Who knew what was hidden here on the on the Grantham Canal? Well the Hickling Parish Council did, who brought this former lengthsman’s hut to my attention perhaps six years ago. Since then there have been all sorts of discussions and plans to save the building, but finally, thanks to volunteers the hut has received some much needed attention.
The team including members of the Grantham Canal Society and Hickling Parish Council have been busy on the first stage of the restoration of the hut, which until very recently was completely lost in undergrowth. Revealing it unravelled the extent of the work required. Now, the team intends to bring it back to glory as a rare example of this type of hut, constructed in used railway sleepers at the end of the 19th century.
Lengthsmen are thought to have been employed to look after a specific stretch of canal, and probably covered a lot of the day to day tasks, so there were a good number on any one canal. They needed a local store and shelter from the elements, so it’s thought lengthsman’s huts were provided at regular intervals along the Grantham Canal. Today only two are known to survive on this canal, and this is the only timber one.
Its significance, built from second hand railway sleepers stood on end, and a rudimentary double pitched plank roof covered in roofing felt is that it clearly dates from the canals ownership by the railways and demonstrates the crossover of skills and materials between the two networks, (which of course makes great sense, but isn’t often thought about). There are other examples of similar sheds on the railways, but they’re rare and this is currently thought to be the last survivor on the canals (though if there are others just like it please let me know).
It’s thought to date from the late 19th century, has a brick chimney with a little fireplace and only an earth floor; there’s little doubt it was always basic, but I’m sure provided welcome respite from the elements.
Structures like this have always struggled to justify funding from the maintenance budget because it has no current use, sits on the side of a remainder canal and there are a great many more urgent jobs which continue to jump ahead of it. Things are, however, changing, and with the help of volunteers important little heritage gems like this have a chance.
Our thanks already to that determined team of volunteers from the Grantham Canal Society and the Hickling Parish Council for clearing the vegetation. But there’s a lot more to do. If you can offer practical help or basic materials such as railway sleepers, roof felt, nails and screws please let us know by contacting our volunteer coordinator; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Woodcock, Heritage Adviser
The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.See more blogs from this author