|Volume 5, Number 12 - Summer 2005|
New Material for our Growing Archive
Ever since the Society began twenty years ago we have been collecting items for our photographic archive. Such material is valuable for various reasons - it helps us to gain an idea of what the waterway looked like at different times in its history; it gives us information about the canal and its infrastructure; it provides images of people and places which are long gone; and the photographs are often simply interesting in themselves.
When the Society was coming together, the various founding members compared their knowledge of what existed. We found that the Local History sections of the Libraries in Widnes, Warrington and St. Helens held most of the known material, but the amount of material then known to exist and which was available to the public was quite small. Once people heard of the Society's existence, we soon began to be offered fresh material, and to follow up leads, such as contacting the authors of books or articles which featured the Sankey. This process continues, and we are offered significant material every year.
Sometimes a passer-by at one of our work-party sites, or a visitor to our Exhibition and Sales Stall at a Show somewhere, will get chatting, and say something like 'Seeing you here now reminds me - I've a got a picture of this canal at home'. This happened at the Halton Show last weekend. Mike Hynes of Bewsey saw our stall and what we are doing, and returned on the Sunday with some photographs taken mainly around Bewsey Lock. They were copied immediately, and some of them are reproduced for you here. The photographs are undated, but we think that most of them were taken sometime between the Wars.
This first view is of Bewsey Lock and cottage from the top. The lock looks cluttered because it has a swing bridge across the chamber itself. The fence on the far right protects against the drop down to the channel which takes the by-wash water, which overflowed under the bank.
When these two pictures came out of the package, it looked as if they were of two different cottages. The upper one is quite obviously Bewsey, and it looks as if it was taken at the same time as the photo above it and the one below this paragraph, giving us three views of the lock and its cottage. Closer examination, and knowledge about the other locks on the canal, decided the issue - both are of Bewsey, but at different times, and from a different angle. In the original a forest of chimneys is visible, above, and just visible below; the roof looks the same, and so does the fence. An expert would be able to date the outfits the girls are wearing, and we would then be able to come to a judgement about the respective dates of the views.
We have two other views taken from below Bewsey Lock (Below). The other two were taken nearly 60 years apart. The cottage is as seen in the three matching photographs seen here - unadorned by ivy on both.
The Warrington painter Oswald Garside took the first shot in about 1900. The cottage looks very like it appears above, and the trees on the left seem to be at a similar stage in their growth. The only obvious difference is what appears to be a notice-board on the left-hand bank.
Local railway and canal historian Peter Norton took the second view in about 1957. By this time the canal was in the hands of the British Waterways Board, and it would appear that they had a fondness for whitewash, having given the whole house, and not just the front, a coating, as well as applying it to the rails of the lock's swing bridge.
The dating of the photographs is not helped by these other views. At some stage the front of the cottage acquired a substantial growth of ivy, which must have taken a few years to grow to the luxuriance seen above. If any of our readers can help with sorting out these dates, we would be very glad to hear from them.
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