Grants Lock Cottage on the Oxford Canal
Grant’s Lock Cottage was built in 1794 as a single storey cottage. One of the earliest lock keepers may have been a Mr Grant, as the cottage was known as Grant’s Lock from at least 1834. It may be worth noting that George Grant, a ropemaker aged 55, appears in the 1841 census in Bodicote East. Perhaps there was a connection? Another possible source of the name is the Grant family who owned a large Estate in Bodicote. The Estate was tenanted by Mr Webb Deer, and was sold off in 1835 after Mrs Grant’s death.
The first mention I have found of Grant’s Lock in the local papers was on Thursday 20th November 1834, when a tragic accident occured. George Fathers, a mason from King Sutton, and his wife Ann, were returning home from Banbury market along the towpath, when George fell and slipped into the canal near Grant’s Lock. His wife jumped into the canal to save him. She too was close to death, but her screams brought an unnamed man, probably the lock keeper, to her assistance. Sadly George was dead, but his wife was saved. George’s body was taken to Bodicote where an inquest was held. The verdict was accidental death.
Grant’s Lock is not mentioned by name in the 1841 census and in Bodicote District 3 (to the north east of the Banbury-Deddinton turnpike road) none of the inhabitants are listed as canal labourers or lockkeepers. The closest farm from the 1850s and probably long before, was Sandhill Farm. This has now been incorporated into Manor Farm.
John Lines, Lock Keeper <1851 to 1865
By 1851 John Lines was the lock keeper at Grant’s Lock. He was living there with his wife Mary when the census was taken in 1851 and 1861. John was born in Hillmorton, Warwickshire in about 1785, and I believe he was originally a blacksmith. In 1851 their 10 year old granddaughter Ann Lines, who was born in Rugby, was living with them. He died in Bodicote, probably at Grant’s Lock, in 1865 at the age of 80, and was buried in Fenny Compton where he had lived for many years.
There may have been another unknown lock keeper between 1865 and 1869.
John Stilgoe, Lock Keeper, <1869 to 1900
John Stilgoe was the lock keeper from about 1869. Articles about John’s death and career suggest that he was lock keeper for over 31 years. He was born in Adderbury (probably in Bodicote) in 1837, the son of Henry Stilgoe, a young publican, and his wife Ann. When his daughters were born, Annie Mary in 1867, and Elizabeth in 1869, John was a labourer living in Adderbury East. He may have been working as a canal labourer, or even as a lockkeeper, as lock keepers did not have the romantic cachet that they have today, and were often classified as labourers in the census. In the 1871 census we find him living at Grant’s Lock with his wife Ann, and their daughters Annie and Elizabeth. Their third child, Thomas Henry, was born in 1871. Sadly two of their children died in 1876, their little daughter Rebecca died age 1 on 10th January 1876, and their son Edward died age 2 years 11 months on 20th February 1876. Their youngest child, Nathaniel, was born in 1881.
One day on 26th April 1878, John came across a boy named Albert Edward Ginks on the towpath, crying and nearly broken-hearted. It transpired that his father had given him a florin to go to Banbury and buy some groceries, but on the way he had been mugged and robbed by another boy, named William Griffin. William claimed that he was merely gathering watercress that day. Unfortunately William’s past record did him no favours, and he was given a punishment of 3 months’ hard labour.
In June 1882 James Timms, a shepherd at Bodicote Grounds, found a young woman’s jacket, hat and umbrella by the River Cherwell in College Meadow, and told John Stilgoe that a girl was missing. At about midday John joined the two policemen who were dragging the river. Eventually just after 8pm, they found the body of Ruth Ann Jeffs, a 16 year old domestic servant who was believed to have committed suicide in the river. The body was a mile away from her clothes, where the river ran through Big Meadow. John helped to carry Ruth’s body to the river bank. At the inquest Ruth’s mother described how Ruth struggled to cope with her employer Elizabeth Usher. Mrs Usher, who also gave evidence, said that the girl’s head was ‘very deficient’ and described her as morose and taciturn. She said that Ruth had a great passion for books, and that was why her work was often neglected. Ruth had a history of petty theft from her previous employer and from Mrs Usher, and just before Ruth went missing Mrs Usher had accused her of stealing her daughter’s handkerchief. The jury determined that Ruth had committed suicide whilst suffering from temporary insanity.
