Jeremy’s @ The Boat House, the new bar and kitchen eatery to open in Brighouse has made it’s home the former premises of Sagar Marine Ltd boat building company, alongside the canal.
As you sit at Jeremy’s, it’s worth reflecting on the strategic and economic importance, over a period of nearly 200 years, of this site and the canal basin. Way back in the mid 1700s, long stretches of the River Calder were unnavigable and the contentious idea to construct a canal began to gather some momentum. Some mill owners strongly objected, fearing that the project would have a serious impact on their vital water supply.
In 1757 Parliament passed an act granting the construction of a canal from Wakefield to Salterhebble. Three years later Brighouse boasted its own canal, built by a certain James Smeaton (he of Eddystone Lighthouse fame) and ably assisted by James Brindley who would become one of the country’s leading canal engineers.
Quite simply, it transformed Brighouse. The canal basin rapidly became a hub of industry receiving and transporting non-perishable goods and materials along the canal networks to large coastal ports and eventually on to ocean going vessels. Brighouse had become an exporting town!
J&H Noble constructed the first mill on this site in 1837 with others soon following. Silk waste dressing and then silk spinning became large and lucrative industries employing hundreds of people for over fifty years.
The canal basin was built in 1849 (the United States was at war with Mexico in case you didn’t know) alongside what would become the Victoria Mills complex or Baines Square named after a nineteenth century entrepreneur, Samuel Baines.
The town’s cotton industry also flourished on this site and was soon employing as many workers as the silk businesses.
In a trade directory from 1905, where you are seated today was described as a Navigation Warehouse and occupied by just one of many businesses known the as canal carriers. But as railway and road transportation began their inexorable expansion in the latter half of the nineteenth century (Brighouse opened its first railway station in 1840) the canal network began its inevitable decline.
We have endeavoured to restore the Boathouse to its former glory – and then some. So as you gaze out across the placid waters of the canal basin, close your eyes for a brief moment and imagine the hive of industry that established Brighouse’s prosperity all those years ago. And maybe raise a glass in gratitude.
Today the canal has seen a new lease of life with pleasure boats. As you sit in Jeremy’s @ the Boat House and look out across the canal basin try and imagine the bygone era when it was a thriving inland port.