Compiled by D Warren in 1988 for Mr. Bowen.
The Grand Junction Canal was commenced in 1795 and opened for traffic in 1801. Owing to construction difficulties goods were transhipped at Stoke Bruerne or Blisworth and conveyed in trucks on a railway to Blisworth or Stoke and then into barges again, until in 1805 the Blisworth Tunnel was completed and the canal navigable throughout its length from Brentford to Braunston where it was joined to the Oxford canal. Locally the boats were called barges but the correct name is narrow boat. A wharf seems to have been constructed at Yardley in 1801 on land belonging to the Duke of Grafton and was his property. It appears to have been let on a yearly tenancy to anyone who was prepared to have a go, but very few details have come to light about the early days. A licence to sell ale was granted primarily no doubt for the benefit of the boatmen. Until it was demolished some time after 1920 there was a large stone cottage a few yards to the left of the present house, and as the original outbuildings are also of stone, it seems likely that the present brick-built house came later.
The first landlord of the pub was Edward Charlton who was there in 1801 to at least 1823 when the Alehouse records cease to be available. In 1805 it was found that fish was being poached and Charlton was appointed to keep a watch in an endeavour to stop it. Poachers were threatened with prosecution. This same year a stout barge of 70 tons lying at the Wharf was advertised for sale, but no other details were available. The land near the Wharf was used by Mr. John Roper of Potterspury, land agent to the Duke, who held periodical auctions sales of his sheep from 1806 to 1820, when it was stated that a good dinner for 2/- a head would be provided by Charlton after the sale. The 1820 dinner was to consist partly of venison. The pub was referred to as the Grand Junction, sometimes the Navigation and once in 1822 as Peace and Plenty, but perhaps that was a joke. No information about the actual wharf or what Charlton did besides keep the pub is available until in 1838 Wm. Druce and Robert Warr announced their intention to supply coals, coke, deals, slates, bricks, tiles, lime, corn, hay, malt, hops, etc. Alas, this venture was not successful as two years later the partnership was dissolved, and a sale by Order of the Sheriff offered two coal boats, 2 mares, 2 sets of gearing, and three flock beds and blankets.
In 1845 a Miss Sarah Wells was listed as the landlady of the pub. She gave evidence in a trial of three men accused of stealing a valuable mare from a Puxley farmer. According to the Northampton Mercury Sergt. Gwynns of Potterspury and Inspector Kirby of Towcester searched diligently in all directions and the mare was discovered hauling a boat of coals towards London. The police went by train to Boxmoor and awaited the arrival of the boat there, and arrested the men all from Deanshanger, two of whom were known to be desperate characters. Two were acquitted and the other transported for life. Miss Wells was in the pub until at least 1849. She was probably employed by James Weston who was listed in Kelly’s Directory of 1847 as farmer, landlord of the Packhorse, and wharfinger. By 1850 she had been replaced by Miss Hard or Hurd. In 1860 James Weston was sued in connection with a load of hay bought at Buckingham and delivered by boat to Yardley Wharf. The verdict was in his favour. The 1861 census shows John Weston aged 25, at the pub, described as victualler and farmer’s son, with housekeeper and carter living in. Frederick another son of James was running the Packhorse, with a younger brother and housekeeper. James and Emma the parents were living in a farmhouse soon afterwards demolished, on the land on which Elmstead and the Red House were afterwards erected, and sold by James. In April 1862 James Weston advertised that he was leaving the Wharf and had for sale boat building plant, tools, 3 canal boats, 5 timber carriages, 3 carts, 2 waggons, etc. and household furniture.
James Weston was succeeded by James Warren who left The Reindeer at Potterspury where he had been landlord since 1845. His brother Daniel had established a successful business at Cosgrove as brewer and publican, hay, straw and coal dealer. He built the first brewery at Cosgrove, but after his death it was rebuilt by Francis Bull. James Warren was listed as wharfinger, victualler, coal dealer and farmer.
Just before Xmas 1875 the steam tug “Pincher” laden with 13 tons of potash and towing 5 boats with different cargoes arriving at the wharf at 4 o’clock in the morning, and had a load of maize for someone at Yardley. They had to wait till 5.30 when work commenced at the wharf, and not wishing to lose steam, gagged the valves. At 5 o’clock the boiler exploded the noise awoke all the village. Occupants of the other boats escaped, C. Wilson the village policeman hurried to the scene and got one man out, the boat then sank. At the inquest it was stated that two men had died of brain haemorrhage, they were not scalded. The captain, an old man, was asleep and the boat in charge of a young man. The captain said he had never known the man to gag valves, but the Resident Engineer of the Stem Boat Dept. there was nothing wrong and the valve must have been gagged. He knew the men did it and always discharged anyone caught. It was a common practice and very dangerous. The verdict was that there was no evidence to show the cause of the explosion. It was recommended that the men should have printed instructions, two men should not be asleep at the same time. Men under 20 should not drive, and the coroner concurred, adding that an old man like the Captain should be pensioned off.
In addition to the 19 acres of land which went with the Wharf James Warren rented two fields at the back of the village where new houses now stand. He was walking round those fields on a Sunday in 1882 when he collapsed and died. The Wharf business was carried on by his widow with some assistance by her son James Daniel (known as Dan). Towards the end of her life her son and his family left their home in the village and moved into the Wharf. When she died in 1899 Dan would have liked to take over the tenancy but he did not want to give up his job in Wolverton Railway works. The Railway Company would not allow their employees to hold a licence, and the Duke would not allow his tenant to give away the Licence, so having to make the choice Dan decided to give up the Wharf. The next tenant was William Wentworth from Braunston, and his son William succeeded him in 1914, at least. Kelly’s Directories were not published during the war.
In 1920 the Wharf was included in the sale of the Duke’s property when E. T. Cooper was the tenant at £90 per annum. The cottage and its buildings were included, and the total acreage was 43a.1r.39p so evidently included the two fields adjoining Horton’s field. It was not sold then, and was offered at a sale with other unsold properties sometime between 1934 and 1939. It was then bought by T. Oakley for £850, the acreage then shown as 19a.3r.30p. The cottage had by then been demolished. Kelly’s 1940 (the last Kelly’s to be published) showed the tenant as William John Clinton Evans. He was son-in-law of Cooper. It appears that Oakley had sold the Wharf to Lord Hesketh. Evans took a farm at Ashton and arranged to let the Wharf house to an evacuee from London, but lord Hesketh would not allow that, and granted the tenancy to William Edward Warren, who had left the Coffee Pot owing to a sharp incline in business owing to petrol rationing. Lord Hesketh later sold the Wharf to Warren who resold it to George Button but stayed as a tenant. On Button’s death in 1954 the Wharf was again up for sale, and bought by Warren’s son-in-law Norman Toombs of Calverton. He had cattle in the fields looked after by Ted Warren who had been a farmer in his younger days. When the Warrens left the Wharf on account of Mrs. Warren’s health, Toombs sold the house, but kept the fields.
With regards to stone used for roadmaking. It came from Leicestershire, not Staffordshire; it was purple tinged or streaked and known as archil stone. It was taken up to the workhouse to be broken up by tramps in return for a night’s lodging and breakfast. The residents did not do it. They were mostly old, infirm, mental, pregnant girls or deserted wives, and if able to, did laundry or housework of some sort. Some stone was also used as ballast in empty boats. Boatmen used to give Lucy Warren different sorts for her rockery.
From what I remember of boats on the canal when I was a girl and used to see them between Old Wolverton and Cosgrove Locks, they were mostly owned by Fellows, Moreton And Clayton, whose registered office was Enderby, Leics.
Copyright D Warren