Concerns over the future of lock cottages and other canalside building that are part of our waterway heritage has been a constant theme in IWA's work.
In 1953, IWA supported the Bewdley Civic Society's Appeal on behalf of Bewdley Bridge Toll House, which was designed by Thomas Telford, was the last of Telford's Toll Houses to survive, and constituted an important feature of the landscape on the river Severn. The building had been condemned as dangerous, but the Worcestershire County Council, who were the owners, offered a contribution of £300 towards its repair, for which a total sum of £1500 was needed. It was proposed to let the structure after the completion of repairs. Several bodies made donations to the fund. An appeal for the Toll House was made at the Annual General Meeting of IWA Midlands Branch.
In 1954, it was noted that a number of cottages on the Oxford Canal were empty and that the British Transport Commission seemed to have no plans to make use of them.
In April 1960 IWA Bulletin 61 published the following item. The photos show Falling Sands Lock Cottage on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal in the years 1959 and 1960.
They let them fall to bits, they refuse to sell them, they bash them down. All over the waterways system they do it, on the busy navigations as well as on the idle ones. And now the April issue of "The Caravan" tells us that "the London Caravan Company have supplied British Waterways with Willerby Mobilhomes for lock-keepers."
No criticism or comment made by us could be more completely damning than this bare statement of fact.
It is understood that a Cardiff businessman has made an offer (doubtless inspired by undue hopefulness concerning Mr. Macmillan's statement) to take over and operate all the refreshment rooms belonging to the British Transport Commission. We suggest that an individual or company of enterprise might succeed in similarly taking over all the unused lock cottages and kindred structures beside the nationalised navigations. Properly, they should be obtainable for nothing: they are simply a burden on the Commission, which has every now and then to pay for demolishing a series of them. The buildings could be reconditioned and sold or let at the utmost profit; for in the conditions of the modern world, they are among the most desirable residences in Great Britain, and there is even now a long line of would-be purchasers and tenants to prove it. If the Commission fights as hard to hold on to these unwanted structures as they did to hold on to the unwanted Stratford Canal, the entrepreneur will have to be of suitable substance; but if only the buildings can be got, the profits can be guaranteed. If a National Waterways Conservancy obtains possession in time, it could confine occupation to boat owners, thus deriving income from two sources, in accordance with the technique we advocate.