At 6.15am on Thursday 22nd May 1884 the first boatman to come down the canal told John that there was something in the water near the Oak Tree, but he could not see what it was because of the fog. John went to the location and found the body of an unknown man about 30 years old. John pulled him out of the water by his collar. He went to report the matter at the Police Station, then went back with Sergeant Baker to remove the body to the Golden Lion. The inquest was held at the Golden Lion. A witness recalled seeing the man the previous evening, and he looked as if his eyes were swollen, but the police had seen no marks of violence on the body other than discolouration to his eyes. The jury returned a verdict of ‘found drowned’.
On 11th October 1889 two boats came through the lock, in the charge of Daniel Humphries and his son Henry, who were from Banbury. John observed that the men were wasting water and accused Daniel of this. Daniel told John he should go back indoors, for they would get on better without him. After the boats had passed through the lock, Daniel came back and again wasted the water. John dropped the paddle, but Daniel raised it again. Henry flew at John and the two men struggled until Henry threw John to the ground. John managed to get up but Henry threw him to the ground again, and both men sat on him, while the water was still running through the lock paddles. John called out and his son Thomas, who was in the cottage, came out and pulled Daniel off. Both men were using fearful language, and Daniel told John that if he touched another paddle he would split his skull open. In court John’s son Thomas gave evidence. Henry admitted to throwing John down, but not to hitting him. Daniel denied any part in the assault. The Bench took a lenient view, and fined both men, cautioning them not to let this happen again.
In December 1890 there was another suicide about 600 yards from the lock on the Banbury side. Samuel Humphries, a boatman, discovered the body and called on John to help him recover it. It had been in the water about three weeks. The police removed the body to Twyford Wharf, where it was identified as Arthur Edward Girling, a widowed builder’s clerk with a daughter in America. He had disappeared from his lodgings on November 15th. It emerged that poor Arthur was addicted to drink, suffered from pain in his head, and from his writings in his pocket book, it was seemed that he wanted to end his life. The jury returned a verdict of drowning whilst of unsound mind.
On 2nd September 1891 a lady saw the body of a 58 year old man named William Henry Ray in the canal, about 100 yards from Tustain’s drawbridge, between Banbury and Twyford Wharf. John Stilgoe and PC Gibbs pulled the body from the water, and put into a boat to be taken to the Golden Lion Inn to await an inquest. Evidence showed that William was a kind man, respected and esteemed by the friends he had made since arriving in Banbury three or four years before. William, had been suffering from influenza, with pains in the head and bouts of dizziness. There was no evidence to suggest suicide, and the verdict was ‘found drowned’.
In January 1894 there was an attempted suicide by a man named Frederick Brain, an agent for a veterinary supplier, from Eydon. Frederick had failed to keep up payments to his employer and consequently lost his job and his home. He had no means to support his wife and seven children and felt so hopeless that he jumped into the canal. A passing boatman, Thomas Jaques, had retrieved the man’s coat, which had been abandoned by the canal and dropped it off with John’s son Nathaniel at Grant’s Lock Cottage. John then took it to the PC James at the Golden Lion. Frederick was committed for trial at the next Quarter Sessions, where he was discharged to applause from the public.
Mary Southam was a 25 year old domestic servant whose mother and brother lived in Bright Street, Swindon. She worked for Dora Pratt and her sister at 5 Dashwood Terrace, Banbury. Six years before this, her sister had been found drowned in the Thames at Hammersmith, but if this had affected her, she never mentioned it, but she did suffer from depression of some kind. Before working for the Misses Pratt, she had spent two weeks in Horton Infirmary, suffering from hysteria, but the Misses Pratt had good references for her, and decided to take her on. Mary carried out her duties very well, but Mary was given to fits of depression and was often in tears. On October 4th, just six weeks working for the Pratt sisters, Mary suddenly disappeared from her employment. A week later, on Friday 12th October 1894, John was working with a rake in the neighbourhood when Samuel Gibbons, a boatman, alerted him to something in the water near the drawbridge leading to Mr Wood’s farm. John had already heard of the missing girl and had been keeping a look out for her. He walked down the offside of the canal for about a mile towards Banbury, and found Mary’s body floating in the canal, face up. It struck John that Mary’s hair was all over her face. He could not reacy the body, but he crossed the drawbridge, and from the other side he managed to retrieve the body with the rake, pulling it out of the water with the help of the boatman. John sent for the police, and Mary’s body was taken to The Plough in Bodicote where the coroner’s enquiry was held. The verdict was that she had committed suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity.
In 1895 John’s daughter Annie Mary married Frank Thomas Woodward.
Two years later, on Wednesday 2nd June 1896, John was again called upon. Shortly after 6am that morning, he was heading to a spot where he had been repairing the bank, and had left a few stones by the hedge, when he saw some clothes and a hat floating in the canal. They were about four yards from the towpath and about 290 yards from the lock on the Banbury side. John called his son to fetch a drag. The drag touched something heavy – it was an elderly woman wearing an old-fashioned bonnet, a black or brown dress, a dark shawl, and a white skirt. She had very grey, wavy hair. John believed it was the same woman who he had seen sitting in same spot on the previous Friday. He had asked whether she was taking a rest, and she had replied that it was a nice seat. Later she passed the cottage going towards Twyford, and returned later in the afternoon. John sent his son to Adderbury for the police, and the body of the woman was taken away to the Plough Inn. At about 8 o’clock that same morning, the body of the woman’s husband was found in their home, with his throat cut and a table knife in his hand.
The tragic couple were Thomas, a former blacksmith, and Elizabeth Scarsbrook, a laundress. They were a devoted and affectionate couple in their seventies, who lived at 32 Church Passage, Banbury. At Thomas’s inquest the jury were asked to consider whether Elizabeth had simply left the house and taken her own life, or whether she had played some part in Thomas’s death. The jury heard evidence to suggest that Elizabeth left her home before her husband took his life. John’s evidence also suggested that Elizabeth may have been contemplating suicide when he saw her the previous Friday, and perhaps lost her nerve. The doctor did not have the slightest doubt that the gash across Thomas’s throat was self-inflicted. It was assumed that illness and worsening poverty had provoked their double suicide, and the jury returned a verdict of suicide while temporarily insane for both Elizabeth and Thomas. They were laid to rest together in Banbury Cemetery.
On 21st May 1897 John’s wife Ann died. She was 58 years old. After all these sad deaths, I was shocked to find the next. Tragically, it was the body of John himself which was recovered from the canal. John was 63, and had been a lock keeper at Grant’s Lock for over 31 years.
In 1900 John caught influenza, and then during February and March he took six to eight weeks off work with bronchitis and rheumatism. Since then he had been complaining of giddiness. In April he went to Dr Bovill in Adderbury and got a bottle of medicine. On Friday 4th May he was working in Banbury with Edward Haycock, a carpenter from King’s Sutton who was employed by the Canal Company. Edward knew John very well, and said that he seemed well. John set off home some time between 4pm and 5pm. Before he left, John agreed to fetch one of the Canal Company’s little iron boats and Edward’s tools early the next morning, and to meet Edward at Grant’s Lock at about 8am. John’s young housekeeper, Laura Hatton, who had lived at the cottage for the last three years, said that he was well that evening, and went to bed as usual.
On Saturday 5th May 1900 John got up and got ready for work. It was his habit to rise at 4am or 5am. Laura did not know what time he got up that day, but he brought her a cup of tea at about 6.30am, telling her that he was heading off to Banbury to fetch the boat, and that he would like her to prepare his breakfast for about 8.30am. When he left the cottage he was just the same as usual. John walked to Banbury Lock and met Arthur Thornton the Banbury Lock Keeper there at about 6.35. He thought that John seemed better than the last few times he had been in Banbury, and John did not complain of ill health. On the contrary, John asked Arthur for some plants from his garden, which Arthur pulled up and gave him. Arthur helped him to get the boat, in which there were some paint cans and a few boards, through the lock. At about 6.50am John left the lock, pulling the boat behind him, using a line seven or eight yards long.
At 8am Edward arrived at Grant’s Lock. Laura, the housekeeper, told him that John had gone to Banbury. Edward started walking towards Banbury, expecting to meet John on the way, but instead about half a mile from the cottage he found the boat, lying stationary in the canal close to the towpath. He pulled the line out of the water, thinking it a very odd thing for one of the Canal Company’s men to leave a line in the water. Leaving the line on the towpath, he looked started off towards Banbury, but had only gone eight or nine yards when he noticed something like brown paper floating in the water fifteen to twenty yards from the boat and about two feet from the bank. It was John, lying face downwards in 12 to 15 inches of water, his head pointing towards Banbury. There was nobody else about and there was no sign of a struggle. Edward could see nothing John could have tripped on, and he was sure that the rope could not have become entangled in his legs.
