Grantham Canal: from the Wadkin Archives

From the Wadkin Archives:

Hickling Reflections of Yesteryear:

Maggie's Memories front cover
Maggie’s Memories; Margaret Wadkin (nee Simpson) 1908-1987
  • Page 3: 1914. Tomrny Watchorn (Crutchy) in his boat on the canal basin or ‘the cut’ as the canal was usually called. During the Summer Tommy would often be hired to take people for picnic parties along the canal to Devil’s Elbow.
  • Page 17: Circa 1900. Mrs George Simpson and her daughter Ida, outside their home ‘Rose Cottage’ Many town people liked to spend a holiday in the countryside and with the canal passing through Hickling this proved an attraction. Mrs. Simpson decided to take in paying guests at Rose Cottage and also provide refreshment for people walking or cycling through the village. She also catered for parties. In the Summer time tables covered with white starched damask cloths, were put under the apple trees. For the cost of one shilling visitors could enjoy brown and white bread and butter, boiled eggs (from the family’s hens) one for the ladies, two for the gentlemen, homemade jam and a pot of tea. As Mrs. Simpson was a staunch Methodist no teas were served on Sundays. When a delivery of Sunday papers was brought to the village Mrs. Simpson ordered one believing it to be a religious paper. On reading the first page her disgust was so great she cancelled the order immediately.
  • Page 39: A game called ‘lurky’ was a great favourite. This was played by one child standing with his foot on an old treacle tin whilst everyone else hid. ‘He’ counted to twenty then tried to find the others before anyone managed to kick the tin. Many happy hours were passed lying on the canal bank with a long twig to catch mussels, which once caught would be returned to the water.
  • Page 56: Late 1940’s. Mr. & Mrs. Vincent Walker (…) Mr. Walker worked on the canal. His flat bottom boat was to be seen tied adjacent to the small black workman’s hut on the canal bank.
  • Page 93: One afternoon two young men were hedge cutting when their attention was attracted to two British training aircraft flying from over Kinoulton direction. As the planes were between Kinoulton and Hickling they collided and came down, one engine landed in the canal and has never been found. The trainees were young polish men, one was killed, one parachuted down.

Scrapbook of Hickling:

