The Three Horseshoes

About The Three Horseshoes



The Three Horseshoes hosts many events.


First Monday of the month is Comedy on the Canal. An absolute sell-out every month with top class comedians hosted by Duncan Oakley and frequently featuring the famous Robin Ince who hails from nearby Berkhamsted. Tickets £10 so book early and arrive before 7.30 if you wish to eat.
There was a Comedy Burns Night again this year with first class comedians with a "Scottish �twist'. Haggis, Neeps and Tatties were included in the ticket price. Our regulars were begging for seconds again!  Tickets were £15 including food.  If you missed it make sure you look out for it next year.
In December we have the Santa Sails to Winkwell event. Two boats strewn with bright fairy lights emerge from the inky blackness of the canal. Santa appears waving from the deck. As the boats dock outside the pub a Victorian style choir sing Christmas carols. Santa disembarks to greet the children then retires to his grotto to see them individually. The grown ups can treat themselves to hot turkey rolls and roast chestnuts.  This event was very successful this year with hundreds of children delighted by the boats and their visit to Santa.

The Building

The Three Horseshoes is located in the tiny hamlet of Winkwell lying between the railway line and the Grand Union Canal, in the parish of Bourne End. There are four terraced cottages, a modern bungalow, a big old house set in a large garden, another large house tucked behind the pub and not forgetting numerous canal boats moored in the boatyard. The road bridge which crosses the canal was originally a wooden swing bridge operated by a large wheel turned by hand. The operation was mechanized in the 1980s. It is one of just three such bridges on the southern Grand Union Canal.

The name Winkwell is thought to be, possibly, derived from old English Wincel, meaning a corner and weil (a spring or well).

The pub dates back in parts from 1535. It was once farm cottages with a shop to the rear and stables nearby. It was a regular stopping point for the bargees who would buy their groceries and refreshment here and stable their horses overnight. Canal horses were shoed in the village forge which was originally attached to the cottage next to the pub.


A Short History
When the earliest part of The Three Horseshoes was built in 1535 on the bank of the Bulbourne the land was leased from the College of Bonhommes, a monastic establishement founded in 1283 by Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, nephew of Henry III.  The monastery occupied the site of the present Ashridge estate and owned extensive lands including the manors of Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead and Gaddesden.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, (the College of Bonhommes was dissolved in 1539), Henry VIII appropriated Ashridge and its lands for his personal and sovereign use: so placing The Three Horseshoes in Crown Land.  Henry died in 1547 and in March 1550 the 13-year-old Edward VI gave these  lands to his favourite sister Elizabeth.  He died only 3 years later.  The Ashridge manors, mills, woodlands, pasturelands and watermeadows were then, in turn, given by Eliizabeth I to her favourite courtier Robert Dudley, created Earl of Leicester.  Rather ungratefully he promptly sold them the following month to Francis Earl of Bedford of nearby Chenies, Bucks; so that he could buy even more lavish gifts for his queen, vainly hoping to win her hand.  In the same year, 1547, two local families the Combes and the Grayes were allowed to buy a portion of the estate between Hemel and Bourned End which, in 1581, was acquired by yeomen John Rolfe and Willilam Gladman and Richard Pope, shoemaker, as a communal benefice.  That was the foundation of today's Boxmoor Trust.
Meanwhile, over at Ashridge, shortly after Elizabith's death, her Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Egerton bought the property and all its western estates in 1604.  His son John became the first earl of Bridgewater.  The fourth earl, Scroop Egerton, was created the first duke of Bridgewater.  The third duke, Francis, while on a Grand Tour in Europe, 1752-5 , was so impressed by the Languedoc Canal in France that upon his return to England he began to plan a waterway system to convey coal from his Lancashire estates to the new industrial hub of Manchester.  Using the expertise of James Brindley, he completed the Bridgewater Canal in 1776 and become the "Father of Inland Navigation".
On the family vault in Little Gaddesden church is the inscription "Impulit ille rates ubi duxit arartra colonus" (He sent barges where the farmer used to lead his ploughs).  Twenty years later William Jessop began work on the Grand Junction, (later the Grand Union) Canal: so linking the history of The Three Horseshoes from the monastic age though the Tudors, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution to the present day.

The Grand Union Canal

Authorised by an act of parliament in 1793 The Grand Junction Canal (later renamed the Grand Union Canal) was planned as a major trade route between London and Birmingham. A shortage of bricks delayed the completion of the Hemel Hempstead to Berkhamsted section until 1798 and the canal finally opened seven years later. For over 150 years the Grand Union offered a vital transport link for the Hertfordshire companies like Ovaltine, Dickinson's and Rose's Lime Juice which delivered its last load to Boxmoor in 1980.

Canal Wildlife

Although the Grand Union Canal is man made, during its 200 year existence it has developed a special natural history of its own. The towpath edge is home to many small mammals and birds. 70% of British wildflower species growing near fresh water occur next to canals and these are in turn hosts for a large insect population. Mallards, Moorhens and Swans are commonly seen nesting in the fringing vegetation.

Exploring the towpath

The towpath, which runs the length of the canal, offers the opportunity to explore the area, its history and wildlife.

Joseph Buck

Joseph Buck the Winkwell lock keeper was a popular local character who unfortunately drowned in his own lock in 1898. On his death certificate the reason was given as suffocation by drowning but there is no evidence to show by what means the deceased got into the water. However it was Christmas Day, the lock keepers cottage was next-door-but-one to The Three Horseshoes and December nights are very dark especially after a few drinks.
The railway opened in 1838 and closely follows the route of the canal. Robert Stephenson was the engineer and one of the elegant girder arch bridges crosses the canal below Winkwell.
Manure and timber from London and coal from Leicestershire were once offloaded from and taken by horse and cart to local farms and industry. Timber was transported to Ward's Sawmills now part of the Bourne End industrial estate and corn was carried by canal to the corn mill below Lock 59 now the Watermill Hotel. The gravel pit below Winkwell bottom Lock was worked out in the early 1900's and operated by Cranstone's. Although there is no longer any commercial traffic on the canal pleasure boating is growing. Before 1977 the Winkwell boatyard was a small holding.