Edward pulled John’s body from the canal himself. By the time PC Surman the policeman arrived, Edward, Arthur, and two other men had moved John’s body onto the boat. They pulled the boat back to Grant’s Lock Cottage where PC Surman examined John’s clothing. In John’s trousers pocket he found a silver double cased watch, attached round his neck with a long watch chain. The watch had stopped at 8.15am. In the pockets there were a key and a knife. In a purse was 8s 6d in silver. The Coroner’s inquest was held at the Horse and Jockey in Bodicote on the following Monday, Mr G Coggins presiding. First of all the Jury spent nearly an hour walking to Grants Lock to view the body, then the site of John’s death. First to give evidence was John’s son Thomas Henry Stilgoe, who was now working as a carter in Birmingham. He had not seen his father since July 1898, but was in touch with him, and knew that he sometimes suffered from giddiness. The next witness was John’s housekeeper, Laura Hatton. She broke down in tears occasionally as she gave her evidence. She said that John was a very quiet man, and would certainly not have done away with himself. Next to give evidence was Arthur Thornton the Banbury Lock Keeper. Arthur remarked that it was easy to pull a boat with a line, and John had done it many times before.
Mr Innes Griffin, a medical practitioner, had examined the body on the morning of John’s death. He said that John had a bruise on the forehead and scratches on his cheek. He believed that John was already dead when he fell into the water. He concluded that the exertions of that morning, with no breakfast, and recent illness, may have caused John to have a fit or faint, and that he fell on the towpath, causing the bruise, or perhaps directly into the canal. The towpath at that point was only eight or nine inches from the water. Arthur felt that it was unlikely that the boat could have knocked the bank and pushed John in, or that the boat’s forward motion could have pulled him in, if he had fallen on the towpath. The verdict arrived at was death by natural causes.
John Bradley, lock keeper, 1900 to 1907/1911
John Bradley took over as lock keeper in about May 1900. (In March 1906 he stated he had been there nearly 6 years). John was born in Claydon, and married Louisa Beasley, from Stoke Lyne, in 1892.
On the night of 26th September 1900 John Bradley went to bed as usual, leaving the lock full to within about 9 inches of the path, with the gates shut. The water was about fifteen feet deep. He did not keep a light on, and he heard nothing during the night, even though all the rooms of the cottage were on the ground floor. On the following morning, 27th September 1900, he got up at aboout 5.15am, and went outside. He recovered a man’s cap from the lock, but thought nothing much of it – it was not unusual to find such things in the lock. Later on, two boats came up the canal from Twyford. The first of the two boats passed through as usual. The second of two boats entered the lock, and John went to close the upper lock gates, but the gate would not close, and he found a young woman’s body jammed there. He pulled her out, but did not recognise her. Then, remembering the cap, he dragged the water in the lock, and then on the Twyford side of the gate, and there, just outside the lock gate, at about 9am, he found the body of a young man he knew. It was 24 year old James Lewis, the son of James Lewis snr, a shepherd whose parents lived nearby at Sandell (aka Sandhill) Farm. John helped to haul James into the boat, and later, James, PC Surman, and Mr Twynham from the Red Lion, moved them onto the bank.
The young woman was 26 year old Alice Tuffrey, the young wife of Charles Tuffrey. Originally from Aynho, she had been working in domestic service in London while her husband, an army reservist, served in South Africa, but she had returned home in some distress after her husband was called to take up further duties in China instead of returning home to her. She had been staying with Mr James Lewis, a shepherd, and his wife, since the previous Sunday. They were old friends and neighbours of her family. James (jnr), was working temporarily at Manor Farm, but was due to return to his job at the Chemical Works in Woolwich the following day. On the previous evening, Wednesday 26th 1900, James had invited Alice to walk with him to the Red Lion (now a house opposite Twyford Wharf). She was due to return to her parents’ home that day, but had delayed leaving due to the poor weather, They had decided to brave the darkness and bad weather for a farewell drink, and walked to the Red Lion, arriving at 9.30pm, and ordering themselves some whisky and water, which they drank in the porch, exchanging a few words with the landlady, Mrs Frances Twynham. They set off back to the farm at about 10pm, crossed the bridge and set off up the towpath to Grant’s Lock. It seems that they crossed over the lock gates instead of the bridge. James’s watch had stopped at 10.30pm.
