This bustling village has been attracting visitors for centuries.
First came the Romans, then the Saxons, and when the Normans compiled their Doomsday Book, they recorded Swain Briwere as the lord of the manor.
But the biggest upheaval was the arrival of the canal, which cut the village in two. There must have been mumblings and grumblings at the time, but local people soon began to make money by supplying the canal builders – and later the canal users – with bread, beer, blacksmithing and many other services.
What to see in Stoke Bruerne
All the family will enjoy a visit to The Canal Museum. You can learn how engineers chose the route of the canal and how the Blisworth Tunnel was built. You can find out about the people who worked the boats, decorating them with roses and castles and making decorative rope work. You’ll also see some of the boat collection alongside the canal.
Stoke Bruerne has its own nature reserve, managed by the Wildlife Trust. It’s a great place to look for butterflies, dragonflies, birds and harmless grass snakes.
Read more about waterway wildlife
Go for a drive around Stoke Bruerne
The attractive village of Blisworth is just a short drive from Stoke Bruerne. Blisworth Tunnel is Britain’s second longest usable canal tunnel. It runs for one and three quarter miles from Stroke Bruerne to Blisworth and was built after the canal opened because the first attempt to dig a tunnel was abandoned.
Go for a walk along the Grand Union Canal
You’re spoilt for choice for walks around Stoke Bruerne.
The Grand Union Canal Walk follows the canal for as far as you want to go. You could go south to Grafton Regis and come back through the fields past Stoke Park (about six miles). Or you could go north over Blisworth Hill to Blisworth itself, following the old toll road, and come back by the Midshires Way (about five miles).
Alternatively, follow our detailed route on a circular walk around Stoke Bruerne
Fascinating facts about Stoke Bruerne
Men’s legs once propelled boats through Blisworth Tunnel. Before steam tugs and diesel powered narrowboats, the only way through the tunnel was by human power as there was no towpath for horses. The ‘leggers’ were hired by the boat owners. They lay on their backs with their legs sticking out and walked against the tunnel wall for nearly two miles. Then they walked back to Stoke Bruerne.
Boat people once had their own nurse. Sister Mary Ward’s surgery was near Top Lock. Her patients put up with aches and pains until they could get to Stoke Bruerne and expectant mothers moored their boats here so that she could deliver their babies.
The 0.5 mile towpath between the village and the Blisworth Tunnel is suitable for wheelchair users, as is a short stretch outside the Bottom Lock car park.
Stoke Bruerne audio trail
This audio trail has been developed with advice from local people who are blind or visually impaired and has been funded by the Canal & River Trust, the Fieldfare Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund. The audio trail guides visitors around the Stoke Bruerne with a lively commentary on the fascinating heritage and present day use of the canal.
The audio trail follows surfaced towpaths and has occasional resting points. Visitors can enjoy the audio trails as they walk along the towpath or take a virtual tour in the comfort of the shop using the tactile map. The trail starts at the museum and takes about 45 minutes to complete. There are six stopping places along the towpath, with seating available at various places along the route. Cassette players and tapes are available free of charge from the Stoke Bruerne Museum shop.
National Waterways Museum, Stoke Bruerne – audio trail
A Family Audio Trail following the travels of Jack, the boat boy, around Stoke Bruerne in Victorian times.
The family audio trail tells the story of Jack, the son of a canal boatman who has bought a new horse. Jack begs his father to let him name the horse while the family is moored at Stoke Bruerne. You can follow his journey as he meets different people who work at Stoke Bruerne and asks their advice about a suitable name. Follow the audio clues as you listen, to discover the name Jack chose for his horse. Just fill in the spaces on sheet 3 and all will be revealed. You have to do some detective work...
How to get there
Stoke Bruerne is situated off the A508 Northampton – Milton Keynes Road, four miles east of Towcester and a short drive from Junction 15 on the M1.
Stoke Bruerne is about seven miles south of Northampton, about 10 miles from Milton Keynes, and 10 minutes from both the M1 (J15) and the A5, just off the A508.