Visits and walks 2015

the facade of the office block to c1910 CWS shoe factory

the 1895 Steam Laundry

c1880 building used by Sanders and Sanders

former power station for Rushden & District Electric Supply Co

Our visit to Rushden on a warm sunny evening included 23 sites associated with the footwear industry. All that remains of the former CWS shoe factory built in c.1901 is the fa├žade of the office block.

Built as Rushden Steam Laundry in 1895, this building was converted c.1915 for Charles Allen trading as Allen Boot Co. By 1964 it was part of an adjacent engineering works.

Built by c.1880, this five-bay building, and the later three-bay block, were used from new by Sanders and Sanders until they moved out in 1908. Allebone & Sons occupied it next until 1915 when leather dressers Henry Ingle & Sons used the premises until WWII.

Standing next to John White's transport depot is a former power station built in 1913 for Rushden and District Electric Supply Co. The works included two diesel-powered generators of 125 kilowatts each with space for a third.

Fish and coal offices by Regent's canal

Fish and coal offices by Regent's canal

Fish and coal offices by Regent's canal

Our visit to Braunston to look at the canal industry coincided with the Historic Narrowboat Rally so there was a wide variety of boats to see.

This narrow boat with its butty had earlier travelled from the Oxford Canal towards the marina looking for a mooring. Lack of space meant it having to reverse along the crowded cut.

When setting out the line of the canal, Samuel Simcock followed closely the contours of the land to minimise the need for earthworks. This stretch infront of the wharf was part of that original route.

Union Canal Carriers Ltd built three of these short tugs designed to push loading-carrying boats into the tunnel when major repair work was being undertaken. Their short length enabled them to turn within the confines of the tunnel.

demonstrating the work of a blacksmith

the headstock of a belt-driven lathe

a working dry dock that is a scheduled ancient monument

It's not often that you find two Scheduled Ancient Monuments within a few feet of each other; both still earning their keep. Commissioned by the Duke of Bridgwater, work started on the Coventry to Oxford Canal in 1769. Reaching Banbury in 1788, work stopped temporarily due to lack of funds.

With the coming of the canal the Tooley family started working on the Oxford Canal, first as a boat owner then later leasing the boatyard that had been built at the then end of the canal. The yard consisted of a stable, a forge, a dry dock, a boiler and steam chest.

Although the dry dock is now protected by a modern building, it was originally open to the elements. A wooden frame built from old boat timbers and mounted on rails so that it could be moved to wherever the men were working still survives.

Regent's Canal from Oblique Bridge; the site of the Ale and Porter Store was on the left and the Goods Depot on the right

St Pancras Basin on the Regent's Canal with the Midland Mainline and HS1 in the background

the eastern train shed of King's Cross Station

remains of a stop gate used to protect the rail tunnels from flooding during the war

For our second visit to the St Pancras-King's Cross area (see 2014 photo gallery) the walk included Regent's Canal. Looking north from Oblique Bridge the modern buildings lining the canal have replaced its industrial past. On the western (left) side was Midland Railway's large Ale and Porter Store (c.1870) accessed by three rail tracks over the canal from its large Goods Depot.

St Pancras Basin was constructed in 1867 for the disposal of railway ash. Three tracks from the bridge crossed the basin parallel to the main line.

After looking at the Granary Store and its associated buildings the walk continued through the new developments to finish at King's Cross station where the party were able to marvel at Lewis Cubitt's twin train sheds and the Gas Works tunnels beyond taking the tracks beneath the canal.

During the war, these tunnels were protected from flooding by a series of stop gates on the canal. These would have been closed during air-raids.

eight-sailed Heckington Windmill

tentering gear for one pair of stones with the governor in the background

the lag governor in its modern protective cage

Heckington Mill is the sole surviving eight-sail windmill in the country. It is still producing stone-ground flour and animal feed products.

Originally built with five sails in 1830 by Michael Hare, it was worked by various millers until a storm wrecked the sails and cap in 1890. John Pocklington repaired it using the sails, cap, fantail, etc from Tuxford's mill in Boston, which he had bought in November 1891. A condition of the sale was that the mill had to be cleared from the site. It is Grade I listed.

Three sets of stones are driven off the great spure wheel. The tentering is unusual in that it is controlled by a lag governor. Instead of swinging away from the driving shaft, the weights, which are hung from a horizontal arm fixed to the vertical shaft, swing behind their pivot point.

Dogdyke pumping station: the 1855 building on the right, the diesel pumping set on the left

Bradley and Craven beam engine

Ruston & Hornsby diesel angine with the Gwynnes pump behind

Our day-out to Lincolnshire continued to Dogdyke drainage pumping station. Built in 1855 to drain farmland between the rivers Bain and Witham, the external-condensing double-acting beam-engine built by Bradley and Craven of Wakefield drives a scoop wheel pumping set.

The Foster Lancashire-type boiler was installed in 1909 to replace the original Cornish-type boiler. Declared beyond economic repair in 1975, a modern oil-fired steam boiler now provides the steam. Turning at 7 rpm, the scoop wheel can lift about 25 tons of water per minute. The original river access has now been blocked off and the water is returned to the mill drain. Restored in 1977 the engine is steamed on open days.

A Ruston & Hornsby diesel engine driving a Gwynnes pump was installed in 1940 in an new building to replace the steam engine. Running at 300 rpm, the 40 hp engine can lift 40 tons of water per minute against a 10 ft head. Although replaced by an electric pumping set elsewhere, this diesel set is maintained by the Witham 3rd Drainage Board as a stand-by set and is run on open days.

