Westfield Lock and Bridge

Westfield Lock and Bridge in the 1960s (Norman Andrews)
Westfield Lock and Bridge in the 1960s (Norman Andrews)
Westfield Lock and Bridge in the 1960s (Norman Andrews)
Westfield Lock and Bridge in the 1960s (Norman Andrews)

Westfield Lock was built in 1777, the first in a flight of five locks that carries the Stroudwater Canal up the hill past the village of Eastington. A walkway was originally attached to the lower gates for pedestrians using an ancient footpath that linked the hamlet of Westend and the parish church. (For sources, see end of page.)

Westfield Bridge originally just carried a private track giving the local farmer access to his fields near to the River Frome. Later this also became the public footpath as it was easier than crossing the walkway across the lock gates. The parapet walls of the bridge were renewed in 1841, and the south-eastern keystone is inscribed with this date.

Saving Westfield Bridge

Mrs Hearsey on the bridge in 1993 (CCT)
Mrs Hearsey on the bridge in 1993 (CCT)
Mrs Hearsey on the bridge in 1993 (CCT)
Mrs Hearsey on the bridge in 1993 (CCT)

In preparation for the construction of the M5 motorway c1970, the Stroudwater Company agreed that the canal channel could be filled in, the canal structures cleared away and any spare land returned to agriculture, but one local farmer objected. Mrs Christine Martin (later Mrs Hearsey) wanted to keep Westfield Bridge as it had always been part of her farm, and the enclosed gradient was a convenient space to load animals into a lorry. So she arranged with the Company that the bridge would be spared.

One day, however, Mrs Martin heard a huge explosion and saw smoke rising - so she ran to the site fearing the worst. On arrival, she was relieved to find that it was part of the lock that had been destroyed, but a demolition man was making a hole in 'her' bridge in preparation for blowing that too. As he would not listen to her pleas, saying 'he had his orders', she stood on top of the bridge and stayed there all afternoon until the man said it was time for him to go home. The matter was resolved by a phone call the following day, and the bridge was saved. 

Westfield Paddock

Westfield Paddock
Westfield Paddock
Westfield Paddock
Westfield Paddock

Adjoining Westfield Bridge, there was a narrow strip of land 150 yards long that was owned by the Stroudwater Company. Named Lime Kiln Piece in 1781, it was evidently the site of the Company's kiln that helped to produce the lime mortar used in building and maintaining the locks and bridges. In 1841, the Committee ordered the kiln to be moved to the nearby maintenance yard, and by the 1880s the Company was buying in cement.

Later the paddock became a centre for bathing following a long running campaign of work to reduce the amount of sewage that leaked into the canal. In 1897, a dressing shelter was set up in the paddock for the Eastington Bathing Club, and boys were still learning to swim in and around the lock in the 1930s.

At the start of the Second World War, a pillbox was built beside Westfield Bridge as part of a line of structures along the canal intended to defend Bristol. One day a cow got inside, and the farmer had great difficulty getting it out. The pillbox was cleared away after the war, but some remains of the base can still be seen. There was another pillbox further north where the motorway is now.

Sources

For lock building date, see D1180/1/1 p161.
Footpath information from Geoffrey Martin.
For date on bridge, see D1180/1/4 p208.
For construction of M5, see D1180/9/54
For Saving Westfield Bridge, see HTV documentary 'Between Two Rivers', 1993.
For name Lime Kiln Piece, see D1180/10/2.
For moving the lime kiln, see D1180/1/4 p208.
For buying in cement, see D1180/9/6 p362.
For Sunday School trip to Sharpness, see Stroud Jnl 22 May 1875 p2.
For dressing shelter, see D1180/1/7 p211, 233.
For swimming at Eastington, see Les Pugh's Memories, published 2008.
For Westfield Bridge pillbox/block house, see D1180/9/19 p295 and remembered by Geoffrey Martin.

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