I had a very pleasant stroll around Atherstone yesterday. We’ve been through here several times, but have usually only paused overnight halfway up the flight and shopped at the Co-op nearby. I think we’ve only stopped on the moorings above the locks once. They’re usually full.
The town centre still has a good selection of independent shops as well as a few of the more common chain stores. So it’s still kept it’s identity.
Atherstone’s economy was based on two industries, quarrying and hat-making. The quarrying still continues, though on a smaller scale, but the hat factories have all closed, the last still standing derelict alongside the canal next to Coleshill Road Bridge. The hat-making suffered a major set-back on the abolition of the slave trade. Many felt hats were sold to slaver-owners for their workers to wear in the fields.
Just between the top lock and Coleshill Road Bridge and short arm connected to a loading basin called Minions Wharf. This was built to service a corn mill.
A new estate now sits on the site, but the access road carries the name Minions Close.
On the opposite side of the canal is Rothen’s Wharf where coal was loaded and unloaded. Beyond that was the local gas works, now occupied by new housing as well.
It was wet as forecast yesterday afternoon, and this morning it’s a lot fresher, the heavy, humid air of the last couple of days being washed away in the rain.
The canal is now pleasantly rural, but there are still reminders of it’s industrial roots.
Old quarry wharf, now overgrown
We didn’t go so far today, just to Hartshill.
Looking out over Warwickshire
Somewhere over there, historians believe, the dreams of an independent Britain died along with the last Celtic army under Boudicca. Her husband, King Presutagus, had made a deal with the occupying Roman forces, in which he became a client king in return for half of his kingdom. Unfortunately the agreement didn’t apply to his widow when he died in around 59AD, and the Romans dispossessed her and her family. When she objected she was flogged and her daughters raped. The enraged woman took advantage of unrest in Wales and formed an army which marched on Colchester, destroying a Roman legion on the way, and sacking the town.
After this success they took London and then St Albans before the Roman Governor, Paulinus, returned from his excursion to the west, and the two armies met somewhere near Watling Street, now the modern A5.
Although they’d had victories over the unprepared forces further south, the unruly Celts were no match for the discipline of the Roman Legions. Boudicca’s army was wiped out, and it’s believed that she took poison to avoid being captured alive. Contemporary accounts (Roman, of course) state that the Celts lost 80,000 warriors, and the Romans only 400.
We’ll stay here tomorrow. Probably Monday too if the weather forecast is accurate…
Locks 0, miles 2½