Bonds Mill Embankment

The towpath embankment to the east of Bonds Mill is on the edge of a very steep slope down to the River Frome, and there has long been concern about its integrity.

Towpath Slip

Fresh earth added to restore the embankment east of Bonds Mill Bridge 1979. (Company of Proprietors)
Fresh earth added to restore the embankment east of Bonds Mill Bridge 1979. (Company of Proprietors)
Fresh earth added to restore the embankment east of Bonds Mill Bridge 1979. (Company of Proprietors)
Fresh earth added to restore the embankment east of Bonds Mill Bridge 1979. (Company of Proprietors)

The short length of low level towpath to the east of Bonds Mill Bridge marks the site of a slip in the embankment in 1977 after the canal water level had risen so much that it began to seep over the towpath and saturate the earth. The rise in level had occurred because contractors installing a pipe under the canal near Newtown Roving Bridge failed to provide a means for water flowing along the canal to bypass their works. 

Additional earth was brought in to restore the level of the embankment, leaving the original towpath at a lower level.

Hoffmann's Water Intake and Dam

Remains of Hoffmann's dam (right) and spillway (left foreground) with the towpath across the background, 2018. (CCT)
Remains of Hoffmann's dam (right) and spillway (left foreground) with the towpath across the background, 2018. (CCT)
Remains of Hoffmann's dam (right) and spillway (left foreground) with the towpath across the background, 2018. (CCT)
Remains of Hoffmann's dam (right) and spillway (left foreground) with the towpath across the background, 2018. (CCT)

Across the canal from the towpath gate near the railway bridge are the remains of a dam and spillway associated with supplying cooling water to Hoffmann's nearby ball bearing factory. The factory was set up here in the early days of the Second World War because there were fears that their main factory at Chelmsford would suffer bomb damage. An underground pipeline carrying water to the factory and returning drainage was brought into operation in 1942. 

Following the closure of the canal in 1954, the new Stroudwater Company management became concerned about the integrity of the towpath embankment to the west, and an earth dam with a spillway was constructed west of the pipeline to ensure a secure route for the water coming down the canal from the east. After the factory no longer needed the water, a shallow channel was cut through the top of the dam to allow small vessels to pass.

Mud Tip and Shafts

Brick and concrete shafts on material tipped to strengthen the railway embankment.
Brick and concrete shafts on material tipped to strengthen the railway embankment.
Brick and concrete shafts on material tipped to strengthen the railway embankment.
Brick and concrete shafts on material tipped to strengthen the railway embankment.

North-west of the railway bridge is a steeply sloping wooded area that for many years was used by the Stroudwater Company for tipping mud dredged from the canal. The end of the tipping area is marked by an old towpath gate.

Near to the railway embankment, there are brick shafts that gave access to a former open ditch that had to be culverted when more earth was added to the embankment following a slip in 1947. Two concrete shafts mark the line of another surface water drain installed c1950 with an outfall into the River Frome. Pedestrians are warned that this is private property and what looks like an easy walk becomes very difficult.

Sources

For the towpath slip in 1977, see Engineer's correspondence 1978-79.
For Hoffmann's intake and dam, see Memoirs by Alan F R Payne.
For a plan of the mud tip c1890, see D1180/10/9.
For the extension of the mud tip in 1915, see D1180/1/8 p283.
For the sale of land following the embankment slip in 1947, see D1180/9/18 p449, 504.
For the trespass on the mud tip for the outfall c1950, see D1180/9/19 p363.

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