The Lengthsman’s Hut stands next to the towpath as the Grantham Canal heads east from the Basin towards Grantham; about a 5-minute walk. It has always had a strong sense of ‘village memory’ about it and, as recently as the early 1990s, was a little dilapidated but its structure was clear and visible.
The Lengthsman had responsibility for maintaining his ‘length’ of the canal and there would have been several along the towpaths between Nottingham and Grantham. Probably built in the late 1800s, it wouldn’t have been lived in but it had a small fireplace and chimney and would have been used for shelter and storage. The Hickling Lengthsman’s Hut is one of only two surviving huts on the Grantham Canal and is the only timber example. With a brick fireplace and chimney, the rest of the Hut was constructed from railway sleepers
standing on end (a reminder of the early links with the railway companies) with an earth floor and a wooden roof.
It is understood that Hickling’s last Lengthsman was Shelton Walker who farmed the fields to the north of the towpath (see photos, below). His son, John, planted Shelt’s Spinney a little further east (by the swing bridge) in his memory. These days, this is an extraordinary wildlife haven, particularly for woodland birds.
The Hickling Lengthsman’s Hut is an extremely rare example of a building of this type.
As the Millennium approached, restoration of the Lengthsman’s Hut was put forward as a project to commemorate the Millennium milestone; unfortunately, a number of false starts followed and it has taken a further 20 years for the restoration to near completion. In the meantime, some of those original timbers and features have been lost but very soon the Hut will look like its original self once again.
One of the other downsides of this long restoration process is that some of the old photographs of the original Lengthsman’s Hut have been lost. We would really like to hear from you, if you have any that we could add to this page!!
Further photographs of the Lengthsman’s Hut in the years before its restoration will follow shortly.