Inglesham Lock


Having taken 2 years to demolish and rebuild the southern wall, the goal for 2018 was to completely rebuild the northern wall in a single season. Kescrg once again dedicated most of our year to Inglesham, scheduling 6 visits in total, including running another WRG Summer camp week.

Things didn’t start so well though, as our first visit was scheduled for early April which coincided with the Thames in full flood, making site access impossible – always a risk early in the year for this site.

Flooding surrounding Inglesham lock, April 2018. Photo: Nic Bennett

However with another major weekend in May planned, there were some jobs on the critical path that meant we had to make some progress in April, so a small party came together for a single day on site later in the month once the waters had receded.

We haunched in the remaining coping stones on the south side, and continued the backfill, meaning the final landscaping could be done in May.

And so to the late-May long bank holiday weekend. Following the success of the weekend the previous year, we once again ran an all-out 5 day weekend to give the site a massive boost before the 6 WRG camps planned for the summer. Once again there was a huge material shift, with many packs of bricks and blocks to be transported up the track, and this year the whole of the north wall was to be dismantled down to the waterline in one go, with the excavation terraced in 3 steps to improve stability, and to ensure that the material when eventually backfilled would compact fully behind the structure. Planning the moves with the excavator to achieve this was no mean feat but was ably accomplished by Digger and Pete, along with their team of dumper drivers. Another team continued the backfill behind the south wall, using a remote-control sheep’s-foot trench roller, and finishing off by landscaping and seeding the whole area with grass.

By the end of the dig, after five very long days on site, all these goals had been achieved, and the lock was in great shape for a huge push on the project through the summer.

We returned to Inglesham a few weeks later with London WRG to continue the preparatory work for the summer camps, fully exposing the stone pavement at water level, which forms the base for the block wall. Now that the landscaping on the south side was complete and access no longer required, the upper wingwall and paddle hole could be demolished ready for rebuilding. We also experimented with stone repairs on some of the damaged quoin stones. This involved cleaning the damaged surface and cutting back to square edges, epoxying metal ties into the stone, and setting up a shutter with a gap at the top. Then using the same sharp-sand mortar mix as used for the face of the replacement coping stones, the shutter was filled and tamped down. The next morning the shutters were removed and the faces of the repairs weathered and shaped with wire brushes and scutch hammers to blend with the original stone.

In July, Kescrg took charge of the first of six weeks of WRG Camps, with work commencing along the whole length of the chamber wall and lower gate recess on the north side, and on the paddle pit, upper stop plank groove and wing wall on the south side.

Over the course of the week, the paddle pit was dug out, the paddle face stone repaired, and the pit reconstructed complete with access for a future back pumping scheme. Work was started on the upper wing wall, breaking back to sound brickwork, and repairing the first quoin stone of the gate recess, and building up the brickwork so the second stone could be cast at the start of the second week. In the chamber, a great deal of progress was made on the lower gate recess reconstruction, including the complex brickwork for the tapered gate paddle recess; the main chamber wall was stitched back into the existing structure up to the waterline, and by the end of the week 2-3 courses of bricks and blocks had been laid above the waterline along the whole length of the chamber.

As part of this, the first lower gate recess quoin stone needed to be cast as the original was too badly eroded to reuse. Unlike on the south wall the previous year where the stone was cast by forming a full box shutter, on the north side the brick and block work was built up in the gate recess and on the chamber wall, with brick ties leading into the stone area. Shuttering was then only required on the front two faces, making a significantly easier setup for the pour.

The Navvies report of the week is available to read here:

On our return to Inglesham in September, we found that the 5 subsequent WRG camps had made astonishing progress with the rebuild – the north wall brick and block work were complete, and around half of the coping stones had been reinstated. The south side upper wingwall was also approaching completion, and the south side upper gate recess hinge quoin stones had finally been removed, allowing reconstruction of the last 15 feet or so of the south chamber wall to begin.

This was a joint dig weekend with the Newbury Working Party Group (NWPG) – another visiting restoration group. While they concentrated on setting the rest of the coping stones, we cast the second U-shaped stone around the ladder recess, worked on the last section of the south wall and the upper wing wall rebuild, and made our first attempt to fit the metal hinge liner to the north side upper gate recess.

Our sixth and final visit to Inglesham in 2018 was our October dig weekend. As well as casting the remaining 3 replacement coping stones to complete the north chamber wall, and continuing the rebuild of the final section of south wall up to the upper gate hinge quoin – the main task for the weekend was to cast a new cill in reinforced concrete, to ensure structural integrity for the top of the lock to withstand the water pressure when gates are finally reinstated and the pound above refilled. While digging out and preparing for the pour, a large void was discovered under the north gate recess linking down to the paddle culvert. This void was filled with concrete as part of the main pour.

By the end of the weekend, the goal of completely rebuilding the north wall in a single season had been achieved – an incredible result and reward for all the hard work of our weekends through the year and the WRG camps through the summer.