Friday, 25 July 2014

And so to Bulls Bridge - 25th July

Whilst taking Jimmy an early morning walk I discovered Boston Manor Park behind the Glaxo Smith Kline Building. The history of the Manor House goes back to the year 1307. The manor itself had several owners and was crown property twice. At one time it belonged to the Earl of Leicester, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth, then it came into the possession of Sir Thomas Gresham, a name associated with the founding of the Royal Exchange. It was the property also of Sir William and Lady Read, by whom the mansion was further beautified. In 1670 it was purchased by the Clitherow family for £5,136. 17s. 4d. The size of the property acquired by the Council was approximately 36 acres, made up as follows: Park 23 ½ acres: Ground of Boston House 9 ½ : Lake 1: Kitchen Gardens 2. It was purchased from Colonel Clitherow on 24th June 1924 for £23,000 after negotiations extending over a period of 12 months. The Park now belonged to the people of Brentford. There are the beautiful woodlands, places for the solace of the aged, the health of the invalid, the sport of youth and shady walks obviously ‘for whispering lovers’. Before leaving the park I could not help but pick the delicious blackberry’s growing wild for our pudding this evening.

1 Bolton Manor Park

We made an early start so that we would not be doing locks in the full heat of the day. Just as we started the C&RT guys came and moved the weed barge from under the bridge towards the locks. They saw us leave our mooring behind them and kindly called us through so that they did not hold us up. This stretch of the Grand Union Canal follows the river Brent and is very weedy and shallow. We passed under this cast iron bridge dated 1820 and just before the first of the Hanwell flight of locks the towpath crosses a bridge which is the junction with the River Brent with a sign declaring it as non navigable. We also passed this a notice saying that this part of the bank was British Waterways Kerr Cup Pile Driving Competition Prize Length of Piling in 1959. I could not however find any reference to what it was all about on Google so presumably its history will die out with the older C&RT guys.

2 bridges and Piles

A complete change of water conditions happened as we ascended the Hanwell flight. The water was as clear as a bell and you could watch the fish swimming including one enormous Carp. The Volunteer Lockies we met at the top lock told me that there were lots of large carp in there. However you could also see all the rubbish which gets into the canal.

Part way up the flight is the Ealing Hospital, formally know as the (1st Middlesex) County Asylum at Hanwell, also known as Hanwell Insane Asylum, and Hanwell Pauper and Lunatic Asylum. It was built for the pauper insane. Hanwell was the first purpose-built asylum in England and Wales, and it opened in 1831. Some of the original buildings are now part of the headquarters for the West London Mental Health (NHS) Trust (WLMHT).

Its first superintendent, Dr William Charles Ellis, was known in his lifetime for his pioneering work and his adherence to his "great principle of therapeutic employment". Sceptical contemporaries were amazed that such therapy speeded recovery at Hanwell. This greatly pleased the visiting Justices of the Peace as it reduced the long term cost of keeping each patient. Under the third superintendent John Conolly the institution became famous as the first large asylum to dispense with all mechanical restraints.

The boatmen of old gave the eerie names of Asylum Lock and Asylum Dock to the the adjacent lock and the arched hole in the wall now bricked up where coal was delivered and excess produce from their gardens was taken to market in London.

3 Hanwell Flight

In 1815 the locks had side ponds added to help conserve water and they are still there, although not used today. They have become a wonderful habitat for wildlife.

Nearing Bulls Bridge we passed under the Western Road Bridge and saw a Purple Parking van and trailer go over the top. We then recognised where we were, as we usually cross this bridge when we leave at our car at Purple Parking to fly from Heathrow. We also recognised the Tesco 24hr store at the side of the canal as we have used it when returning from a flight to stock up on essentials on the way home.

4 Purple Parking

Just before the junction are a series of Houseboats some with colourful flower baskets and pots.

5 House Boats

The Tesco mooring at Bulls Bridge was full so we moored up on the towpath side and  walked around to the Store. However whilst we were in there the heavens opened and there was thunder and lightening so Carolann and I decided to wait it out and have a coffee. When it eased we phoned Graham to come across and pick us up so that we did not have to carry a heavy load back to the boats.

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