May 202014

Please find attached a Press Release about the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the completion of restoration work on a historic barn at Odiham.

Roger Cansdale

Cllr Ken Thornber, chairman of Hampshire County Council (left) with Philip Riley, Society Chairman, at the unveiling of the plaque at the Colt Hill Barn.

Cllr Ken Thornber, chairman of Hampshire County Council (left) with Philip Riley, Society Chairman, at the unveiling of the plaque at the Colt Hill Barn.



Last year, Hampshire County Council sold part of a barn next to the canal at Colt Hill, Odiham, together with a stretch of the bank, to the Basingstoke Canal Society. The barn, thought to be some 200 years old, was originally used as a warehouse for goods, such as cheese, that were to be carried on the canal.

The barn needed a good deal of repair work and volunteers from the Canal Society have spent much of the last year replacing brickwork, tiles and timbers, as well as clearing the water frontage and doing piling to provide a mooring for the Society’s new trip boat, John Pinkerton II.

On May 9th, the Chairman of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Ken Thornber (above right) was invited to unveil a plaque (below right) to celebrate the completion of the restoration work.

PlaqueThe society’s Chairman Philip Riley said: “We were delighted to welcome Cllr Thornber and his colleagues to celebrate the re-opening. Odiham is the base for our volunteer-run trip boat, John Pinkerton II, which provides visitors to North Hampshire and local people with an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the Basingstoke Canal. ”

“We are very grateful to our partner Hampshire County Council for its support in enabling us to secure the future of the barn as an important component of the infrastructure and heritage of the Canal and as an operating base for our boat, which contributes more than £30,000 each year to the funding of the canal,” he added.

Councillor Thornber said it was a great pleasure to see the results of so many hours of volunteering and to unveil a plaque to commemorate that work. “I congratulate all that were involved and on their improvements to what will be an increasingly valued part of Hampshire’s heritage” he said.

A piece of old timber from the Colt Hill barn

A piece of old timber from the Colt Hill barn

At the Canal Society’s recent Annual General Meeting, one of the volunteers who had worked on the barn, Mark Coxhead, revealed that he had sent a piece of one of the oak roof beams that had been replaced to a company that specialises in dendrochronology. This is a technique which matches the spacing of the growth rings in a piece of timber to known patterns that reflect changes in the weather year by year. This enables a very accurate estimate of the timber’s age to be made.

In the case of the Odiham barn timber, the result was an astonishing 680 years old*! The tree from which it came started growing in the days of King Edward III and was probably felled some time during the reign of Henry V, about the time of the battle of Agincourt. This of course is long before the barn was built, so the timber clearly had some other, unknown, use originally before being recycled. The remaining part of the timber is still helping to support the roof of the historic barn and, hopefully, will continue to do so for a few more centuries.


Issued by:             Roger Cansdale (Editor, Basingstoke Canal News)


The Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society was founded in 1966 to campaign for the Basingstoke Canal to be taken into public ownership and restored to a navigable standard. This campaign was successful and the canal was acquired by the Surrey and Hampshire County Councils in the early 1970s. Following its acquisition, the Society entered into a partnership with the County Councils to restore the derelict canal.

The Society organised volunteer working parties which undertook a wide range of tasks. These included dredging 12 miles of canal in Hampshire, rebuilding 28 locks in Surrey, rebuilding bridges and weirs and clearing the towpath and offside banks. The work was completed in 1991 and the canal re-opened from the River Wey Navigation in Surrey to Greywell in Hampshire that year.

Once the first couple of miles had been dredged at Odiham, the Society decided to buy a passenger boat. The “John Pinkerton” made its first trip in May 1978 and has been giving pleasure to thousands of people ever since. This was replaced by the “John Pinkerton II” last year, whose purchase was made possible by a bequest left to the Society by one of its members, Alan Flight.

The Society decided to re-name itself as the Basingstoke Canal Society last year to clarify its interests. Its original name was the result of a desire to avoid confusion with the New Basingstoke Canal Company that it was in conflict with in the 1960s over the Company’s intention to close the canal. Happily, the Society is on much better terms with the current owners, the Surrey and Hampshire County Councils, and both share a common aim for the future of the canal as a navigation and much appreciated local amenity.


Thanks go to Mark Coxhead for commissioning this report . It contains the following summary about the dating of the roof timber:

“A single section of a tiebeam from the barn at Odiham Wharf was analysed. A 63-year series is dated to span AD 1330 to AD 1392. In the absence of bark, applying a sapwood estimate to the heartwood/sapwood boundary produces a felling-date range of AD 1401 to AD 1433. While this date range identifies when the source tree was felled, the presence of unrelated grooves in some of the timbers, indicating the likelihood of re-use, means that the date should not be associated with a construction date for the barn without additional evidence”.