  • Page 22: (extracts) occupations listed by census year – 1851, 1861, 1871
    • Occupation                                   1851     1861              1871
    • Boatman                                        9            12              2
    • Boatowner/cottager                                                1
    • Canal Labourer                                           1
    • Carrier                                           2            4              1
    • Carter                                                          11
    • Coal Merchant                              1                          1
    • Publican/Innkeeper                      1            2              2
    • Lime Merchant                                           1
    • Warehousewoman                                                   1
    • Wharfinger                                    1
    • Wharfinger & Coal Merchant                    1                          
    • (note; 1851 census – John Collishaw is listed as coal merchant and Henry Dickman as Wharfinger)
  • Page 24: The Canal. Two engineers were appointed, a James Green of Wollaton for the section from the Trent to the Leicestershire border about 1.5 miles east of Hickling and a William King for the rest including the reservoirs at Denton and Knipton. Act under which work began was 1793 and the canal was wholly navigable in 1797, the cost being £118,500. The length of the canal is 33 miles and had 18 locks. Traffic on the canal upwards was mainly coal, coke, lime, building materials and groceries to villages along the line to Grantham and to places beyond which were then distributed by land carriage. Downward the canal carried corn, malt, beans, wool and other agricultural products. There were two wharves at Hickling one the basin side which is still called ‘The Wharf Yard’ and belongs to Mr. E. Faulks (Ted) and the other side of the road which is now the front lawn of “Bridge View” owned by Mr. T. Herrick but was at one time “The Navigation” Public House. In 1854 the canal was bought by Ambergate Railway then to L.N.E. R., later to British Waterways Board in 1936 . The last commercial boat travelled in 1922 and was owned by a Mr. ‘Iky’ Slater. During the 1920 ‘s Tom Watchorn (“Crutchy”) would take parties of six or seven in a rowing boat, the favourite place being Devils Elbow between Kinoulton and Owthorpe . In the other direction the trip would be as far as Harby. When the canal was frozen most people of the village would go skating as soon as the yard work was finished in the morning and stay until afternoon milking, then return in the evening by the light of lanterns. During the freeze-up of 1962/63 the canal was frozen from December until the first week in March. One evening a bonfire was lit on the bank and skaters took tins of soup which were all put in a saucepan and heated on the bonfire. The different flavours of hot soup mixed together on that cold night was delicious. The hump back bridge was taken down in 1957. Hickling children have always been told the story of the huge whale which comes along the canal from Grantham at mid-night to turn round in the basin.
W0756a WI Seat Presentation Jubilee Year 1965
W0756a WI Seat Presentation Jubilee Year 1965
  • Page 40: In 1965 the National Federation of Women’s Institutes celebrated their Golden Jubilee and to commemorate this Hickling W.I. presented the village with an 8ft. teak seat set overlooking the canal basin. The gift was handed over to Mr W. Woolley, Chairman of the Parish Council, by the institute’s president ltrs. M. Windey. After the ceremony the institute staged an ‘ At Home ‘ session in the village school for those attending the presentation.
  • Page 45: Coal Merchants. Coal was brought along the canal on barges and tipped into the Wharf Yard then re- loaded on to horse drawn carts. Following this, coal came by rail trucks and tipped at Old Dalby Station or occasionally Widmerpool, then collected by horse and cart. Delivery often took several days. Coal merchant was Mr. Harry Brooks from Hose and Mr. Malcolm King of Long Clawson who delivered on a specific day of the week. Today three coal merchants deliver in the village:- Mr. John Grice from Hickling Pastures, Mr. Ernest Tinsley, Long Clawson (one time assistant to Mr. M. King) and Mr. Henry Coy from Harby who bought Mr. H. Brooks’s business. In 1885 Mr. Bill Collishaw was a coal merchant and warfinger.
  • Page 62: Hickling Fire Service was formed around 1947 the headquarters at West Bridgford. The fire tender was kept at Whittaker’s at Beech House then at Miss. Wakelin’s before a piece of ground was bought on Chapel Lane from Miss. Proudman, School House and a special building erected. Practices were held on Sunday mornings. Water had to be drawn from the brook or canal as there was no mains water. The service was disbanded and the tender taken away at the beginning of 1956 but the hose and other articles were not collected until 1973 when they had completely perished. The building then became the garage belonging to the School House owned by Mr. & Mrs. R. (Bob) Spencer (nee Miss. Proudman)
W0064b 1905
W0064b 1905

Maggie’s Memories:

