Celebrating the part played by donkeys in operating canals in the 1800s, Sheila Wade of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust writes:
Living waterways transform places and enrich lives, and yes there is a connection between canals and donkeys.
Many canals, including the Wilts & Berks, when they were the main freight routes for the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, were powered by donkeys rather than by large cart horses such as Shires or Clydesdales, as is usually thought and portrayed in pictures.
There were many reasons for this – the narrowness of towpaths, heights of bridges and the cheaper purchase and running costs of donkeys’ versus horses.
Typically the barge donkeys worked as a pair or double hitch, or as a single hitch for small loads. And donkeys were also used in canal construction, treading on or ‘puddling’ the clay to make the bed canals watertight.
The Trust has a number of archive photos showing working donkeys on the Wilts & Berks canal. One shows the lock keeper of 7 locks in Dauntsey with his working donkey next to the lock stables.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust continue to celebrate this connection by their sponsorship and attendance at the Wiltshire Donkey Show in Dauntsey every September, where the driving donkeys are driven up to the canal near 7 Locks to receive Wilts & Berks Canal Trust commemorative rosettes and some carrots.
The show is affiliated to The Donkey Breed Society: www.donkeybreedsociety.co.uk a charity working to further the welfare of donkeys in the UK. Winners of show classes qualify for DBS national championships.
Come along on Sunday 4 September and see for yourself. For details visit www.wiltshiredonkeyshow.co.uk
Please help us celebrate the connection with donkeys by assisting our latest fundraising campaign donate.wbct.org.uk and help us to complete our Studley Grange flagship project.