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Sunday, May 08, 2016

Canals and Collieries Sowe Common

These bridges cast at the Horsley Iron Works are quite a common site on the canals but this one now gracefully spans the River Sherbourne in Spon End Coventry.
Saying "now spans" indicates a past life and indeed previous to the 1980`s this bridge had spanned the Oxford canal for 150 years.
Below the bridge is pictured in 1955 at it`s original location. The picture was taken from the present day bridge 9 on the Nth. Oxford canal at Sowe common.
 Before the Canal was straightened in the 1830`s beneath the bridge was the original route. The present day route is to the right. Just under the bridge on the left boats were loaded with coal from Craven colliery that arrived by a horse tramway.

The same view I took recently from bridge 9. Now the M6 runs behind the trees but traces of the original route can still be found.

Below is a modern day map laid over an 1888 map. This link will take you to the page. When you get there scroll down and to the bottom left you will see a slider to adjust transparency. Have fun.

This map is dated 1886 and it`s hard to show clearly the area but with modern technology I can give you a link that enables you to see the whole area and zoom in, HERE.  Before you try the link let me guide you a little.

A is bridge 9. Below A is the Jolly Colliers pub just recently demolished to make way for flats. When you zoom in on the map link you will see the horse tramway that brought coal from Craven colliery by way of Woodway Lane. Outside the pub the tramway left the lane and served a large wharf adjacent to bridge 9 where the boats were loaded with Craven coal. The pub had stabling at the rear for boat horses. On the link map Craven Colliery is south of D on the above map. Craven became worked out by 1927 and the miners moved to Coventry colliery that closed in 1991.

B is where the pre 1830`s contour route exited the common next to the present day Wyken coal pit arm. 

C is The Boat Inn on Shilton Lane still doing business today. Immediately to the left of C a canal arm left the main line and turned south to Alexandra Colliery.
The 1850`s landlord of the Boat Inn on Shilton Lane was George Eburn and the bridge nearby was referred to as Eburns bridge. George sold pork, eggs and milk to the canal boaters. 
In 1896 Jacob Nelson took over and he reared cattle, sheep, pigs and horses. The Boat had always held the canal fishing rights and a day ticket gave you the right to fish for the day with a pint of ale with bread and cheese for lunch all for sixpence (6d.), older readers like yours truly will remember it called a tanner, about 2.5p in today`s decimal currency.

A lot of confusion occurs when this area is talked or read about. The above map is  1829 and part of a set that showed all the proposed straightening of the Oxford canal. On the map, below left, the Red line is the section shown bottom right on the map above. The original Wykin Old colliery is marked as "old shaft" on the 1888 map below left. 

The 1829 map above shows the original Wykin Colliery that closed leading to the opening of the Wyken colliery at the end of the present day arm. Note the different spellings of Wyken. I think this is just a map makers mistake. The miners referred to the Wyken arm colliery as "main" and the Alexandra colliery as Wyken. It just means you sometimes read something that makes no sense. Finding the old map does help  with the locations of the two Wyken collieries but you do have to be careful what you read as Wyken colliery might refer to Alexandra.  
As far as I can tell and there is a lot of conflicting information Wyken arm colliery closed in 1881 but bricks were manufactured in later years along the arm.
Alexandra colliery closed in 1919 and Craven in 1927.

Also note the dotted line from Wykin heading for Bedworth. This was proposed as part of the straightening but abandoned when different tolls were agreed between the Oxford and Coventry canal companies for transit through Hawkesbury junction. 

As I have mentioned Hawkesbury junction look at the map above of the proposed canal straightening. Notice how the Oxford is shown running parallel to the Coventry on the left of the map. It did this for about a mile as far as Longford Bridge (10). It opened here in 1777 and was moved to the present Hawkesbury site in 1803.

 Above a 1959 view. To the right behind the Blue dredger is the present day Wyken arm bridge. To the left is the bridge over the original route of the Oxford, B on above map.
The same view today.
This is the site of Eburns bridge a brick hump back taking Shilton lane over the canal. The canal flowed beneath my feet and into the trees across the road. C on the map, the Boat Inn is just a few yards to the right.
Standing in the canal bed looking towards the location of the bridge on Shilton lane.
This is the place the canal after leaving the  main loop crossed back across Deedmore road beneath another brick bridge. Behind me Dutton road industrial site. I am looking towards Alexandra Colliery which is south of point D on the map. From here to the site of the colliery, about three quarters of a mile, is open space as the area of the colliery was used as a domestic rubbish tip by the council in the 1950/60`s. and has been left as open space.
The Shilton lane bridge was just about 100 yards to the left.
Deedmore road bridge

The Boat Inn. From here to the left you can walk and within two minutes find the two bridge crossings and stand in the old canal bed.
Here is a link to the set of about 19 old maps referring to the 1830`s Oxford canal straightening. Mostly the watery Red colour is the proposed straightening.

Link to Boat Inn.

Link to Jolly Colliers.

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NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs