Northampton park without a boathouse for the first time in almost 100 years

The boathouse site yesterday
The boathouse site yesterday

Becket’s Park is without a boathouse building for the first time in about 100 years after it was demolished to make way for a new bridge.

Built in the early 1900s near the park’s lock, the most of the original was burnt down by vandals in December 1989 and a new one put up, but there has always been a boathouse on that spot.

The remnants of the Becket's Park boathouse after the fire in December 1989.

The remnants of the Becket's Park boathouse after the fire in December 1989.

However, the site now stands empty after builders knocked the structure down in preparation for a bridge that will connect the park to the developing University of Northampton Waterside campus.

Tony Watts, who sold pleasure trips from the boathouse for 48 years up until 2010, said he was saddened.

“It was a landmark building and everyone in Northampton would know exactly where you meant if you said ‘the boathouse’,” he said.

“It’s really sad that there has been something in that spot for 100 years and its unlikely there’ll ever be another building there.”

The new boathouse opening ceremony in July 1991.

The new boathouse opening ceremony in July 1991.

The older boathouse would hire out canoes and rowing boats to generations of Northampton families.

It was virtually all destroyed by a fire in 1989 and then rebuilt less than two years later from brick and steel, covered by wood panelling, which the Chron described at the time as “vandal-proof”.

The intervening time saw the park’s pavilion cafe shut because it had to be used as a boat store.

In their time, the two buildings - both owned by Northampton Borough Council - hired out a variety of pleasure boats ranging from punts, rowing boats (including ‘clinker’ boats), motorboats and a 12-seater trip vessel.

Becket's Park boathouse pictured in 2010

Becket's Park boathouse pictured in 2010

The boating service was terminated in 2010, when the building was bought by the Environment Agency in the run-up to the new marina being built.

It was to be converted into a visitor’s centre, but the scheme was quickly overtaken by plans for the new campus, which included a new pedestrian bridge through the small island.

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said it had discounted other possible routes for the new bridge because putting it through the bigger island would have breached the security of the marina.

And they argued that the bridge had to go through the boathouse site because any nearer to the lock would have prevented maintenance to the gates.

A spokeswoman for the university added: “Extensive consultation was undertaken with the Environment Agency and Northampton Borough Council (as landowners) in relation to the footbridge and its route, supported by the public consultation undertaken as part of the planning process.

“There were identified constraints relating to the marina, the locks and ensuring regulatory heights above the water level, which determined the proposed route of the bridge. The bridge is due to be completed in autumn 2016.”