was built over a century ago as a steamer, converted to diesel power in 1925, and, following restoration in 1974, returned to steam power. David Pullen, Waterspace Director for IWA Festivals said: “All of the boats have been beautifully restored to their former glory and their owners will explain how the boats were worked, in a very tough industrial environment. We hope the Festival goers enjoy looking at the boats and learning about the importance of them to our social and industrial history.” The boats are of varying ages and have interesting working histories. For example, Swallow was built in 1934 for W H Cowburn & Cowpar Ltd in Manchester by Yarwoods of Northwich, one of eight boats named after birds. It was designed to carry cargo, such as acid, acetone, oil drums, lime and salt.





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Jim Payler Remembered I first came across Jim Payler way back in the days when the then British Transport Commission’s creature known as British Transport Waterways used to produce a monthly staff magazine called “Waterways”. It must have been an issue of at least fifty years ago that caught my eye with a photograph of a loaded boat emerging from the then newly-rebuilt bridge at Blisworth. The water was so still that the picture could have been printed upsidedown and still been quite recognisable. Indeed, had it been printed vertically it could almost have been a surreal image of a poplar tree. My first thought was that here was someone who knew how to compose a good picture, and I noted that it was ascribed to a “Mr Payler of Blisworth”. Jim, who died on 15th April following a lengthy illness, aged 71, was indeed a great photographer. A native of Blisworth, he followed in the great tradition set by Thomas Millner and Walter Alexander of recording the life of the canal through that village and the surrounding countryside. As a result we have a unique record of the Grand Junction and Grand Union Canals from 1895 until a few days before Jim’s passing. Jim’s father worked for British Waterways based at Gayton Junction and from his boyhood Jim was fascinated by the canal and its boats. Beginning as a schoolboy he recorded the last years during which the canal was a major transport artery and the images that he obtained during the late 1950s are often the only surviving record of boats, boaters and the canal environment of those days. When I was commissioned by Northamptonshire Libraries in 1988 to produce an illustrated book on the waterways of that County, Jim’s images were of the greatest assistance, for not only were there never-to-be-repeated scenes of the once regular procession of boats, loaded and empty, through Blisworth, Stoke Bruerne and the surrounding countryside, but there were shots of the people that made it all happen. Not merely boaters appeared but lengthsmen, lock-keepers, dredger drivers, ice-breaking gangs - all had their places in his vast collection of images. Like many other enthusiasts, Jim appeared to lose interest once the working boats ceased regular operations in 1970, but he still managed occasionally to capture an image of the changing canal. However, in the last years of his life his interest revived and he was often to be seen on the local towpaths looking out for unusual or historic craft. He found a ready niche for publication in “Waterways World” magazine and it was my privilege to be able supply the captions and background comment, which he would always acknowledge with both courtesy and modesty, although there was most certainly no need for the latter attribute. The local paper, too, regularly published images from him showing the everyday life of the canal. Jim was a quiet, likeable man who never sought to make great capital out of his unique recordings of the passing scene and his memorial will surely be the superb collection of photographic images that he amassed in his lifetime. David Blagrove May 2011.


Buckingham Canal Society Report The Buckingham Canal Society is continuing to make progress with the restoration of the canal on a number of levels. Formal partnerships are now in place with Buckinghamshire County Council, Aylesbury Vale District Council, Buckingham Town Council as well as several parish councils along the route of the canal. We are additionally enjoying reaffirmed support from British Waterways for the restoration of the canal. We are working at four sites along the canal between Buckingham and Cosgrove. At our Hyde Lane site we are working in partnership with BBOWT (Berks, Bucks, Oxon Wildlife Trust) and we are in negotiations with them for the Society to take over the lease on this stretch of canal. The Society has worked at this site for a number of years and work is progressing well with restoration of the lock and as this site is a nature reserve we are carrying out various environmental activities. These have included hedge-laying, replanting over 100 saplings along the hedge and footpath maintenance work. At our Little Hill Farm site ongoing re-pointing work is taking place to the stone canal bridge and is nearing completion. We have also cleared the vegetation on the towpath on this section of the canal for about a mile. At our third site at Cosgrove discussions are taking place with British Waterways as to the best approach for re-watering this section and we are also talking to the Highways Agency with the view to using the A5 bridge over the River Ouse as a potential canal crossing. Lastly at our Bourton Meadow site, planning permission will be applied for shortly to re-water this section. An environmental impact study has been completed and discussions are taking place with the local council to use the canal as part of a flood prevention scheme for Buckingham. We continue to run our work parties three times a month on alternate Thursdays and on the second Sunday of each month. Our annual festival at Cosgrove is being held over the weekend of 22nd-24th July when we hold a ‘Lock Ransom’ to promote the restoration of the canal and to raise funds for future restoration. Athina Beckett Chairman Buckingham Canal Society





All advertisements must comply with the requirements of the Trades Descriptions Act and avoid misrepresentation of goods offered for sale. The Business Advertisements (Disclosure) Order 1977 requires that businesses seeking to sell goods must clearly indicate this in an advertisement.

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BRANCH SOCIAL MEETINGS Regular Branch Social Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month from September to May inclusive at The Walnut Tree Inn, Blisworth, at 8pm. All members and non-members welcome. Food and drink available

Next Meeting Tuesday, 13th September David Bond — “A Journey down the River Nene” The IWA may not agree with opinions expressed in this magazine, but encourages publication as a matter of interest. Nothing printed may be construed as policy or an official announcement unless so stated, otherwise the Association accepts no liability for any matter in the magazine. Neither the editor nor IWA can accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the magazine, and opinions stated are those of individual contributors. We will, however, gladly publish corrections if notified. The editor reserves the right to shorten or modify articles published in the interests of clarity or space. The Inland Waterways Association is registered as a charity (No. 212342)

The next edition of Endeavour will be published August 2011


WHO’S WHO IN NORTHAMPTON BRANCH 2011/2012 Chairman Bernard Morton 07785 375787

Branch Meetings Graham Treagus

E-mail: bernard.morton

E-mail: graham.treagus

Branch Secretary

Membership Secretary & Planning Officer

Sandie Morton E-mail:sandie.morton

Geoff Wood

Deputy Chairman & Police Liaison Officer

E-mail geoff.wood

Campaign Festival Sub-Committee Members

Eric Young E-mail:

Treasurer & Planning Officer Alex Madisons E-mail alex.madisons

Newsletter Editor Tony Clarke 07939 977859 E-mail tony.clarke

Website & Publicity Officer Lynda Payton E-mail:lynda.payton

John Pomfret (Chairman), Bernard Morton, Catriona Butler, Michael Buler, Peter Canfield, Kevin Cousins, Roger Hasdell, Sandie Morton, Jenny McCalman, Eric Young, Mike Wooding and Sam Samuells (also occasional member:Ian Bekusch)

Non-Committee posts Sales: Catriona Butler 01604 473756

Archivist, Endeavour Advertising & Distribution Roger Hasdell 01604 767212

Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Endeavour May 2011  

Newsletter of IWA Northampton Branch

Endeavour May 2011  

Newsletter of IWA Northampton Branch