A history of Key Events at Lower Foxhangers over the years.
Foxhangers Canal Holidays launch their 17th narrowboat ‘Wily Fox’ into their hire fleet.
Construction of the 250 berth Caen Hill Marina was completed. The marina now stands in a former 13 acre field previously called ‘Wharf Ground’ at Lower Foxhangers Farm.
Foxhangers Canal Holidays build their first boat and start trading as a hire boat company. This boat was funded in part from the estate of the late Grace Malin, a regular Bed & Breakfast guest at Foxhangers over the previous 20 years.
Because a large volume of water is needed for the Caen Hill Locks to operate, a back pump was installed at Lower Foxhangers on land donated by the Fletchers. The pump is capable of returning 32 million litres of water per day to the top of the flight, which is equivalent to one lockful every eleven minutes.
It is from this hillside, wooded during Saxon times, that Foxhangers is named. ‘Hangra’ was a Saxon word for a wooded hillside, and is a component of a number of place names in southern England.
In Foxhangers recent history over the last 20 years,around 9,500 different groups of boating holiday makers have started a canal holiday from Foxhangers. In 2017 our 20th year we expect to welcome our 10,000th group of boating holiday makers!
The area of Foxhangers lies 2 miles west of and 237 feet below the small market town of Devizes in central Wiltshire, England.
Foxhangers has had a varied past, diversifying through many trends in an area that has predominately been reliant on agriculture. Earliest records of ‘Voxhangre’ date back to 798 AD, it is fair to say that Foxhangers has never reached great heights in terms notoriety or indeed wealth. It has though witnessed several significant events and has evolved considerably in the last 200 years since the industrial revolution and advent of transportation when both the Kennet & Avon Canal was built in 1790 and the Great Western Railway was constructed in 1854.
Foxhangers is unique, whilst positioned at the start of the Caen Hill Locks, its rural location amongst the rolling hills is exceptionally peaceful, and there’s more than a twist of intrigue with its connection to the canal and railway industrial heritage in times both past and present
Since 1954, three generations of the Fletcher family have lived
and operated Lower Foxhangers Farm whilst also diversifying
into self-catering, camping and farmhouse B&B holidays since
1974 and then canal boat hire since 1997.
Today Foxhangers Wharf still shows remnants of the way life
used to be, having been along the route of the old Wilts
Somerset and Weymouth Railway Branch Line between Holt and
Patney and Chirton. The broad gauge railway was closed as part
of the 1963 Beeching Axe.
Today, the Kennet and Avon Canal plays an important role in
tourism and leisure as well as being a valuable asset to wildlife
More can be learned of the history of the canal by visiting the
Kennet and Avon Canal Trust who have a Museum at the Wharf
Lower Foxhangers Farm during the period when the Kennet & Avon canal was closed - farming was the only option.
In the early 1990’s Russell and Shelley the third generation of Fletchers started playing around on boats on the Kennet & Avon - the current Managing Director of Foxhangers is seen here on his first boat an electric day boat he hired to guests staying on the campsite at Lower Foxhangers.
Foxhangers snack bar offering refreshments to the canal users from 1992-1994.
Brother and sister Russell and Shelley’s first joint venture they ran together on
weekends in the summer months whilst studying
And with much support and help from many people in 1997 they founded
Foxhangers Canal Holidays, note since the picture above Foxhangers have honed
the art of launching canal boats considerably!!!
Bradford on Avon
Foxhangers re-incarnated as a hire boat base from 1997.
Colin Fletcher opened a small purpose built offline moorings basin which to this day provides 22 berths.
A visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 to officially re-open the Caen Hill locks, although the western end of the K&A had been navigable for a number of years before then. This was the culmination of a major clearing and rebuilding operation largely from volunteers since the 1960s.
The first ‘Mallard’ canal boats were built at Foxhangers out of converted farm sheds.
Colin Fletcher opened his adjoining farmland to a few boaters and offered them private moorings to keep their boats. This process grew more popular over the next 25 years culminating in the opening of Caen Hill Marina’s 250 berth marina at Lower Foxhangers.
The Kennet and Avon western navigation was re-opened up to Foxhangers. This event was celebrated annually for several years by a large boat rally known as ‘The Foxhangers Boat Rally’ it attracted around 40-50 of hardy boaters who were able to negotiate the low water levels and difficult locks and swingbridges from Bath to Foxhangers.
