a lifetime burning

By Sheol

Nearly 300 years old

Wide Wednesday: Built Environment

Incredibish and Janet popped over this afternoon, and we went for a walk along the River Avon.  The weather was overcast and there was drizzle, but the conversation was good and a pleasant time was had.  I've taken this shot of the Swineford Weir and Lock for this week's Wide Wednesday challenge.

Your first thoughts on seeing this shot of the River Avon between Bristol and Bath might not be that it was part of a man made environment but it is, and it is nearly 300 years old, dating back to the reign of Queen Anne.

Today if you mention the City of Bath you conjure up an image of genteel society much informed by film and TV productions of the works of Jane Austin and similar.  But back in the 1700s this part of England really was the Wild West.  An important local industry was mining, both for coal on the North Somerset coal field and the local stone for building, rough cider was the cheap local drink, and life was brutal and largely lawless, as the historical records show.  

Transporting Bath stone and other goods between the port of Bristol and the City of Bath on the poor local roads was a major problem.  Travel by water up and down the River Avon was possible but the significant tidal rise and fall limited what was achievable.  To get around this a series of locks and weirs were created to render the Avon navigable and in due course it would link up with the Kennett to become the Kennett and Avon Navigation.

Building the locks did not proceed without opposition.  Local miners in Kingswood, convinced that the canal would enable cheaper coal to be brought in from the Midlands attempted to destroy the locks.  Their success in breaking the nearby Saltford lock led to the introduction of the death penalty for such actions.  It really was the Wild West.

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