Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Wharf Theatre beside the Kennet & Avon Canal in Devizes

The "Wharf Theatre" beside the canal.
The Kennet & Avon canal was opened in 1810, and bought much trade to Devizes from Bristol, Bath, Reading and Newbury.  This place, the old Wharf,  and managed by a "Wharfinger," what an interesting old name,  must have been a hive of activity up until the mid 1840's.  The opening of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's  "Great Western Railway" between London and Bristol,  killed off canal traffic almost overnight.   Goods could be transported by train in a matter of hours, instead of the days it took on the old, horse drawn barges.  Devizes council took over the wharf buildings after the collapse of the canal company, and the site was used by carrier services, coal merchants and various traders.   The Theatre building is canalside and the old cranes that lifted the goods from the barges can still be seen, as can many bricked up windows.  At the moment the theatre is preparing for it's Christmas production, and it's various shows and events are  well supported by the people of Devizes.

Below is another interesting Wharf building.   Once warehouses, it is now the home the canal museum, information centre and shop.  Devizes Canoe Club is also based here, and every year at Easter stages the world famous "Devizes to Westminster" canal race, the longest canal marathon in the world.   Elite crews and those of amateurs and young people leave at intervals on Good Frioday and must negotiate all the locks to Reading, and then onto the River Thames towards London.  The record is around 18 hours!  Amazing, but the canoeists do have support teams.  Every year the smell of bacon butties wafts around the Wharf, as the early morning starters tuck in before their gruelling paddle to Westminster in London.  Many famous rowers enter the race, and next year Steve Redgrave says he hopes to take part.
The Old Wharf Building, home of the K & A Trust's shop, museum and information centre.

What's On?  This Christmas it's  "The Witches" by Roald Dahl.
The new Main Entrance.  Note the bricked up windows of the old warehouse.
The Old Crane still attached to the wall.

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