The first Self Catering holiday home was opened. Foxhangers was well on its way to diversification from farming to tourism and leisure services.
The campsite at Foxhangers was first opened by Colin and Cynthia Fletcher.
Russell Fletcher son of Colin & Cynthia was born, Russell would later found Foxhangers Canal Holidays along with his sister and parents in 1997.
Colin & Cynthia Fletcher having had their first child Shelley started operating farmhouse Bed & Breakfast in the summer months, in order to support a struggling farm.
Colin & Cynthia Fletcher the second generation of Fletchers at Foxhangers, moved into Foxhangers after a 5 years stint living in Australia.
The Devizes Railway Line which had split Foxhangers in half was closed in 1966 under the Beeching Axe. Closure was blamed on its low population, awkward geography and reduced traffic due to competition from the Chirton to Westbury line.
Paul Fletcher MP grandson of Thomas & Leslie Fletcher was born in Devizes. Paul who would later on become a high profile politician in Australia spent a short period of his early at life at Foxhangers before emigrating aged 2. In September 2015 Paul was appointed Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects in the Australian Outer Ministry.
The first generation of the current occupants of Foxhangers Thomas Leslie Fletcher aged 47 and his wife Betty Fletcher and five children moved to Lower Foxhangers Farm from a farm near Shaftesbury.
After the coming of the railways, the canal fell into disuse and was closed. The last cargo through the flight was a consignment of grain conveyed from Avonmouth to Newbury in October 1948.
William Walter Buckland a London Businessman who supplied fine furniture to Harrods, bought Foxhangers having sold up his business interests in London.
Jacob and Louisa Grist, great grandparents of Nigel Grist founder of Wiltshire Waste operated a dairy farm at Lower Foxhangers.
Construction of the Wiltshire, Somerset and Weymouth Railway Devizes Branch line which crossed over Foxhangers Wharf and bisected the farm. The railway did allow for Foxhangers milk to be taken to London.
Opening of Caen Hill Locks that start at Foxhangers - the 29 locks have a rise of 237 feet in 2 miles (72 m in 3.2 km). This flight of locks was engineer John Rennie’s solution to climbing the very steep hill, and was the last part of the 87 mile route of the canal to be completed. In the early 19th century, 1829-43, the flight was lit by gas lights.
The Kennet and Avon Canal was built. Although western navigation from Bristol finished at Foxhangers until the locks at Caen Hill were opened 1810. Foxhangers was an important dock for twenty years during this period as it was where goods had to be loaded/unloaded from Barges and transported by horse drawn tramway for 2 miles up between Foxhanger Wharf and Devizes Wharf.
Lower Foxhangers Farmhouse built and operated as a cheese making dairy.
Jone Foxhangre became the last person to live at Foxhangers with the Foxhangre surname when she married John Flower.
Walter de Foxhangre moves to Foxhangers. This is the first written record of anyone taking Foxhangers as their surname. The Foxhangre family lived at Foxhangers for 250 years.
Land at Foxhangers passed to Priory of Monkton Farley.
During 12th century civil war, Empress Maude gave a hide of land at Foxhangers to her supporters ‘The Bohun Family’ after the battle of Trowbridge Castle.
Earliest surviving record of ‘Voxhangres’.
Its more than just opening and closing locks this job! There are real problems with water running short when it gets busy, and I have to keep the Inspector informed of any problems.
Wages aren't great and some of my colleagues have been known to make a small charge to passing boats! The company doesn't look too kindly on that sort of thing though. I got a memo from the company the other day saying how we are to stop rowing boats and other pleasure craft from using the canal on a Sunday!
Foxhangers evolution to become a major canal location once again, culminated in 2012 with a four million pound construction project and the opening of 250 berth Caen Hill Marina. Built in a former 13 acre field that had previously been farmed by three generations of the Fletcher family and all other occupants of Foxhangers over the last 1000 years. Nowadays Foxhangers is largely reliant on leisure with campsite, self-catering accommodation, canal boat moorings and of course canal boat holiday hire. Some industry does still remain, the former farm buildings over the last 25 years have been converted and re-used for facilitating our traditional canal boat building.
Caen Hill Flight Circa 1900 1997 Foxhangers First Hire Boat