  • Page 5: As many as fourteen paying guests could be catered for at Rose Cottage but sometimes one or two had to sleep out, in those days, so many town people spent their holidays in the country and Hickling was no exception, the canal was an attraction with the Basin and fishing facilities, many fishermen stayed at Rose Cottage. I remember two Methodist Ministers, Rev. Hoad and Rev. W.O.Barratt both from Oakham and in the Melton Circuit, also the Manchester family from Melton (one of the butchers), Mr. Leader (with an artificial arm) owned a shoe shop in Melton, also a Miss Berry from Melton, she had a milliners shop.
  • Page 6: The pump at Rose Cottage, never as long as I lived there, went dry, it was soft water and used for everything. Donnie watered the beast during winter, we used it for washing, it was wonderful clear water, and in a dry time during the summer several farmers fetched six or more chums of water in carts for their beast. At the canal end of Hickling the well water at the houses was not good and eight or more families fetched water most days from Rose Cottage pump. The men used buckets and yokes, the houses near, like ‘The Elms’, ‘Yew Tree House’ and ‘Water Lane’ the women folk would nip over with a bucket perhaps twice daily.
  • Page 13: Vince Walker. Granny Simpson thought as much of him as if he was her own son. Mr. & Mrs. Walker lived in a cottage near the canal next door to the Eggleston’s, and Margaret Richardson (nee Walker) lives there today. He was a good friend to Granny Simpson in many ways, he too fetched water from our pump and Mrs. Walker would come along with him in the evenings and stay for an hour or so. I remember so well the day Donnie and Vince returned to Hickling from a Prison of War Camp in Germany. The Church bells rang, people stood outside Rose Cottage waiting for their arrival from Widmerpool Station and there was such a cheer when the horse and cart drew up and the ex-prisoners were home again. I can’t remember who fetched them, Vince went on home to his wife and family. A meal was laid out on the kitchen table at Rose Cottage and their was tears as well as smiles. Mr. & Mrs. Walker were born at Cropwell Bishop and came to live at Hickling on their marriage. He worked on the canal keeping everything trim and tidy, the canal belonged to the railway. There was a small hut between Hickling canal basin and the Grange with a fireplace. In the winter time it was most useful, also a boat for using on the canal was fastened near this black hut. What a contrast these days, the canal is filthy and everything going, derelict, the owners are British Waterways. The field hedges were a pride in the days of Vince Walker, it was a pleasure walking along the canal bank in those days.
  • Page 13: Going back to Mr. Walker working on the canal, one day each year the canal and bank was closed to the public, and Mr. Walker would stand by the gate letting only farmers with land by the canal to go through, there would be times when some of the public would try to be awkward, but Mr. Walker stood his ground until they saw sense.
  • Page 47: Mr. Charlie Munks (his Grandson still lives in Hickling), we children dare not say much to him, but he was a good skater, when the canal was frozen it was always Charlie Munks who made the figure eight 8 on the basin, and it always looked so easy to we kids watching. The strength of the horses when pulling sometimes a double trugg over the Canal bridge was marvellous, now the bridge has gone and the horses, and all we see are lorries piled high.
  • Page 50: Navagation Inn it is also a private house known as ‘Bridge View’. It is rather misguiding now, as the canal bridge was taken down a number of years ago. This pub stood by the side of the Canal, the yard used as a Wharf Yard, there was stables also for the barge horses. Since the bridge has gone there is a beautiful view of the Canal, with swans and cygnets swimming along all through from Spring to Autumn, and often the swans stay through the winter.
  • Page 55: Travelling Fair. The first I recall set up their roundabouts in the paddock where now stands ‘The White House’ opposite the Rectory Gate, then transferred to either the Wharf Yard or the Plough Inn Paddock, besides round-a-bouts there would be shooting at clay pipes, coconut shies and skittles. I can’t remember how much we paid. We kids loved the ‘Fair’, but many of us had strict orders not to stay long because it was near the public house.
  • Page 56: I remember our Postman riding a red cycle from Upper Broughton railway station to Hicking (the postman travelling by train from Melton to Broughton) he had his own ‘Postman’s Hut’ near the Canal, where he could take a nap, make a cup of tea, and often he would go fishing in the Basin, when the time came to collect mail from the letter boxes he would cycle back and catch the Melton train at Broughton. (it is possible that this was the Weighing Office on the Wharf – research ongoing.)