The two young people were well known and liked, so this loss was felt deeply in the local area. The jury went to the farm to see the bodies, and to the lock to view the site where the young folk had drowned, accompanied by John Bradley and Thomas Miller from Nell Bridge. John pointed out where he had found the bodies. He also took pains to point out that the jury that the route over the lock gate to Sandell Farm was not a public footpath, although Lewis knew it well. Mr Innes Griffin, the medical practitioner, confirmed that there were no markes on James, and that the bruises his opinion that the bruisies on Alice’s hips were sustained after her death, when her body was stuck between the lock gate and the wall. There was nothing to suggest violence or suicide. The Jury returned a verdict of Accidentally Drowned.
John Bradley appears at Grants Lock in the 1901 census. At that time he was 31 years old, and married to Louisa who was 29. They had a nephew staying with them, six year old Herbert George Hayden Beasley (named in the census as George Bradley) who was also born in Stoke Lyne.
On 20th July 1904 at about 3pm John Bradley saw Harold Prescott of Upper Windsor Street, Banbury, on the towpath near Jennings bridge, throwing stones into the canal. There were two other young lads nearby doing the same thing. This was against the regulations of the Oxford Navigation Company. John spoke to Harold, but the lad ran away. Later on, John called at Harold’s house. The door was answered by Harold’s mother Amelia, and John told her that he had seen the three lads throwing things into the canal. He asked Harold whether he had been throwing stones into the canal, and Harold insisted that he had only thrown a piece of wood. Amelia must have thought this would save her son, but the distinction mattered little, as the Act covered rubbish, or indeed anything thrown into the canal. At the County Police Court Harold pleaded guilty. John described what he had seen, and confirmed that there were plenty of stones on the towpath in that area. The Jury concluded that Harold had indeed been throwing stones. He was fined 2s 6d and 9s costs, which was duly paid.
On Friday 30th March 1906, Thomas Sykes, a local glazier and rural letter carrier, was walking from Kings Sutton towards Banbury. As Thomas walked along shortly after 11am he saw a woman come through a gate onto the towpath between the two bridges near Twyford Wharf. She was wearing a blue dress, a black jacket, and a red Tam o’Shanter hat. Thomas did not recognise her. She walked ahead of him for about a mile and a half at a good pace before he caught up with her near the New Bridge. As he passed her, he thought she looked nervous and cold. “It’s still a cold blow, Mrs,” he commented. “Yes, it is,” she replied. He continued on ahead of her, and eventually passed John Bradley at Grant’s Lock. At about 12 noon he neared Banbury, and near Samuelson’s Bridge he looked around, and saw the woman still following behind. At this point she may have retraced her steps.
About an hour and a half later, some time between 1pm and 2pm, John found the woman’s body in the canal, floating out of the drawbridge in a southerly direction, on the westerly side of the canal opposite the towpath, about 500 or 600 yards on the Banbury side of the new bridge. She was still wearing her red hat. He had a boat nearby so he fitted a line and noose and pulled the woman to the side, the pulled her out of the water and put her on the bank. Although he believed she was already dead, he attempted artificial respiration, but with no success. About four minutes later he saw Thomas coming towards him, so he placed his coat over the body, and met Thomas, who was on his way home near the New Bridge. John asked Thomas if he knew the woman who had been walking behind him, then told him that he had found her drowned in the canal.
He got Thomas to wait by the woman’s body, and ordered his dog to go home, but the dog lay on his master’s coat and would not leave. John set off to the Banbury police station. After he left, the dog would not allow Thomas to touch the body, and flew at him twice when he tried to go near it. John was soon back with Police Constable Dodd. They again tried artificial respiration, but to no avail. PC Dodd examined the body, but could find nothing to explain her death. She was wearing a wedding ring and gloves, and there were two brooches pinned to the front of her dress. She was carrying no money, but had two stones in one jacket pocket and a small bottle of water in the other. The police took the body to the Red Lion Inn.
