Historic workers' hut on the Grantham Canal brought back to life

A derelict hut built 100 years ago for canal workers to shelter from the elements is being restored for the local community to use and enjoy.

The hut was built at the end of the 19th century as a place for lengthsmen, who cared for the canal, to store tools and shelter from the weather. It dates back to when the canal was owned by the railways and most of the structure is built from wooden railway sleepers which would have been readily available.

Today there are only two lengthsman huts on the canal and the Hickling hut is the only one built from timber.

Over time some of the sleepers had rotted, the roof collapsed, and the brickwork chimney started to lean away from the main structure. The whole hut was, until recently, completely enveloped by the nearby hedgerow and so wouldn’t have been visible to people using the towpath.

Apprentices and volunteers

Over the course of the restoration our heritage apprentices and volunteers have stabilised and restored the whole building. The hut now has proper foundations, making it more stable, and the chimney has been rebuilt.

The rotting sleepers have been repaired and, where repair wasn’t possible, then new ones have been bought in order to reinstate the wooden walls. The brick floor has been relaid using historic reclaimed bricks. Finally, the hut has been finished with a new roof making it watertight and better protected from the elements.

Social history

Richard Bennett, heritage & environment manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “This little hut may not look like much but it’s an important part of Hickling’s social history and so it’s right that we take the time to bring it back to life.

“It’s a really quirky, interesting structure but for too long this poor hut was lost in the undergrowth. Now, thanks to the help of our apprentices and volunteers, we can show it off and give people a greater appreciation of what working life would have been like on their local canal.

“The canal is already really popular with walkers but the restored hut will help to make it an even more special and enjoyable place for people to visit.”