A family firm in the Harborough district that started with a sunken boat, celebrated its 50th anniversary at the weekend.
Foxton Boat Services Ltd., based at Foxton Locks, was founded in May, 1966 by Tony Matts.
He and some friends had bought a sunken boat at Foxton as a project.
“As he worked on the boat, people kept asking him where they could get an ice cream or a cup of tea locally,” said Tony’s wife Mary.
“Eventually he gave up his job as a physicist and opened a small shop and tea room here at Foxton Locks.”
Today, four members of the Matts family are involved in the company - Tony, his wife Mary, their son Sam and their daughter Hannah Hemington.
The company currently runs the Bridge 61 pub, a canalside shop, a trip boat, day hire boats and a boat maintenance and repair service.
“I think the key is we’ve always tried to cover what was needed here at Foxton Locks,” said Mary.
“We even built a pub, because at the time there wasn’t one here.
“We’ve just responded to what visitors want here, and the boaters that come through want here.”
Mary said there had been many changes at Foxton Locks in the 50 years since the family firm first started there.
“People have always come to visit,” she said. “But since the explosion in leisure time it’s built up and up and up.
“I think the reason why it’s still so popular is there’s something here for everybody.
“The Foxton Locks engineering is spectacular of course, then there’s the history, the wildlife, the boats, the walks, the attractions including the museum and the beautiful Leicestershire countryside. And you don’t have to pay to get onto the site.”
Around 300,000 people visit Foxton Locks every year says the Canal and River Trust.
The Grade II* listed Foxton Locks, completed in 1814, is the largest flight of “staircase locks” on the English canal system.
In 2008, the locks became part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage, a network which seeks to recognize the most important industrial heritage sites in Europe.