Context 170 - December 2021

18 C O N T E X T 1 7 0 : D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1 lock islands have individual statutory protection. On Diglis the workshops and terrace of cottages are both listed Grade II; at Holt Island the lock- keeper’s cottage is also Grade II. The pair of locks and derrick crane are on theWorcester City local list, and both Diglis and Bevere Islands lie within conservation areas, but for the remaining sites and their assets there are no additional planning controls. It is fortunate that nearly all the original buildings at the lock islands have survived; only the cottage at Bevere has been replaced with a modern dwelling. Responsibility for the Severn Navigation and ownership of the lock islands now rests with the Canal and River Trust. Although most of the cottages have been sold off, those without designation do have restrictive covenants imposed to deter unsympathetic alterations in the future. While the locks are still in full usage, gener- ally serving leisure boats rather than commercial craft, the Diglis workshops have been through some difficult times. Lock-gate manufacture on the island ceased in the 1990s and the buildings subsequently became little more than storage depots, with increasing deterioration. Finding an alternative use was particularly challenging faced with the significant problems of limited access and risk of flooding. Fortunately things have improved, first with a new tenant for the blacksmith’s shop in 2016 and more recently with the implementation of a major environmen- tal project, Unlocking the Severn. One result of the construction of the weirs in the 1840s was the interruption of migra- tory journeys upriver for spawning fish such as salmon, eels and, especially, the twaite shad. In earlier times the shad had been abundant on the Severn but it is now one of the UK’s rarest fish. Awareness that the ecology of our rivers, lakes and coastal waters has been seriously damaged by human interventions led to the develop- ment of the EU Water Framework Directive in 2000. One aim was to improve river basins to Good Ecological Status. Unlocking the Severn plans to do this by restoring 158 miles of river habitat while also engaging with local communi- ties. The project, grant aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and EU LIFE Programme, is a partnership led by the Canal and River Trust, with Severn Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England. It will create fish passage for shad and other species across six barriers on the Severn and Teme, and is due to conclude in 2022. The very significant works have involved cutting through the historic weirs at Diglis, Holt and Lincomb, and the creation of a bypass channel at Bevere, with potential for impacts on buried archaeology. All of this required considerable preparation to minimise damage to the heritage value of the sites and where nec- essary undertake appropriate mitigation. The project also provided an opportunity to restore and convert the Diglis workshop. It is now a hub for Unlocking the Severn and a museum space suitable for educational and public visits. The workshop retains its heavy machinery and work benches, including the giant mortiser used to make the lock gate joints, and has a display of the hand tools used there in the 19th and 20th centuries. Two things have helped to preserve the herit- age value of the lock islands. One is that after nearly 180 years the navigation continues to function largely in the same way as when it was constructed.The other factor is the commitment by the Canal and River Trust, and before it BritishWaterways, to protect their historic estate. The workshops David Viner worked as a heritage adviser for BritishWaterways and the Canal and River Trust until his retirement in 2020. He led on heritage support for the Unlocking the Severn project.

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