  • Page 59: Coal and Merchants Coal was brought in Barges on the Canal at one time and tipped on to the Wharf Yard, and then re-loaded on to horse and cart. After the barges, came railway trucks of coal. Often a truck of coal was shared by two families; the coal would arrive at Old Dalby Railway Station and sometimes Widmerpool, and then the horses with heavy carts would be backwards and forwards sometimes several days, especially if there were two trucks to be emptied, I can remember loads of coal being tipped on to the road and then being taken to the coal house by wheelbarrow. Granny Simpson’s coal merchant as I remember was Mr. Harry Brooks then Mr. Malcolm King of Long Clawson came to Hickling and other villages, first with horse and dray then a coal lorry, in those days the Coalman always delivered on a specific day each week, now one must order fuel either by phone or post and it will be delivered. There have been a number of different coal merchants with customers here over the years, another custom completely changed. When I first married I remember giving as little as 1/6d, one shilling and sixpence for cwt. of coal, now it is £2 or more anthracite dearer.
  • Page 61: Wharf Yards. I remember how we children stood on the canal bridge to watch the horse drawn barges on the water unload their cargo on to the wharf yards, there was two yards, one on the Canal Basin side where the Red Brick Barn still stands (rather delapidated) and the other by the side of the Navigation Inn (which is now a private house called Bridge View). The barges unloaded coal, sand, gravels, etc. and it was seldom the wharf yards were empty. Several times the barge men have given we children rides on the barge, and we loved it.
  • Page 68: Holidays at Hickling by many town people when I went to school was common, and many came from Nottingham, they stayed at The Plough Inn, Rose Cottage, and one or two other Houses opened for paying guest. Each Bank Holiday lots of visitors arrived for just the day, travelling by train from Nottingham Midland Station to Widmerpool Station, then walking between two and three miles to Hickling, they would book a meal, walk through the village, visit the Church and always spent and hour or two by the canal. These people enjoyed every minute of the days outing and loved the quiet of the country side.
  • Page 69: CANAL The Grantham Canal was made in 1793, and when I was a child it was the chief attraction for fishermen, many of the men folk who stayed at Granny Simpson’s were fishermen and while he relaxed by the Canal the women folk would probably go walking along the canal bank across the swing bridge and back on the other side, they may walk up the ‘Standards’ or ‘Hills’ where on a clear day there is a wonderful view of the canal shimmering in the sun, also Lincoln Cathedral or Belvoir Castle looks quite near. On a Bank Holiday I have many times seen the banks of the Canal Basin absolutely packed with men fishing and also as far down the canal as the eye could see, how wonderful if it could happen again there are hardly any fishermen at all now. In the winter if the canal was frozen it again was an attraction, this time for the skating community, when I was at school I remember the canal being frozen for skating quite a week or two, we children loved it, but the cold winds chafed our bare knees and I know I cried more than once when I went home, we never wore long stockings until quite a while after leaving school. Whole families would be on the ice, the essential work, milking and feeding the animals were done, then everyone down to the ‘Cut’ grown ups skating children sliding. During the 1914- 18 War there was a ‘Tea’ on the ice for Red Cross Funds such a crowd gathered, skaters came from Kinoulton, Harby and Hose on the ice, it was a great success. We children spent many happy hours by the Canal in the summer time, we lay full length on our tummy with a long twig from the hedge to catch mussels, we popped the twig in an open mussel which then closed immediately, but we always put them back in the water. We picked yellow ‘Water or May Blobs’ from the water’s edge, the fields would be full of golden buttercups and cowslips (and in this year of 1976 we see so few cowslips) many country women picked the cowslip heads to make wine. Have often eaten fish caught from our canal, the common kind being Bream, Roach, Perch, Pike and Eel. It is a beautiful spot around the Canal and always something to watch, many Moor Hens with tiny fluffy black chicks, wild ducks, a Heron standing on one leg motionless ready to pounce. In the summer it is a joy to see the swallows skimming over the water, and an old saying which we believed ‘If the swallows flew low it would rain’ of course swallows always fly low over water catching insects. When I was a youngster there wasn’t any swans on the canal, but after the fishermen were so few, swans arrived and have been with us ever since, they nest each spring and bring up a family of cygnets, when we lived by the Canal, the swans if males would fight on the water and fight to kill, I have been out with a sweeping brush and walloped the pair of them, one winter when the canal was frozen for several weeks a young swan waddled to our back door each morning for something to eat, we broke the ice each morning for them as well. A pair of swans would nest in about the same place each spring, and several times vandals have either taken the eggs or smashed them in the nest, the vandals always were boys from the town.
