LETTERS FROM THE PAST 1

Memories of Canal Days in Melksham.
(Taken from a local newspaper. Date unknown.)

Dear sir:
        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 made then.

        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.

Yours Faithfully
NELLIE IRENE BATTY (nee Bolwell)
Newport, Monmouth.

 

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