The Mew Family
The reminiscences of Bob Grace . . .
The Mew family have worked on the canal for many, many, years (all very skilled tradesmen), and in their spare time they used to make little model engines similar to the ones they were working.

When there was a dry time on the canal, the water had to be pumped back to the Tring Summit and they had a set of engines known as the Northern Engines, and this was so engineered that the water could be pumped back from as far as Leighton Buzzard to the Tring Summit by this relay of engines all pumping away so that the same lock of water was never wasted. 

You might wonder how the water got to Tringford pumping station from the reservoirs.  This itself was a great engineering feat because they drove culverts through from Wilstone reservoir under the hill which surrounds it to Tringford through the chalk by tunnelling - the men working on their hands and knees to clear the very hard chalk at that depth.  There was no brick lining or anything like that, they just dug the chalk tunnel through to Tringford. 

At the present day (1979), the tunnel from Startops End reservoir has collapsed underneath the Tringford reservoir and they are spending thousands of pounds trying to repair it, but the old original tunnel from Wilstone is still there, and it must be something like well over 100 feet (30 metres) deep at its deepest point and it was all done by men on their hands and knees. 

Years ago, at Bulbourne works you could still see the special corduroy trousers that were issued to these men.  They were extremely heavy and thick so that they could work on their knees, and they were so stiff that an ordinary person could not manage to get into them.
Bulbourne Works in its heyday.
Lock gates were made at the Bulbourne Works.  These days they have much machinery but in the beginning the whole work was done by pitsaw which was terribly hard work.  Trees were cut down and sawn up to make the lock gates and the sills for the gates and so on, which were all extremely heavy pieces of timber.

[Biographic notes, c.1977] Bob Grace lived in Tring for most of his life.  He was born at Parsonage Farm, which formerly stood on the site of Bishop Wood School.  As a boy he attended the old National School at Tring.

He worked in Tring all his life and eventually joined the family’s corn and milling business which had been in existence for 250 years before it ceased in about 1977.