I was tidying up the disk on my computer and found this write-up of a talk which John gave in February 1995. John gave a similar talk to the Newbury Society which I did managed to capture on video. I would love to know what happened to John's slides - I do hope they are in a safe place and can eventually be put on the Internet.
From Robert F. Willis
Old Bath Road, Newbury, Berkshire.
26 February 1995
"Newbury Weekly News"
readers may find the following report of interest.
Gould, MBE entertained members of the Newbury Branch of the Kennet & Avon
Canal Trust, with a talk illustrated by slides made from some of the many
hundreds of photographs and memorabilia in his vast collection.
Mr. Gould's knowledge of the canal and
the River Kennet Navigation in Newbury is unique.
Indeed, many consider him intertwined with its recent history and the
restoration of through navigation between Reading and Bath.
true scholarly fashion he began by showing maps of the area, one before the
canal was built. That a new channel
above Newbury Lock was cut came as a surprise to many. As the map showed the course was very different, although it
seems that what became the lock cottage existed, as a warehouse, some decades
before the canal was built.
was made of British Waterways Board's presence in Newbury.
Indeed, John was once employed by BWB, and showed several slides of the
gang at work, including one of them bow-hauling a work-boat above Newbury Lock.
John was quite a dab-hand with his mother's box-brownie camera capturing
many every day inconsequential scenes which today are revered with much
nostalgia by all who make Newbury their home.
All that remains of the BWB operation is the Stone Building on Newbury
Wharf. Gone are the large workshops in which lockgates and other
apparatus essential for the working of the navigation were made by men skilled
in woodworking and blacksmithy. The
augers and other hand-tools now adorn the Stone
Building - how good it was to see photographs of them in use!
appears that Newbury folk have always loved their waterway, be it the Sunday
School outings on halcyon summer childhood days,
the frivolity of watery carnivals when banks at Victoria Park and the
Newbury Wharf were packed to overflowing, or the fun of the now well-established
crafty-craft race. In many ways
Health and Safety rules and other regulations, important as they are, have
killed off the impromptu and innocent amusements of the 1950s and 60s.
Sadly, one can no longer hire a rowing boat or Canadian canoe to go a
Gould packed so much of our recent past in his talk, punctuating each set of
slides with either an amusing anecdote or a tribute to an otherwise forgotten
hero who made possible the heritage we have to day.
People like the late Inspector Cyril Rogers of BWB who manoeuvres at the
edge of his official remit made eventual restoration that bit easier for the
armies of volunteers. People in an
odd assortment of crafts, many made from converted wartime pontoons, held
rallies to Hampstead Marshall lock, the western limit of the Newbury cruiseway
that the authorities were obliged
to keep in working order. Amongst
the amusing stories was the one about the narrow boat which was mysteriously
temporarily sunk whilst it was supposed to be supporting the girders during the
rebuilding of the railway bridge below Bulls Lock, the eastern limit of the
to Rod Thomason, a stalwart of the K & A, who painstakingly made slides of
many of the items in John Gould's archive, making the folk-culture it contains
available to a wider audience. Perhaps
Mr. Gould can be persuaded to repeat his talk in the not too distant future,
especially if a video camera can be present to capture the event for posterity.
Robert F. Willis