  • Page 71-2: (…) Around 14th – 17th April we children were listening for the Cuckoo and watch for the Swallows, the swallows always appeared first by the Canal skimming over the water, and we did enjoy boasting if we happened to be the first one seeing and hearing these birds, last year, 1975 we heard the cuckoo only six times, and their wasn’t nearly as many swallows or swifts, I do hope we have more this year. I remember when people would bless the cuckoo and wish it would shut up, hearing the cuckoo the first time each year and seeing the first swallow means a great lot to country people. Every child would go violeting in the Spring, directly after School change into old clothes, then off round the fields, we knew which field and we knew which hedge side and where the blue ones would grow, and the white ones, on the high banks by the stone bridge near the Grange by the canal was a good spot for violets, and in a couple of fields down Clawson Lane or Chapel Lane, we simply loved violating time, then later we went up the hills to the spinney and picked blue bells and the white wild anemone, we would go down one of the lanes for wild roses and the cream tea rose, the pink and white sweet clover, the lovely yellow lambs toes, the lady smock, pink campion, buttercups and celandines, the dog daises, the red knob which grew in meadows. I always think the wild flowers are just as beautiful as cultivated. One flower we were never allowed to take indoors was the white May Blossom, a superstition that it brought bad luck and was believed in those days, so, if we picked the May Hawthorn it was put in a jam jar and left outside on the yard. Always for Palm Sunday we kids found some ‘Pussy Willow’ and took to school, and if ever we managed to find any Bull Rushes by the Canal or the Brook we were highly delighted. We used to see that beautiful Kingfisher bird fly by near the canal and the large Dragon fly, and the little voles in the water, and hundreds of minnows swimming around, the Skylark would sing its little heart out high in the sky and its nest built on the ground among the grass (…) We country kids loved all these times, late August and onwards would see mothers and children in the fields and along the lanes picking blackberries also on the canal bank, we would also go up the ‘Hills ‘, we would pick baskets full and their wasn’t such a thing as a Freezer or even a Fridge, so all the berries had to be used pretty quickly and went into blackberry vinegar, jam, jelly and bottled, plus pies and puddings. We girls would take a couple of sandwiches or slice of cake in our pockets and take off up the hills and stay until dusk, coming home with our baskets full of fruit. There were also the men from Nottingham, some would walk, others rode a cycle and leave it in a shed while going blackberrying, these men like the mushroomers walked miles and miles, in these days in 1976 we see cars full of people in the lanes picking blackberries.
  • Page 73-4: Carol Singing on Christmas Eve This was traditional, and in most of the surrounding villages too (…) our singers at Hickling were not of one Church, we belonged to the Choirs certainly, but anyone who could sing joined in, visitors as well. We met at midnight on the Canal Bridge and always would be a large company, almost every Christmas Eve whether wet or fine we would set off to the accompaniment of either Arthur Savage or Donnie Simpson playing the comet, just odd times we sang unaccompanied. After St. Lukes clock had struck midnight we walked from the canal bridge to Mr. Vince Walkers house and sang our first carol, Vince Walker always came with us. It isn’t easy singing outside, and we were always pleased with the cornet players. Sometimes we stayed at the Chapel Sunday School where a supper was prepared, but how on earth anyone sang properly after eating pork pie etc. I will never know, other times we sang the whole of the village without a break, (many of the men had a little bottle tucked away in a pocket) and we always ended our carol singing at ‘Elm House’ by rendering the Doxology, the time would be between 4 and 4.30 a.m. We sang at each house, never missing anyone unless the house was empty, and although it was the middle of the night, many a bedroom window was opened and we were wished a Happy Christmas. A House to House collection was made after Boxing Day, mostly for the General Hospital Nottingham and we were so pleased if we collected £5. Now-a-days the carol singers start at 7.30 p.m. and have finished and gone in doors for supper, and home by 10.30 p.m. and there are lots more houses, it doesn’t seem sense, a collection box is taken round while the singing is taking place and around £25 collected for the National Childrens Home, how times change.
  • Page 83: Mr. William Collishaw Lived at the ‘Wharf’ with his wife, there were three families’s of Collishaws in Hickling but were not related to one another. This family were always called Mr. & Mrs. Wharf Collishaw, they had no family, Mr. Collishaw was Church Warden as long as I remember until he moved to Cropwell Bishop on the death of his wife, he had white hair, always wore a bowler hat and dressed in black, mostly a frock coat, they each were typical Victorians, very strict, serious, and children were afraid of them, Mrs. Collishaw also mostly wore black and a very large hat and she was a tiny person, she kept a maid who wore a black dress and white cap and apron, but they never stayed long, Mrs. C. was a tyrant to her housemaids. Mr. Collishaw had a brick office in the wharf yard, with fireplace, cupboards, desk and chair, a window with wooden shutter, and outside a large weighing machine on the ground where horse & cart would be driven to be weighed before and after loading with either coal, sand, gravel etc. from the wharf yard, Mr. Collishaw would manipulate the machine and hand out tickets through the open cubby hole window, we kids would think ourselves clever and stand on the weighing machine expecting to be weighed (we never let Mr. Collishaw see us if we could help it.) Mr. Collishaw also issued fishing tickets for use of anglers on his land, he would walk around each day collecting his sixpences. There were two large iron gates at the entrance to the Wharf Yard which were locked each night and all day on Sunday. Part of the house has now been demolished.
