LETTERS FROM THE PAST 1
Memories of Canal Days in Melksham.
(Taken from a local newspaper. Date unknown.)
I was very interested in the picture
printed of the gallows bridge. I, too, have one of those. It may interest many
to know that my grandmother, Mrs. Emily Bolwell, used to tell me stories of my
grandfather's life when owner of a fleet of barges on the Kennet and Avon canal.
These stories were varied and one dealt with the gallows bridge being one of the
places of execution of sheep stealers, which in the 1800's was deemed a serious
crime. Of course, tales repeated get added to with the passing of time, but as
Mrs. E Bolwell was over 90 years of age when she died in 1923, it makes her
story more than likely to be true. It was sad to note when that postcard picture
was taken it was evident that decay had set in. I walked over the bridge many,
many times, and I am 65,and despite the fact the wharves were still standing to
the right of Spa Road when I was a child, I never saw a boat there of any kind.
Even the crane remained; I had many games swinging on that - things were stoutly
What a pity it was that after
years of trading on the canals, my grandfather gave it up for a coal business,
which was taken over by Skinners of Melksham; I remember the name on the cart,
'Skinners (Late E Bolwell)'.
I am proud to be able to say that
my ancestors played a wonderful part in the prosperity of the country until the
railways came. That is, my very respected grandfather took the first load of oak
chips ever used in smoking Wiltshire bacon to Calne by barge to Messrs. Harris.
My regrets are that so many
beautiful stretches of waterways have disappeared as if they were never there. I
can only wish success to those who are doing their best to restore stretches of
canal and make them once again a joy to look at and sail on.
NELLIE IRENE BATTY (nee Bolwell)