Branches Melksham Calne & Chippenham News
Report on Pewsham Heritage Open Day
Sunday, 01 June 2014 00:00


Gazette & Herald Friday 27th June

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Children making bricks
with Mike Stone
from Chippenham Museum
& Heritage Centre
On Friday 20th  and Saturday21st June, the sounds of hammering,
sawing and blacksmithing rang out once again at Pewsham Locks,
after 100 years of silence following the abandonment of the Wilts & Berks Canal.
The ambitious plan to recreate the characters and activities
connected with Pewsham, and then to invite schools
and the local community, was made possible by the efforts of
volunteers belonging to the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust,
supported by many members of the local community
and funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund Sharing Heritage Grant.
Visitors had the chance to try their hand at brick making with William Cullis,
making a metal hook with Charles Isaac, log sawing and drilling
with Alfred Hodgson, bridge building with John Smith,
clay puddling with Stephen Holland, tying a decorative dragonfly
with James Silk, fishing with John Tuck and boat gauging with
Samuel Brown. All were people who actually lived and worked on or
near the canal at Pewsham, their stories researched and
provided by local historians Ray Alder and Jan Flanagan.  


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Teamwork: using a brace and bit to drill a hole in a log

          Other notable characters with fascinating stories were Ambrose Neate
(local hero, himself only 12 years old, who tried to save a drowning child),
Elizabeth Rawlings (born on a boat at Pewsham),
Sarah Brown (badly injured during a break-in at the lock cottage)
and Mr Ralph Hale Gaby, one of the earliest subscribers to the canal company.
Children listened enthralled, fascinated by the tales of the people who built and operated the canal.
120 children, dressed in Victorian costumes, and from four different schools,
had arrived at the site on foot and spent a wonderful day
getting muddy, painty, using ‘proper’ tools and learning
how to decorate plates canal-style, card, spin, weave, crochet
and make lace. They eventually went back to their various schools tired,
very hot, but very happy. 

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Children dressed in Victorian costumes about to start their exciting day

          Gaye Webb is a teacher at St Peter’s School.
She said: “It felt like we were on the set of Larkrise to Candleford with the scenery and costumes on Friday. The canal is such an important part of our town’s heritage and when fully restored will provide so much for our community as well as bringing people in from other areas.” 


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Frankie the canal horse in his bonnet to keep off the flies

Dan Wrixon, teacher at King’s Lodge said:
 “On our return to school, we chatted about the day and the children were able to recall lots of learning about the canal and the activities they had participated in. They were keen to go home and tell mums and dads too! We'll keep an interest in the future progress of restoring the locks.”
Saturday was the longest day of the year, and the second of
the Open Days. Over 300 people attended, travelling on foot,
by bike, by car or on a free minibus from the Town Centre".

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Testing the clay puddling with 'Stephen Holland' aka Sassan Panahinejad

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Val Melville, volunteer with WBCT
and Chippenham Deputy Mayor
Mr David Powell who opened the event
Val Melville is a volunteer with the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust.
 She said: “We were absolutely thrilled with the success
of the Community Open Day. The atmosphere was brilliant with
so many cheerful visitors, traditional music, Frankie the canal horse
on the towpath, the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust,
Chippenham Museum & Heritage Centre and Ellendale Environmental,
plus all the fantastic activities.
We would like to thank Councillor David Powell Deputy Mayor for opening the event,
and Cherry Ann Knott from the Heritage Lottery Fund, who
spent several hours looking at all the activities on offer.
It was wonderful to see so many visitors enjoying themselves
whilst learning about their heritage; so many more local people now know
about the canal and its importance to the history of Chippenham.
All the hard work by the volunteers has proved very worthwhile
and we would like to thank the local community for their support
and interest in our project to restore the locks and
the rest of this significant industrial heritage site.”


Using  a doubled end saw

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West said:
 “Sharing Heritage is a wonderful opportunity for communities to delve
into their  local heritage and we are delighted to be able to
offer this grant so that the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust
and Chippenham Museum 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.”

Read more about this in "This is Wiltshire"  19th June