  • Page 87: (…) Poor old Shot caught a chill which turned to pneumonia, he was in the Wharf barn on the main street, the police were informed and he was taken by ambulance to Bingham Workhouse where he died. The local British Legion gave him a respectful funeral and he was buried in Kinoulton Churchyard.
  • Page 87-8: Mr Tommy Watchorn Affectionately known as ‘Crutchie’ he was a cripple and as his nickname applies, used crutches. He lived in a wooden hut in what is now ‘Bridge View’ yard, he was the local cobbler (I have an article about Crutchie from a newspaper in one of my Scrapbooks). Tom owned a small boat which he kept on the Canal during the summer time, and would take parties out daily, there would be trips to Harby where tea would be taken at the village pub not far from the canal and to the ‘Devils Elbow’ which is a bend in the canal between Kinoulton and Owthorpe, and there was a little copse or spinney where a picnic tea was laid out on the grass. Tommy provided a small stove and kettle for boiling water, if the party was larger than the boat would carry Tom would hire a smaller one from the landlord of the Plough depending if one of the company could row, and sometimes one or two have cycled to Owthorpe canal bridge then along the bank of the water. There was always a large green cart umbrella under the seat in case of rain, and if a thunderstorm developed Tom would take his boat to the canal bank and have it securely fastened until the storm was over. I can remember being caught in a heavy storm, and we all huddled together under the large umbrella, naturally we children thought it most exciting, we also enjoyed swinging the wooden bridges to allow the boat through, there were many happy hours spent on that old boat on the Grantham Canal at Hickling. Tommy was also fond of fishing and during the season would often be seen sitting in his boat in the middle of the basin, and anglers would hire Tom and his boat for a day. During the winter months the only income Tommy had was from repairing boots and shoes. All Hickling residents admired Tommy Watchorn.
  • Page 88: Mr. Joseph Spencer lived at Bridge Farm, he was a bargeman, and have heard say he would put his wages inside the sole of his sock before walking home on the canal bank. Mrs. Martha Spencer also won prizes for making Stilton Cheese and awarded challenge cups for prize bulls and other beast, one son Robert is living here at the Old School House.
  • Page 89: Mr. & Mrs. George Faulks Farmer, lived at Canal Farm before moving to ‘Sycamore Farm’ in the village where they lived until their deaths. Mrs. Faulks, a hard working woman also was a good Stilton Cheese maker, had a large family, one son being killed during the 1914-18 War, there are still three sons and one daughter living, and two grandsons and families live here in Hickling.
  • Page 89: Mr. & Mrs. George Squires. Lived in Chapel Lane (now Bridegate) in the house where Mr. Temperton lives. He had a family of two sons, Mr. Squires was a bricklayer and worked for the firm of Wm. Bumett, he was a member of the Methodist Church Choir. Loved children. At all social evenings George Squires would at the close of the proceedings go to the centre of the room and stand on his head, and he was bald on top. One August Bank Holiday Monday, the Canal Basin was packed with fishermen and lots of people around watching, when Mr. George Squires and friends were out walking, and he decided to climb on the bridge parapet and stand on his head, every one gasped. Mrs. Squires was a big jolly woman, but suffered a great deal in later years before she died. After a few years Mr. Squires married again to Miss Jessie Burton and lived down the Green until he died. The last of the family, the youngest son Arch died 1974.
W1314a Canal & Basin (dates?)
W1314a Canal & Basin (dates?)

(Wadkin Archive – labelling W0758 photograph from the canal bridge towards the Weigh Building): “Looking from the Canal Bridge: note the Navigation Inn sign on the right. On the left trees surround the Wharf House where Mr William Collishaw lived, also seen is the weighing office where Mr Collishaw sat and manipulated the weighing machine after vehicles had filled with coal, gravel, sand etc brought in barges on the canal and paid a fee on each load. The man seen on the left could be Mr Joseph Spencer, if so he lived at Bridge Farm, also conveyed corn, coal etc in his horse drawn barges on the canal via Nottingham and Grantham. Joseph Spencer died in March 1921 aged 77.”

W0351a Canal Basin Alfred Herrick Revd LTP Harwood
W0351a Canal Basin Alfred Herrick Revd LTP Harwood

This gallery is from the Wadkin Archives

Newspaper Articles (chronological):