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Last glimpse of canal
BUILDERS redeveloping Chippenham bus station uncovered a part of the town's history that has now disappeared forever.
The end section of the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal, last used in 1912 for transporting coal and beer, revealed itself at the construction site in Timber Street for one last time on Tuesday before being buried again for good yesterday.
In near perfect condition, with the base still covered in blue-grey sealing clay, the three sides of the canal were clearly visible among the builders' rubble.
Archaeologist Timothy Longman, who was on site to document the process, recovered a number of objects from the bottom of the canal that have been buried for more than 90 years.
He said: "The canal fell into disrepair and it was used by the people of the town as a tip. I have found beer bottles, metalwork and a millstone."
Mike Stone, curator of Chippenham Museum in Market Place, said: "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an important part of our town's history.
"It is the last time anyone will ever see the end section of the canal before it is covered over with concrete. The builders have given us some old artefacts to examine including bottles, which provide a fascinating glimpse into the past. I am just glad I could see it for myself. It is absolutely great."
Workmen uncovered a 12ft-long section of the canal but the waterway stretches for miles.
It snakes away from Timber Street up to Pewsham, through Chippen-ham Tunnel, which is still intact but blocked up.
The site in Timber Street was known as Chippenham Wharf.
It was the home of Brinkworth's Coal Depot, from 1828.
The canal was drained in 1912 after the railways took over the transport of more and more goods.
In 1916 residents began to use it as a refuse tip and records from council minutes in 1926 show a decision was taken to dump pig offal in the disused waterway.
After the site was filled in the bus station was built on the site in 1977.
Mr Longman said: "We did not expect to find any part of the canal intact and would never have had the chance to see it, if it were not for this improvement work to the bus station.
"It is a real bonus to see. I imagine the wharf used to be a delightful little place when the long boats made their way here."