THE HISTORIC Hawkesbury canal junction – the link between two of Britain’s oldest waterways – has been recognised with a prestigious commemorative plaque.
Hawkesbury Junction links the Coventry Canal, built to transport coal from the Warwickshire coalfield; and the Oxford canal which was the principal route to and from the River Thames and London.
Today, it is a tranquil spot in a conservation area with a picturesque iron bridge, pumping station and historic pub, the ‘Greyhound Inn’, as well as the lock.
The peaceful atmosphere belies it tumultuous past, including fierce disputes between the canals’ companies over who collected the tolls.
The commemorative plaque, known as a ‘Red Wheel’, has been awarded by The Transport Trust, in conjunction with the Canal & River Trust and the Coventry Canal Society.
The Transport Trust, whose Patron is HRH Prince Michael of Kent, has, for over 50 years, been the only body committed to the conservation, restoration and promotion of Britain’s transport heritage, nationally and across all modes of transport – by land, sea and air.
As part of the unveiling of the ‘Red Wheel’ – the 94th to date – members of the Coventry Canal Society operated the lock and sold refreshments in aid of Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
The Trust’s president said: “The country’s 18th century canal network played a crucial role in the transport of raw materials and finished goods and, in turn, to the Industrial Revolution and the development of the British Empire.
“Fortunately, whilst much of our transport heritage has been lost, much – including Hawkesbury Junction – remains and it’s our role to raise the profile of such sites with a younger and wider audience.”
Nigel Crowe, national heritage manager, for the Canal & River Trust said; “Hawkesbury Junction has a wonderful, colourful history and it’s great that the Transport Trust have recognised its importance with this plaque.
“The junction played a really vital role in the development of the area and continues to play an important part in local life today.
“The plaque is welcome recognition of the junction’s history but also gives a real boost to all the local volunteers that give their time to help us keep the area looking its best.”
The Trust adds that in 1803, the junction was moved but there remained an unintentional 7 inch discrepancy between the water levels of the two canals, only overcome by the construction of an additional lock – which is still in place.