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Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Port? Well after reading the description in a book it got me wanting to know more and me being me I want to learn about the history of the waterway system I now live on.
So what i found out was that in 1798 the Gd. Jct. Canal (now Gd. Union) had been completed from Brentford to Berkhamsted, the onward connection to Birmingham of the canal was not to be for a few more years, and that meant cargo from around the world being transshipped onto barges could end it`s journey at what was and still is fondly called `The Port of Berkhamsted`.
During it`s heyday the `Port` had 7or8 wharves dealing with cargoes of timber,coal ,grain & chemicals to name a few and with the arrival of the canal boatbuilding began.
Before the canal arrived in Berko as the old boatmen use to call it Berkhamsted was well known for carpentry with one established company, Job East & Son making tent poles amongst other things during the Crimean war and they went on to make 202 lock gates for the widening of the Warwick section of the canal in the 1930`s the company lasted till the early 1980`s. Just as a point of interest the Bulbourne workshops where British Waterways made lock gates was built in 1810 & extended in 1848 so i assume that if at this time the Bulbourne site was producing gates that this amount of extra work had to be given to an outside contractor. Must check it out....I just love this boating life so much to find out as one thing leads to another.

The canal passing through Berko with the town and Waitrose to the left and the railway to the right. The railway, followed by road transport, first put the knife in to kill off canal transport but it was the canal that was used to carry materials to build the railway a bit like you helping build the gallows before you`re hanging. Still at least after 200 yrs much of the canal system is still here for everyone.

Above Coopers quay lower works where Sulphur & Arsenic were the main cargoes to be used in the production of sheep dip. William Cooper came to Berkhamsted in 1840 and on this site was the last of his factories making sheep dip, The site closed down in 1997 after being owned by several different company`s. More about it HERE.

Ravens Lane was a coal wharf now the usual money spinning housing development.

Castle wharf once a busy boatbuilding site and was until recently the home of Bridgewater boats hire base. Planning for 3 houses and 2 flats has been turned down so perhaps this is one wharf that will survive. The tall building to the rear was once used to stable boat horses and the upper floor as warehouse space for boat cargoes.

At the far end of Castle wharf is Alsford wharf once the home of a timber company. The Totem pole is Canadian red cedar wood and was erected some 30 yrs ago. It was carved in Vancouver for J. Alsford timber merchants. The site was sold and developed into flats and as the residents now own the freehold of the site the Totem pole belongs to them all.
This is Knowles animal feed mill now converted into flats

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Les,

Thought I would just drop you a line to wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2009, I trust it is a good one for you. I am still looking for a boat and trying to decide on shared ownership or buy. There are worse problems to be had at this time of need!! Enjoy the festive period and have a good one with your family.

Best wishes,


NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs