THE Gazette & Herald, on June 29, featured a small item on the loss of several historic public houses.

To date, The Bell, Sells Green, is closed. Wadworth has made an application to change its use to residential.  

The Barge Inn, Honey Street is closed. The local community is trying to buy the freehold of the Barge.

The French Horn, Pewsey is closed and it is for sale as a residential property.

The Cross Keys, Great Bedwyn is closed. The owner has split the property in two and a commercial enterprise has purchased a part of the pub. He has placed a caveat on the building that it must not be used as a public house or wine bar.

The Three Horseshoes pub, Burbage, has closed. The community wishes to purchased the pub but the owner Wadworth is selling the property for residential use.

These pubs are situated along the Kennet and Avon canal and were built to serve the needs of the travelling boating families and their horses who transported cargo from Bristol docks to London. Later, they served the needs of navvies who built the Great Western Railway.

These historic pubs are an integral part of the industrial history of Wiltshire, a history that is largely unrecorded and unmarked.

I have extensively travelled the canal network. Most counties take a pride in their industrial past and information boards are placed along the canal informing the public of the history of an area, the warehouses, the cargo stored, the boats, the boating families that worked in the area. Photographs and snippets of contemporary information are featured.

The Kennet and Avon canal has failed to provide this information for the public.

Honeystreet, famous for building the iconic Kennet barges, the Barge Inn, that was an important staging post for the boating families, is not recorded along the towpath.

The canal and the pubs provided work for the local people and generated income for the local authority. Many folk reading this item may have family ties this period in Wiltshire history.

Researching the canals, I discovered that a great, great uncle was a canal digger in Bath around 1850. It would be of interest to learn of any family recollections of the canal, its pubs and the boats. They should be recorded for posterity.

The loss of these historic pubs have a knock-on effect for present boaters. About ten years ago, there were 30 hire boats operating between Bath and Hungerford. Today, the hire fleet companies have around 190 in operation.

The Canal and River Trust has marketed the canals as a leisure and pleasure facility. They have advised and supported a number of TV series on the pleasure of boating on the canals. Essential for the tourist, is the close proximity of pub along the canal where they can drink and to eat. During poor weather, the pub is a welcome retreat for the holiday maker. In addition to the increase in the number of hire boats, the public have embraced the canal and walk, cycle and canoe.

The number of boat owner/occupiers has greatly increased. Sadly, the closure of these historic pubs has detracted from the experience of the canal and the economy of Wiltshire.

The Barge Co-operative has been formed to raise funds to buy the Barge Inn, Pewsey. The pub was well known for the quality of the bands and folk across the counties camped in the pub’s grounds and danced and sang to the music provided. Britain is a leader in the production of popular music. Unfortunately, the closure of so many venues where new talent can perform and shape their music are rapidly disappearing. This is a threat to the music industry that earns the government a great deal of money.

If you would like the historic Barge Inn to survive, please contribute to CROWDFUNDER https://www.. Further information is available on Facebook: the Barge Co-operative group or the Barge pub appreciation group.


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