Heritage

Introduction

Nestled in the Chiltern Hills, the Wendover Canal (historically known as the Wendover Arm) links the picturesque village of Wendover, Bucks to the Grand Union Canal, eleven kilometres/ six and three-quarter miles away at Bulbourne, Herts. It is level from end to end, at 390 feet/119 metres above sea-level, the same height as the top of St Paul’s Cathedral.  The continuing restoration of the canal offers a great opportunity to open up and celebrate the local heritage.

Canal building led to a set of unique and diverse heritage features, all of which are worthy of protection in their own right. The Canal is not a museum, it is a usable asset, still being enjoyed and employed today.  Its scale and accessibility tell the story of Britain’s industrial past, as well as being important to its future, in terms of tourism, physical and mental health, and our national sense of identity.

Heritage can be defined as any landscape, tradition, language, or way of life deemed to be of positive benefit and handed down from generation to generation. One definition of a heritage asset is ‘A building, monument, site, place, area of landscape identified as having a degree of significance …’ (NPPF definition). The Wendover Canal excels primarily in the heritage of the built environment, mostly closely allied to the original use of the canal.

Starting from Wendover and proceeding along the canal toward Bulbourne, some of the more prominent heritage features are as follows.  We have not given postcodes because many are away from locations which postcodes can take you to.  Instead, we have used “What Three Words” (W3W), which is a web-based location system which allocates a unique three-word combination to any chosen location, within a 3x3metre (10 feet) square. Search W3W or ‘what three words’ on the web, and enter the listed three given words in the format xxx.yyy.zzz to see the location.

Water Flow Gauge

Where: At the ultimate terminus of the canal, where the water flows from Heron Brook into the canal.
Location: A few yards from Wharf Road, down onto the towing path. Signposted from Wharf Road, Wendover.
W3W Location: ///shakes.bunkers.convinced
What is it? A water flow gauge, measuring the flow from Wendover Springs into the canal via the Heron Brook. The gauging station is thought to be the earliest extant stream flow monitoring site in the UK. The continuous records since 1841 provide unique insights into rainfall and weather patterns throughout the Victorian era up to the present day. Results can be used to quantify and inform the effects of climate change on water resources. The meter is still in current use.
Further reading: For external websites, explore these links:
www.nrfa.ceh.ac.uk – then use search term ‘wendover’
www.geograph.org.uk – then use search term ‘wendover flow gauge’

The Wides

Where: Along the Canal towards Halton.
Location: A few hundred yards along the towing path from Wendover in the direction of Halton, away from housing or other buildings.
W3W Location: ///adhesive.slugs.messy
What is it? Short lengths of the Canal where the width is much greater, giving more scope for reed and water plant growth, and providing habitat for aquatic birds.
The origin is the location of the mill pond from a former water mill, and is also the location of local springs feeding the canal.
Further reading: For external websites, explore these links:
www.canalplan.uk/place/z23k
www.geograph.org.uk – then use search term ‘The Wides’

Rothschild Bridge

Where: A few yards NE of Halton Bridge, Halton Village, Aylesbury, Bucks.
Location: Bridge 8A, 1¾ miles/ almost 3km from Wendover.
W3W Location: ///flip.sapping.stands
What is it? A Grade II Listed accommodation (pedestrian) bridge across the Canal, built by Baron Alfred de Rothschild in 1880. Notable for its ornate blue ironwork including the Rothschild Monogram picked out in gold paint, complementing the elaborate Palladian-style of Halton House (which replaced the original Manor House, destroyed by fire, and demolished in 1879).
The bridge was renovated by the RAF in 1992 in association with Christopher Wallis, son of Barnes Wallis designer of the WWII Bouncing Bomb and the Lancaster Bomber.
Further reading: For external websites, explore these links:
www.geograph.org.uk – then use search term ‘Rothschild Bridge’
www.canalplan.uk/place/tvm4

Whitehouses

Where: Approximately midway between Drayton Beauchamp, Bucks and Little Tring, Herts
Location: On off-side bank of the Canal. Accessible by foot, cycle.
W3W Location: ///dice.defaults.boots
What is it? Site of ‘White Houses’ dwellings, originally for canal and steam driven water pump maintenance workers. The original Newcomen type pump raised water from Wilstone reservoir, the first of four reservoirs to be built in 1802, soon after the Wendover Canal was completed. The double fronted house was converted after 1938 to a refuge for German and Austrian Refugees from Nazi Germany and also used during the London Blitz for Londoners, as a respite from the bombing. Whitehouses was later levelled by the Canal Authority. The cellars and canal walls and water portals have been conserved by the Wendover Arm Trust, including re-siting and replacing water sluices down to Wilstone Reservoir. Much landscaping and planting by WAT volunteers has been undertaken to provide a ‘pocket park’ for general community benefit, including the planting of 500+ tree saplings and 1000 daffodil bulbs.
Further reading: For external websites, explore these links:
kescrgonline.co.uk/whitehouses
www.livingmags.info/whitehouses-pocket-park-on-the-wendover-canal/

Bridge 4

Within sight of Whitehouses, this is the site of a former swing bridge which connected a track between the Lower Icknield Way and Wilstone Village. It is now a designated footpath which has been connected by a foot bridge built by Wendover Canal volunteers. The swing bridge abutments are now being conserved and restored with heritage bricks.