Whissendine windmill

Wymondham windmill

weighbridge building (left) and goods shed (centre) at the former goods yard

The summer programme kicked off with a visit to Whissendine windmill in Rutland. With the tower dating from 1809, built by the Earls of Harborough of Stapleford Park, and current machinery dating from c.1860 this working mill provides a range of flour and animal feed products.






After visiting Wymondham windmill dating from the early 19th century, the group looked at some of the local IA.



The weighbridge building stands at the entrance to the site of the former coal yard and goods yard. The Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line, which ran from Saxby to Bourne, was located amongst the present-day trees on the centre-right of the image.

A detail of the blade in fleshing and shaving machines

splitting machine for splitting the hide into two thinner pieces

a mechanical planimeter for measuring the size (area in square feet) of hides

The task of unhairing and fleshing animal skins before they could be tanned was skilled manual work. Modern machines, such of those seen during our visit to the University's tannery, have reduced the physical aspect of what are still skilled processes.

After learning about the various tanning processes and how they affect the characteristics of the finished leather, operation of some of the machines was demonstrated: fleshing, samming to remove excess water, splitting and shaving to reduce the thickness of the leather.

A softer and more pliable leather is achieved by staking - vigorous pummelling and stretching. A patterned or textured finish can be achieved by pressing the leather against an engraved plate at very high pressures. Either vigorously rubbing the leather or pressing it against a smooth heated plate at a very high pressure produces a gloss finish.

one of the barrel-vaulted cellars

the brewing kettle and mash tun

leaded window with the NBC star

Phipps' beers are again being brewed in Northampton. After a an introduction to the history of the premises, the tour started by visiting the cellars where our glasses were charged.

Returning to the brew room, our hosts explained the processes and the equipment in the room. It was stressed that this was not a micro brewery. A small scale process has also been installed for making small batches of specialist brews.

The tour continued to the upper floors to look at various architectural features of the building and where some of the brewing processes were originally carried out all those years ago. Some of the space is currently being used for the restoration of window frames.

The bar will soon be open for business.

1916 Sopwith Pup fighter aircraft

the engine and cockpit of a 1938 Westland Lysander

a delivery van for Tate Sugar and an early Ferguson tractor

Born in 1909 Richard Shuttleworth was the third generation at Old Warden Park. After inheriting the family fortune at the age of 23, he built up a sizeable collection of vintage cars and aircraft, restoring them to working order. These now form the nucleus of The Collection at Old Warden.

This 1916 Sopwith Pup fighter was fitted with Le Prieur rockets for attacking observation balloons. The Lysander entered service in 1938 and played a vital role in clandestine operations during the Second World War.

In addition to an original 1909 Blériot The Collection includes many vehicles such as this delivery van for Tate Sugar and an early Ferguson tractor.

All of their exhibits either fly or drive - even the Blériot takes to the sky.

the former Lilley leather factory

the gable end of the Excelsior Boot & Shoe works of 1893

The former Victoria Works leather factory

Once an agricultural community, Irthlingborough expanded during the latter half of the 19th century with the rise of the boot, shoe and leather industries.

The former Lilley leather factory (1880-1936) now converted to apartments. Our route took us past the former farmhouse that featured in the 1913 film of the Battle of Waterloo.

The former Excelsior Boot & Shoe Works of 1893 belonging to JP Horn & Sons, now converted to apartments.


Victoria Street was once home to several shoe and leather factories, most of which have been demolished. Only the early 20th-century Victoria Works remains, once the factory of WT Hobbs & Co and then HG Bayes & Co.

location of the viaduct carrying the tramway to Kettering furnaces

remains of a bridge parapet showing where the tramway once passed under the road

the level of the field is much lower than the hedgerow showing that it was once quarried

shrink-wrapping baled silage in black polythene for storage

During the first part of the 20th century much of the land around Thorpe Malsor was quarried, the ore being transported to Kettering furnaces along a tramway. A viaduct located within the wood carried the line across the valley.

Little remains of the quarrying activities: This bridge parapet hidden amongst the undergrowth shows where the tramway once passed beneath the road.

This field, and those adjoining, lie several feet below the hedgerow on the left of the image: After removing the ore, the area has been re-instated by returning the overburden to the site. This difference in levels is indicative of the thickness of the ore seam.

During the walk recently baled silage was being 'shrink-wrapped'.

5-ton crane built in 1902 by MR Engineers Department, Derby

1925 steam dredger worked in the docks and canal until 1981

example of the cast iron pillar capitals and support arms for the canopy at Hereford station

For our Railtour the Group took a train, or two, to Gloucester where a couple of hours was spent exploring the historic docks. This 5-ton crane with its fixed jib was built in 1902 by Midland Railway Engineers Department, Derby.

The steam dredger, built in 1925 for the Sharpness New Docks Company, was used to dredge Gloucester Docks, the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and the dock at Sharpness. It was replaced in 1981 by a diesel-electric powered dredger and in 1988 became a working exhibit at the Museum.

Our route continued alongside the Severn estuary to Newport.

Built in 1853 to serve the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford; Shrewsbury and Hereford; GWR-sponsored Hereford, Ross and Gloucester and MR-sponsored Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railways, Hereford station still retains its Victorian character.