Superintendent Smith circulated the details around the area, and soon the body was identified as Jane Rawbone, aged 34, of Charlton by Newbottle, daughter of Thomas Frost at the Rose and Crown. At the inquest, Henry William Rawbone, a farm labourer and Jane’s husband of 15 months, said that she was of a cheerful disposition and they lived happily together. They had no children, and they were a respectable couple. He had risen at six that morning and had taken her a cup of tea. When he left for work at 6.45am she seemed well and happy. Jane’s lodger, a school mistress named Elizabeth Belcher, said that Jane had been perfectly well and cheerful at breakfast that morning. She had previously mentioned that she needed to go to Banbury before Easter. When Elizabeth returned to the house for dinner at midday, she found the door locked. When Jane had not returned later that afternoon, the family assumed that she had gone visiting. Elizabeth had known nothing of her death until the following day. The Coroner determined that she had died by drowning and advised the Jury to give her the benefit of the doubt that she had not committed suicide. The Jury returned a verdict of ‘found drowned’ and expressed their sympathy for Jane’s husband.
In July 1907 John Bradley was haymaking with Thomas Miller, lock keeper at Nell Bridge. One day they were returning from work at about 6pm when John spotted a Tam o’Shanter hat in the water. Tragically Thomas’s little seven year old granddaughter Evelyn Daisy Miller had drowned in the canal. She was a bright and intelligent little girl who he had brought up himself. It appeared that after school and tea, she had asked her aunt whether she could go fishing, but was told she could not because it was raining. Soon afterwards she had asked again, as the rain had stopped, and this time she was given permission. Sadly she had slipped on a dangerously wet cement block on the edge of the canal. Her little rod and line were on the path by the house.
Unfortunately we do not know when John Bradley left Grants Lock, only that it was between 1907 and 1911, by which time he was working as a lock keeper at Cropredy. Although still married, Louisa was not at home. Their nephew was still living with them, but this time he is named as Herbert George Hayden Beasley.
John and Louisa never had children of their own. John was still at Cropredy when the First World War broke out. He attested on 27th September 1915 and joined the Army Service Corps, Private No. 17091. John was a Wesleyan. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall with good physical development, he weighed 154 lbs, and he had a 39 inch chest when fully expanded. Almost immediately, on 21st October 1915, he sailed from Devonport to Gallipoli with the 24th Labour Company, arriving on the front on the 6th November 1915. Tragically he died of dysentry on the Hospital Ship Letitia only a few weeks later, on the 7th of December 1915, and was buried at sea. His personal effects arrived via Southampton the following day and were returned to Louisa, who he had referred to as “my dear wife” in his brief official will. He was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and 1914-15 Star. He was commemorated on the Helles Memorial Register Part XIII.
William Dunn, 1907/1911 to 1912/1919
William Dunn was the lock keeper at Grants Lock when the census was compiled in 1911. He married Lizzie Louisa Cherry in 1898. They were both born in Cropredy. Their children were Arthur William Cherry Dunn, born in Solihull in 1899, and Gladys Louisa Mary Dunn born in Claydon in 1902. Their third child Sydney Frank Wesley Dunn was born in 1907 and died as a baby aged two months. In 1911 William and Lizzie were both 37 years old. In July 1912 William was a witness in a case brought by Messrs Spokes and Sons at Twyford Mill against Banbury Council about their alleged pollution of the River Cherwell via an overflow from their sewerage works.
The Second Floor – 1914
The current owner tells me that the second floor of the cottage was added in 1914. A teapot was left in the loft by the workmen after the topping out ceremony, with a note saying that they saw the trains passing taking the soldiers to the War. Sadly the teapot and note were lost in the recent fire.
Thomas Richard Mobley, lock keeper, 1912/1919 to 1923/1930
Thomas was born in Kings Sutton in 1869 and married Gertrude Wyatt in 1894. They had four daughters and two sons, Euston Cyril, and Arthur Thomas. Both sons later moved to Wales but Arthur later returned to the area working for the Great Western Railway. In 1911 Thomas and his family were living in Kings Sutton and Thomas was working as an Iron Quarry Man. He started working as a lock keeper some time between 1912 and 1919. In 1919 their eldest daughter Emmeline Martha got married, and the paper announced that she was the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs S (sic) Mobley of Grants Lock. In March 1923 Thomas was a witness for the case against Herbert Addison, who was charged with setting light to a hay rick at Bodicote Grange Farm. On the day of the fire he had been working on a brick bridge with William Hone, the lock keeper at Tarver’s Lock, by Twyford Wharf. Thomas died in 1930, probably in Kings Sutton, as his death was registered in Brackley. Gertrude died at 6 Newlands, Kings Sutton, in 1946, where she had been living with her daughter Ruby.
