The latest volunteer project on the Kennet and Avon Canal has been handed over to the Canal and River Trust.
It’s involved the rescue and conservation of the old Toll House at Dundas Wharf which the CRT are to use as a new Welcome Centre at this busy and historic point on the Kennet and Avon Canal.
My thanks to Ian Herve – himself a volunteer with the Trust – for the following report:
“The history of this small building is not entirely clear but dates from the time when the direct transhipment of coal from the Somertshire Coal Canal was ended due to the logistical problems at Combe Hay.
This occurred in 1818 when the Kennet and Avon Canal Company was obliged to construct the Wharf and basin at Dundas and start to gauge the coal barges from this Toll House. The carriers were charged by weight and distance travelled.
The toll house fell into disuse after the Coal Canal closed in 1898. It was put to various ancilliary uses over the years by, initially, the GWR and then British Waterways.
The photograph below was taken in the mid-1990s when some of the fabric remained. After this time the internal furniture was stripped out and the sash windows and even the guttering was removed.
Some years ago the roof was replaced with new slate and timber but nothing more was done until the last year. CRT agreed to fund the replacement of the windows and volunteers from both the K & A Canal Trust and CRT, who work together along the canal, undertook to complete the extensive restoration work.
This involved the construction of a “defensive” wall and kerb to prevent the lorries that clear waste from the wharf colliding with the corner near the access lane. This had caused damage in the past and resulted in the corner stonework being dislodged.
The whole façade was repointed, the internal walls rebuilt and the new windows installed. A new terrace at the front was constructed.
Below you can see the finished building decked out for the opening.
Martin Veal, Councillor for Bathavon North and Cabinet Member for Community Services, joined forces with Mark Evans, the CRT Waterways manager for the Kennet and Avon Canal, to cut the ribbon and declare it open for business. They were joined by Peter Turner, councillor for Abbey Ward and Advocate for Heritage and Culture, David Laming, Chair of the River Regeneration Trust, and Bryan Chalker, Ex-mayor of Bath and long-time campaigner for the conservation of Bath’s industrial heritage.
A large crowd of invited guests from across the canal world were in attendance and they were treated to refreshments and a short trip along the canal aboard one of the K & A canal trust trip boats which had driven down from Bradford on Avon for the event.
Most of all, though, the day belonged to the group of volunteers who undertake many types of roles along the canal, all the way to Hanham Lock, the westward extent of the K & A Canal. Over the last years they have repainted all of the locks from Hanham to Bath Top Lock and the swing bridges to Dundas.
The junction of the canal and river in Bath has been brought back to life and the old workman’s “hovel” at the George Public House in Bathampton rescued from decay.
There is much more that they want to do and yesterday served as an opportunity to both celebrate past work and concentrate influential minds on what needs to be done for the future.
Details of how to join the volunteers can be found by accessing the CRT website: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer or email to Trevor Clark, the local lead volunteer at: email@example.com”