An abandoned, nineteenth-century hovel on the banks of the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bathampton is going to be restored. Working with a team of local volunteers, we'll repair the walls and roof to bring the miniature building back into use.
Typically used by canal workers for shelter, the hovel’s full history remains subject to debate. Archive research has failed to clarify matters, leaving heritage experts to rely on local rumour. Suggestions include that the hovel was used for storing Home Guard munitions during World War Two or that it served as a toll office for the canal.
It is one of only three original hovels left on the waterway, the others being at Saltford and Swineford locks to the west of Bath. The remainder have been replaced by modern buildings or have disappeared altogether.
Volunteers hope to complete the project by November. The hovel will then be used for storage by the local parish council.
David Viner, heritage advisor at the Canal & River Trust, said: “The hovel probably dates back to the opening of the canal in 1810, but the purpose of this one is still open to debate because although it belonged to the canal company it doesn’t face the canal. Frankly it’s so small it’s not immediately clear what it could have been used for. This is a bit of an oddity, but it’s one of the many locations along the Kennet & Avon that add to the rich story of the 200-year old canal.
“It is so important that we preserve buildings like this, as they are such an integral part of the canal’s quirky history. I’d like to thank our volunteers for all their effort so far and look forward to getting the work finished before winter sets in.”