Broughton? Lock keeper 1923/1930 to 1939/1946
The residents at Grant’s Lock at the time of the 1939 Register have been difficult to identify due to the enumerator’s poor handwriting. The lock keeper appears to be a Mr Broughton, Brompton or Brampton, born on 15 March 1914. The first name is unreadable but it is a short name like Jim. There is indeed a James William Broughton who was born on the date given in the Register, but he was born in Yarmouth and died in Great Yarmouth. There are two others redacted, presumably his children. When these records are released it may be easier to identify this lockkeeper. Also living there on the night of the Register was a widower James McBlaine or McBlaire, a retired insurance traveller, born 2 Oct 1969.
Frederick Gosford, lock keeper, 1939/1946 to 1946/1949
Frederick Gosford was the lock keeper from some time between 1939 and 1946 until some time before 1949. At about 8.45am on Thursday 31st Oct 1946, Frederick was going up the canal on a motor boat and was passing through a drawbridge near Haddon’s Bridge, opposite Grange Farm, Bodicote, half way between Swan Close and Grant’s Lock, when the wash from the propellor brought the body of a man up to the surface. Frederick noticed a pile of clothes, an overcoat, a jacket, neatly folded, and a trilby hat, under the towpath hedge opposite. He telephoned and reported the body to the police and hauled the body to the bank. PS Stickley arrived at about 10.30am. Inside the jacket pocket there was a Conservative Club card, on which the man had written in pencil, “My darling wife and best of pals, goodbye and God bless you and forgive me. Will.” The man was William John Flowers, aged 76, a retired coach builder who lived at 93 Bloxham Road, Banbury. He was a member of the Chestnuts Bowling Club and the Banbury Conservative Club. He had failed to come home the previous evening after his usual visit to the Conservative Club, where he had gone to watch some snooker matches. He had left at 7.30 and had not been seen again. William suffered from anaemia and rheumatism, and before the war he had lost the sight in one eye after an attack of shingles. He was dreading the coming cold weather and feared that he might lose the sight in the other eye, but the Coroner was unable to discover any other reason why he might have taken his life. He had seemed quite normal to everyone who saw him on Wednesday and his home life was happy. It was concluded that he had drowned himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed.
Alfred Hadland, lock keeper, 1947 to 1955
Alfred Hadland was born in St Margaret, Little Bromwich, Birmingham, Warwickshire in December 1892. He settled in Meriden, Coventry, with his first wife Florence Walter, and they had two daughters, Gertrude and Kathleen. Florence died in 1925. His second wife was Annie Sweeting. Alfred and Annie had two more daughters, Evelyn Elsie, and Hilda, and finally one son, Graham. In 1939 the family were living in Warwick and Alfred was working as a machine tool packer. At some point over the following eight years they moved to Oxfordshire, and in about 1947 he became the lock keeper at Grants Lock. Alfred’s sister Amy had married Frank Poole, lock keeper at Tarvin’s Lock, and perhaps it was he who suggested the job for Alfred. Alfred and Annie’s daughter Evelyn got married to Dennis William Twynham in July 1949.
On June 20th 1950 a twelve year old Banbury schoolgirl was walking past the lock cottage and asked Annie for a cup of water. Annie was rushing off to work, so she told the girl to leave the cup on the step when she had finished. However, the girl found the door unlocked and took the cup inside to leave in the house, and there she saw Hilda’s handbag and a money box. She grabbed them both and fled down the towpath. When she had put some distance between herself and the cottage, she took 2s 1d from the money box and threw the box in the canal. She also took a bank book from the handbag and left the handbag under a hedge. Hilda did not discover the loss until the next day and by then the girl had spent the money. The girl had previously been sent to a local hostel for pilfering from an Oxford school. Evidence as to her character was given by the Master of the hostel and the Headmistress of the school in Banbury which she was attending. The girl pleaded guilty and was given a second chance. She was placed on probation for 12 months and placed in the care of a foster parent.