Little Tring Bridge

Where: Little Tring, Dacorum, Herts
Location: The intersection of the Wendover Canal and Little Tring Road.
W3W Location: ///arriving.reefs.option
What is it? WAT funded this new road bridge, built skew over the canal in 2003 and finished in traditional hand-made brick with lime mortar. A display of bricks (which is still in place) was built alongside the towpath a short distance in the Wendover direction away from the bridge, to display the choice of bricks finishes available. The original hump-back bridge was demolished in 1973 after the introduction of larger and heavier trucks was allowed. The new bridge features replica rubbing strakes showing the grooves cut into the iron by repeated friction from working boaters’ ropes.
Further reading: Click here for more about Little Tring Bridge on this website.
For external websites, explore these links:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendover_Arm_Canal

Tringford “Stop Lock”

Where: Little Tring, Dacorum, Herts
Location: Between Little Tring Bridge and Tringford Pumping Station nearby.
W3W Location: ///skims.beginning.went
What is it? Remains of the stop-lock constructed to standard Grand Union double width dimensions after stop planks had been installed in 1897, as a measure to help water loss. The canal was leaking so badly that instead of supplying water from Wendover, it was draining water from the summit section of the Grand Union Canal. With the lock in place boats could still pass through when the levels on either side were not necessarily equal.
Although the lock has always been referred to as a “stop lock” it was in fact a working lock with an upper pair and a lower pair of gates.
At times when water was high all the gates could be kept open, however at times of low water both pairs of gates were shut, thus preventing a drop in water level along the Tring summit from loss of water along the Wendover Canal.
This was to allow boats which were maybe up the canal towards Wendover, to get back if they could when the levels dropped. It also granted the possibility of passage to boats which were desperate to deliver their load despite the water levels. Rather than lose money by failing to deliver, they accepted the risk of getting grounded and stuck.
The top gates are still in place, the lock structure is in good condition, but the bottom gates, paddles, and gate equipment at the lock are missing.
The lock marks the start point of the modern-day restoration of the Canal by the Wendover Arm Trust, and the picture shows us dredging the lock with Tringford pumping station in the background.

Tringford Pumping Station

Where: Little Tring, Dacorum, Herts
Location: Adjacent to the intersection of the Wendover Canal and Little Tring Road.
W3W Location: ///mallets.specifies.rooting
What is it? Dating from 1815, this Grade II listed building houses wells and pumps to raise water from the 4 reservoirs (Startops, Tringford, Marsworth and Wilstone) up to the canal. This is the only pumping station remaining on the Wendover Canal. The building (as shown here in 1910) originally housed a Boulton and Watt Steam Engine, capacity 80 locks-full per day. Electric pumps are in use today, installed in 1927 within the original wells, at which time the building was sadly lowered by two-thirds. When we finish restoring the Wendover Canal between Drayton Beauchamp and Little Tring, the water from Wendover will be able to flow by gravity all the way as it was originally designed to do. The need for pumping at Tringford will be reduced considerably, lowering the operating cost and the environmental impact.
Further reading: Click here for more on this website.
For external websites, explore these links:
historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1067754

Flour Mill at Gamnel Bridge

Where: New Mills, Tring, Dacorum, Herts
Location: At the intersection of the Wendover Canal and Tringford Road.
W3W Location: ///status.umbrellas.breezy
What is it? Large imposing canal-side mill, where Tring’s oldest continuous business of Milling Flour has been conducted since 1875. In 1944 the Mill was acquired by Heygates Ltd, and operated as a flour and grain mill to this day. Flour for local consumption was milled using a six-story tower type windmill, from wheat delivered by canal to Gamnel Wharf (New Mill) until the end of WWII. On May 4th 1911 the windmill was demolished with milling continuing using a steam-driven roller mill. This in turn was eventually replaced by more productive milling methods, increasing the hourly output from an original half-ton to over 12 tons.
Further reading: Explore these links:
www.heygates.co.uk
www.tringlocalhistory.org.uk

Bushells Boatyard (site of)

Where: Little Tring, Dacorum, Herts
Location: Adjacent to the intersection of the Wendover Canal and Little Tring Road.
W3W Location: ///templates.ghost.tweeted
What is it? Site of former boatyard, now incorporated into the Flour Mill property. A canal-side mill with its own wharf would soon become involved in repairs to boats and boating equipment. From that developed a boat building business, under the management of W Meade and later in 1912, Bushell Brothers. Boats were of all-wooden construction, and boat repair and building took place in the open air, until an open-sided barn-type shelter was built some years later. Later work undertaken by the boatyard included road vehicle bodywork and construction. The last known all-wooden narrowboat ‘Roger’ built by Bushells is still in existence and is owned and operated by Rickmansworth Waterways Trust. The boatyard business ceased with the retirement of the Bushell brothers in 1952.
Further reading: For external websites, explore these links:
collections.canalrivertrust.org.uk/home
www.tringlocalhistory.org.uk
www.rwt.org.uk

Further Reading

For more on most of these locations see WAT Publications, available from sales@wendoverarmtrust.co.uk :
Water from Wendover – The story of the Wendover Arm Canal, 25 pp, £4.95 (+p&p)
The Waterway comes to Tring, 1792-2013, 78 pp, £11.95 (+p&p)
or visit the websites listed:
www.grandunioncanal.co.uk/Wendover-Arm.html
tringhistory.tringlocalhistorymuseum.org.uk/Canal/d_wendover_arm.htm

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