Newtown Lock

Built in 1778, for many years this lock was known as Top Lock of Five in recognition of its position in the flight of five locks that raised the canal up the hill past the village of Eastington. 

The current name derives from the nearby settlement of Newtown which developed in the early nineteenth century between the canal and the turnpike road. At the north-west end of the hamlet, a fine road-side milepost beside the towpath records a distance of four miles from Stroud.

Between the canal and the main road was a small wharf where small consignments of coal and later road stone were delivered. It seems that bargemen often left their craft here when visiting the local pub as several were fined for 'obstructing the trade at the Five Locks'.

Boundary Stones

Newtown Lock boundary stone (Andrew Franks)
Newtown Lock boundary stone (Andrew Franks)
Newtown Lock boundary stone (Andrew Franks)
Newtown Lock boundary stone (Andrew Franks)

Near the wood at each end of the lock are the remains of two original boundary stones marking that the land needed to work the lock was owned by the Stroudwater Company (as elsewhere they did not normally own any land on that side of the canal). Sadly, the upper part of each stone has been broken off so the inscription found on other such stones has been lost.

Lock Restoration

Sometime after the canal was closed in 1954, the old wooden gates were replaced by a concrete dam to maintain the water levels suitable for local fishermen. Then in 1978 the forerunner of the Cotswold Canals Trust started to organise working parties here to help promote the aim of full restoration.  After much hard work, Newtown Lock was the first on the Stroudwater to be fully restored, and the first boat passed through in October 1991. A plaque on one of the upper gates remembers David Boakes who was secretary of the Canal Trust during this period and died in 1989.

Newtown Hamlet

Former New Inn viewed from the road in the 1970s. (Michael Handford)
Former New Inn viewed from the road in the 1970s. (Michael Handford)
Former New Inn viewed from the road in the 1970s. (Michael Handford)
Former New Inn viewed from the road in the 1970s. (Michael Handford)

The hamlet developed in the early nineteenth century on a triangle of land between the canal and the turnpike road that had formerly been retained by the Stroudwater Company as a source of gravel. Some residents were connected with the canal but most were associated with the land or local cloth mills.

In the centre of the hamlet was the New Inn which catered both for road travellers and for thirsty bargemen who had just worked up the local flight of locks. The beer house had an entrance on the canal side, but that was usually locked at night to discourage local revellers walking home along the towpath.

In 1911, the local Sanitary Authority complained of a smell from noxious matter in a ditch on the Stroudwater Company's land that drained into the canal. The Company immediately denied responsibility, but they did contact the owners of the New Inn and an adjoining property, and both made alterations to avoid any further overflow.

Sources

For Newtown Wharf, see destination Five Locks in Tonnage Books and D1180/1/8 p247, 250.
For 'obstructing the trade', see D1180/1/6 p149-255.
For concrete dams, see D1180/9/54.
For lock restoration, see Trow Archive 1978-1991.
For the triangular site's former role as a source of gravel, see D1180/10/2.
For the site's sale to the Company's head carpenter in 1801, see D1180/1/2 p331.
For beer house door locked at night, see Str Jnl 8 Feb 1868 p5.
For noxious matter in the ditch, see D1180/1/8 p187-205.

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