Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Boat Inn and the Melton Mowbray Navigation

Later. I am told that the Boat Inn reopened in November 2010.

Why does landlocked Melton Mowbray have a Boat Inn? An article by Eric Swift on "The Inns and Inn Signs of Leicestershire and Rutland" written for the Leicestershire Archaelogical and Historical Society (it is not dated but appears to have been published in 1964 or shortly afterwards) gives the explanation:
A most remarkable relic is The Boat Inn at Melton Mowbray where the canal basin and the wharves that the inn was built to serve have been filled in and the road crossing the railway has taken their place.
That there was ever a canal basin in Melton may still surprise some people, but for a time it was thriving. The River Wreake from its junction with the River Soar near Syston to Melton was canalised at the end of the 18th century. Beyond Melton the navigation continued to Oakham in Rutland.

The Melton Online site describes its history:
By 1797 the Melton canal was opened, though costing considerably more than anticipated, in part due the inflation caused by the Napoleonic Wars. the extension to Oakham seems to have been in operation in 1803.
In addition to coal, cargoes included wool, lime, granite, wheat, oats, barley and manure.
During dry summers, however - particularly 1844 - parts of the canal had to close for lack of water. By that time the Midland Railways were planning to come to Melton ... and the shareholders agreed to sell the Oakham section to the Railway.
In 1847 the Canal carried its greatest tonnage - 68896. In that year the Oakham canal was closed, reducing the tonnage carried along the Melton section. With the advent of the railways the tonnage declined still further. After attempts to save the Company finally, in August 1877, an Act of Abandonment was passed by Parliament and the Company wound up.
There is little sign of the canal in Melton today, but out in the country towards Syston the lock chambers are easy to see. It looks as though it ought to be possible to revive the navigation with enough will and money, but the section on to Oakham was more of a canal than a river navigation and the railway was built over part of it. See the Melton & Oakham Waterways Society site for the current state of play.

Eric Swift comments that "The small working-class taverns, built in the last century and now being ruthlessly demolished, remain unchronicled and will soon be utterly forgotten." Something similar is happening to town and village pubs today, and The Boat is now closed. It is a sad loss, judging by the reviews on the Beer in the Evening site.

The space between Melton Mowbray and its town has, for as long as I have known it, been a pleasing wilderness of railway sidings and scrub. It now seems to be undergoing a desultory redevelopment. I do not know if any relics of the Melton Mowbray Navigation will be lost in the process.


Chris Matthews said...

Does Swift say where was the coal was coming from? The obvious guess is the Leicestershire coalfield. The lime from East Leicestershire, the granite from the west - Swithland Quarry, Charnwood Forest and so on? And I'm guessing all the agricultural produce mentioned came from Melton of course?

Jonathan Calder said...

I should think it was from the Leicestershire coalfield via the River Soar.

dreamingspire said...

So Rutland Water really is part of the North Sea, with Lord Bonkers the Lord High Admiral of the Rutland navy...

JohnA said...

The Boat has reopened with a new licensee and has now reverted to its old comfortable ambience. Best of all the satellite TV has beeh removed from the end wall of the main room.

Martin Brookes @oakhamuk said...

The canal still runs under the bridge following the track in the direction towards Leicester.