The Melksham, Calne and Chippenham Branch
of the
 Wilts & Berks Canal Trust


Press Releases  Back
June 2014


A BEAUTIFUL stretch of restored canal will be taken back in time to show what it would have looked like more than a hundred years ago.

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is holding a free Open Day at Pewsham Locks, on the outskirts of Chippenham, on Saturday June 21 from 10am-4pm.

Activities will include demonstrations of spinning, weaving and painting as well as opportunities to have a go at brick-making, puddling clay and sawing logs.

Visitors will also enjoy traditional folk music and refreshments while storytellers act out the roles of historical characters associated with the local canal and a horse walks along the towpath.

There will even be a free minibus providing transport to and from Chippenham town centre throughout the day.
The event, which is funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund Sharing Heritage grant of £7,900, has been organised by the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Trust to mark one hundred years since the abandonment of the canal in 1914.

Branch chairman Derek Flexer said: “We are sincerely grateful for the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund which is enabling us to organise such an exciting event for the local community.

“Pewsham Locks was once a very important part of the canal. Not only did it lift narrowboats on their journey from Melksham to Chippenham, but it also included a boat-building and repair business as well as other associated activities which probably meant it was very busy during the canal’s heyday.

“So our volunteers will be recreating many of those roles and inviting visitors to have a go at some of those activities.

“One of the most interesting aspects of the day will be the storytellers dressed in traditional costume who will play the parts of historical characters.

“These include Ambrose Neate who was praised in 1898 for jumping into the canal to save a drowning boy; Sarah Brown who lived in the lock-keeper’s cottage and will share the exciting story of a burglary in 1816; and Elizabeth Rawlings who was born on a boat at Pewsham in 1862.

“All of the stories have been provided by local historians researching the history of the canal.”
The Open Day will also include an information tent with teas, coffees and cakes, as well as the sale of Trust merchandise including books and clothes.

The free 16-seater minibus will depart Chippenham bus station at 10am and then every 40 minutes until 12.40pm, with return journeys from Pewsham Locks departing at 1.20pm and then every 40 minutes until 4.40pm.
Visitors can also reach the site by following the Sustrans cycle route.

Derek added: “There has been huge interest in this event and we hope it will attract hundreds of families throughout the day.

“They will also be able to enjoy the significant stretch of restored canal below the locks which includes a wharf, spillweir, bridge and other structures, as well as benches and information boards.
“It will be a fascinating insight into the history of the Wilts & Berks and we hope it will inspire many more people to join the restoration campaign.”

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West said: “Our Sharing Heritage programme provides a wonderful opportunity for communities to delve into their local heritage and we were delighted to be able to offer this grant to enable the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust can embark on a real journey of discovery.

"Heritage means such different things to different people and HLF’s funding offers a wealth of opportunities for groups to explore and celebrate what’s important to them in their local area.”

For more information about the local Branch of the Trust you can visit their Web site

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