Click through our archive photos of Lock island on the Kennet and Avon canal.
Controversy raged in Newbury in the 1980s over the fate of the Newbury Lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The Lock Cottage, believed to date back to 1720, had remained unoccupied since the last lock-keeper Albert Emberlin retired in 1958, after 41 years in the job. The cottage had fallen into a state of disrepair– and agreement could not be reached on what to do with it. Plans were put forward to turn it into a restaurant or pub, much to the chagrin of a united front of local and national environmental groups, including legendary Newbury canal user and conservationist the late John Gould. August 1986 saw the formation of Newbury Lock Rescue Group, with the aim of “the sympathetic restoration of the lock buildings to community use, without commercial development”.
The pub plan was refused planning permission, but it was granted on appeal in January 1987 after a public inquiry. The Lock cottage was finally demolished in the autumn of 1989 having been further damaged by a serious fire. Legal wrangling and debate rumbled on – and in 1995, Newbury district cuncil got behind a plan to turn the site into a public open space, which was officially opened in June 1996 by then-mayor of Newbury Garry Poulson.
Since then the Kennet and Avon Canal and its environs have undergone much restoration and renovation, including new lock gates near the Lock Stock and Barrel pub; and a water sculpture has been added to the public garden at Lock Island, which also has a plaque commemorating the saviour of the Kennet and Avon Canal - the late John Gould, MBE.
The spot is a favourite place for locals and visitors alike, and summer lunchtimes find it teeming with shop and office workers enjoying a welcome breath of fresh air.