Barkway Carriage Wash

Jan 3, 2024 0 comments

What looks like a pool of stagnant water by the side of the road in Royston, in Hertfordshire, is really the oldest carriage wash in the world. The Barkway Carriage Wash, also known as the Wagon Wash, dates back to the 1600 and is one of only four such structures known in England.

The carriage wash is a brick-lined structure with a gentle slope leading into water, which is drawn from an underground channel. This allowed carriages to be driven into the water to clean the coach wheels and nameplates without flooding the interior. The carriage wash also allowed the wheels to be soaked, which prevented the wood from shrinking from the metal rims. In warm, dry weather, wooden wheels could shrink, causing the spokes to fall out.

Photo credit: Historic England Archive

During the heyday of the coaching era, Barkway was an important stop-over en route from London to Cambridge and the north of England. The carriage wash is known to have been used into the 20th century until cars became more widely used. Later, steam tractors used the carriage wash to fill their boilers with water.

The Barkway site was added to the National Heritage List in 2023.

Photo credit: Historic England Archive

Photo credit: Historic England Archive


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