Signed Limited Edition Print by Margaret Clarkson
“Bawtry wharf in about 1700” – The Story behind the Painting
Every major road into Bawtry used to have a sign saying “Welcome to Bawtry – 12th century port”. This confused people because there was no river in the town, let alone a port.
In fact, the River Idle used to loop into the edge of town, and the wharf was just behind St Nicholas church. Bawtry was one of England’s busiest inland ports, certainly since medieval times and possibly earlier. It was probably at its peak in 1700, but was still going at the start of the 19th century. It closed in 1857 when the existing railway viaduct was built and caused the river to be diverted away from the town.
Bawtry wharf served agriculture and industry in the region, notably the West Riding, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. A wide array of goods were carried to Bawtry by carts and pack mules – lead, cast and wrought iron, edged tools, millstones, coal, timber, cereals, wool, cloth and animal hides. They would be loaded into sailing barges at the wharf, and shipped to Hull via the Trent and Humber. From there, they were trans-shipped to London, the Low Countries, the Baltic, and Scandinavia. “Imports” included iron ore, copper, tin, flax, hemp and timber.
Bawtry Heritage Group decided to try to bring this crucial part of Bawtry’s history alive by commissioning a painting from Margaret Clarkson to show what the wharf would have looked like in around 1700. What is shown in the painting is historically accurate – the barges, ox and mule carts, the crane, a warehouse with a “taking-in” door at its first floor, the scales, an excise man. A millstone is being loaded into the barge. The position of St Nicholas church on the right is accurate. The “Wharf Tavern” on the left is our invention – but probably a reasonable one.
David Kirkham, Chair of Bawtry Heritage Group – email@example.com