A Little Piece of History
Pick any part of the Kennet & Avon and you will find a wealth of history behind it. Yes there is Crofton with the biggest steam driven beam engine in the world, Dundas Aqueduct a marvel of 18th century engineering, the architectural beauty of Georgian Bath and the lovingly restored Claverton Waterwheels, but it’s the little stories that make the difference, stories about real people and real events.
During cruise 3 and 6 we pass through the quaintly named village of “Honey Street” whose once thriving wharves formerly used to house boat builders, saw mills and one of the last commercial carriers on the K&A.
The imposing Barge Inn played a major part in daily life at Honey Street Wharf. It had the all important stabling for the horses. Bargees of the day always stabled their horse and the “hanimal” was always fed, watered and bedded down before the family, such was the importance and status of a good horse. The Inn also housed the village bakery, the brewery, the slaughterhouse, as well as being the hostelry and meeting point for everyone that worked on or alongside the canal.
When the days toil was done the men folk would enjoy a glass and a pipe whilst the wives sat outside, or met in one of the tiny but neat and orderly cabins, on one or other of the boats. “Rallying” the barging families called it as they met relatives and friends that were all part of the extended family of the canals. They exchanged stories, news and gossip knowing that it would be passed on the next day, and the next until it had covered the whole network in a very short time. Such was their method of communication with no telephone system, no newspapers and no mail, most if which would have been useless anyway as very few bargees could read or write. Life was to hectic, work too hard and always being on the move left no time for “schooling”
In 1858 the Barge Inn was totally devastated by fire and its testimony to its importance as a centre of canal life, of commerce, trade and social well-being that, having been raised to the ground, it was totally rebuilt in less than 6 months.