At the time the Stroudwater Canal was built in the 1770s, Ryeford Mill (1) was producing woollen cloth using power derived from the River Frome. The canal passed between the mill and the owner's house to the north (2), and the Canal Company was obliged to provide a pedestrian bridge to link the two. In the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the mill was used by the Ford brothers for grinding flour, and a wharf was formed on the south side of the canal (now known as Ford's Wharf) (3). The eldest brother, George, built Ryeford House (4). After the Ford's business collapsed in the early 1880s, the mill became a saw mill.
North-west of the bridge, the Canal Company had a small wharf (5) which was rented to local men acting as coal merchants. The building behind the wharf provided premises for cabinet maker W H Smith in 1914, and his name is still on display. The stone-fronted building to the west was the Anchor Inn (6), which was run by members of the Lewis/Brunsdon family for almost 90 years.
Ryeford Bridge was originally built of brick to carry an important road, and it was later widened to the west using stone which has been grooved where successive towing ropes have cut into it. The chimney in the background belonged to Ryeford Mill, and Spring Cottages on the right were built by Webb & Spring for their workers when they were running the premises as a saw mill.
The wall in the right forground of the picture is part of a coal pen built by Marling & Co in the 1860s to store coal brought by canal on its way to their nearby Stanley Mill on the southern stream of the River Frome.
To the east of Ryeford (off the map) is Double Lock, which has two chambers sharing a middle pair of gates. The lock had structural problems when it was built and again in recent years, and the large openings in the brickwork are to avoid water pressure building up behind the wall. Adjoining the lock is a cottage for the lock keeper, built in 1784 and little altered.
Tragedy struck the Burbidge family when living at Double Lock Cottage in 1838 as four children aged between nine and two died within a few days of one another and were buried at Cainscross. No other record of the event has been found except a Stroudwater Company minute agreeing to pay the children's father £10 above what was due to him for salary. (Cainscross burial register; 1/4 p158)