Alfred died at Horton General Hospital on 24th June 1955, age 62. He had been the lock keeper for eight years. Alfred’s son Graham Frederick Hadland may have taken over from his father briefly, or the family may have been given a stay of leave. Graham died when his motorcycle crashed into a car, on 19th August 1956, age 22, the year after his father’s death. Graham was a competent motorcyclist, and his motorbike was a 1955 model which he had owned for 12 months. He had been in Woodstock, then at a dance in Stonesfield. The Coroner determined that the crash was an accident with no blame attached to the car driver, John Herbert Venvell. Graham was wearing a crash helmet and goggles, but it was raining heavily and the goggles had probably misted up. Graham pulled out onto a T junction at New Inn without seeing the oncoming car. His friend Norman Golder of Upper Heyford was riding pillion, and survived the crash. Annie lived until 1983.
There are two photographs of the cottage around this time. One appeared in the Banbury Advertiser on Wednesday 03 August 1955. It showed a boat called Moo Frog going through the lock. The boat belonged to some railwaymen and was usually moored at the bottom of the Railway Association Allotments near Banbury. The hull was made from some old Royal Engineers bridge pontoons. It was reputedly the first ‘pleasure boat’ moored at Banbury, and at that time the Britsh Transport Commission was proposing to close down the canal. The accompanying article described vividly the experience of going through the lock.
Moo Frog, Banbury Advertiser, Wednesday 03 August 1955
The photograph below, from the CRT’s the Waterways Archive, shows the cottage as it used to be at about that time, with bare brick, and no render, looking similar to Somerton Lock Cottage. There is a little girl in front of the cottage. Perhaps this was one of Alfred’s grandchildren, or perhaps it was a child of the next lock keeper, George Jones.
Grants Lock in the 1950s. Image supplied by National Waterways Archive, Canal and River Trust
In 1956 the public footpath from Manor Farm to the cottage was delisted by Banbury Rural District Council.
George Thomas Jones, lock keeper, 1956/1969 to 1969/unknown
George Thomas Jones was lock keeper from some time after 1956 to at least 1969. There are two possible local men with this name. One was born on 7th Jan 1901 and died in the Banbury district in Nov 2000. The other, perhaps more likely, was born in Twyford on 31 Jan 1912 (son of George Henry Jones m Clara Sophia Castle) and died in the Banbury district in Jan 1977. He was single and living at Twyford Wharf in 1939 and he was then working as an aluminium worker. In 1944 one of these men, probably the latter, married Dorothy Gertrude Currell (born 1920, died 2001). I believe they had two sons, Bryan in 1949 and Alan in 1951. Bryan was living at Nellbridge Lock Cottage in about 2006 which appears to confirm this connection.
On 1st February 1969 George found the body of William James Mold of 13 Oxford Road, who had thrown himself into the canal (exact location unknown). William had suffered from acute depression over the previous 18 months, and this had been exacerbated by a dispute with neighbours over a boundary fence. He had been off sick for most of 1968 and twice he had attempted to take his own life with an overdose of drugs. On the night before the suicide, his wife was suffering from a chill and went to bed early. William brought her a hot water bottle. When she went to sleep, she assumed he would be going to work as usual on the night shift at Alcan. In the morning she phoned Alcan, but he had never clocked in.
When George left Grant’s Lock, some time before 1980, the cottage was used to house British Waterways Board workers. The present owners had several conversations with BWB employees who stayed there. The cottage has been fully residential again since about 1984.
In 1983 the decision was made to extend the M40 from Oxford to the south of Birmingham. Work on the section around Banbury started in February 1988, and the section north of Oxford in July 1989. The section between the M42 and Warwick opened in December 1989, and the remainder opened in January 1991.
Wendy Moorhouse leased Grants Lock Cottage from British Waterways in the 1980s. She was a narrowboat painter, skilled in painting traditional roses and castles. She had lived on several narrowboats before living at Grants Lock, including The Heatherbelle. She restored the cottage, and lived there for many happy years, with goats, chickens and Hissing Sid the goose.
The present owner purchased the cottage on 31st March 2004 for £82,500. During lockdown, when the owner was unable to visit the cottage for an extended period, young people broke in through the windows several times. The owner sent builders to secure the cottage twice. On 30th July 2020 intruders built a fire against the rear window of the sitting room which soon spread inside, and despite the efforts of the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service who responded at about 7.45pm, with four crews from Banbury, Hook Norton, Bicester and Brackley fire stations, the fire burned until only the walls remained. Thames Valley Police were called at around 8.55pm (URN 1226). They suspected deliberate arson, but nobody was ever charged or convicted.