A Lock-keeper’s Son

Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Summer 2021

Frank Smith recalls a childhood spent in a canalside cottage near Southcote Lock on the Kennet & Avon

I was born in Hungerford in 1934 and named Francis, which I didn’t like so I’ve always been called Frank. My father William (or Bill) was a steam-dredger driver on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Newbury. When he married my mum Winifred, he was offered the job of lockkeeper at Southcote, mainly to look after Southcote Lock (104) but also Burghfield Lock (103).The cottage Our cottage, close to Southcote Lock, was actually below water level but never once did it flood. It had a tall brick chimney that served the washhouse where a large wood fire kept the water hot in the copper. Later this chimney was taken down, as it was unsafe, and replaced with an iron stove pipe. Downstairs there were two main rooms, a very narrow kitchen, plus coal storage under the stairs. There was just one cold tap in the kitchen but it never did me any harm. Come to think of it, neither did the canal water; I must have swallowed quite a bit of it, thanks to Dad who kept throwing me in the canal fr…

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