‘Mr Foxton Locks’ steps down

Front, Mike Beech curator of Foxton museum during his surprise retirement party.
PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
Front, Mike Beech curator of Foxton museum during his surprise retirement party. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

He’s been associated with Foxton Locks since 1980, and in charge of the museum there since 1989.

Now ‘Mr Foxton Locks’ Mike Beech - the man who turned his favourite hobby into his job - is stepping down from full-time work there.

Thirty people attended a surprise retirement party for him last week.

Mr Beech said: “It was great to meet everybody at the party.

“And how many people have a job where they can look out of the door and see something as wonderful as Foxton Locks and the Leicestershire countryside?”

Foxton Inclined Plane Trust began in 1980 as a Society, with the original dream of re-building the unique Inclined Plane which once carried boats up the hill at Foxton.

Market Harborough born-and-bred Mr Beech said: “I always loved boats and had a canal boat moored at the bottom of the Inclined Plane in Foxton.

“So when a Society was set upto look after the Inclined Plane, I went along to the meeting and became the first chairman.”

Mike had worked in the motor trade and also for Monk’s Furnishers, but said “I had a boat before I had a car”.

He said he had been interested in boats, canals and their history since going for walks along the canal bank as a child.

“And Market Harborough was also once a major boat building centre, of course.”

But he said: “I left Welland Park school with practical skills. If you’d told me then I would one day be sitting in front of a computer and running a museum, I would have been astonished.”

Nevertheless when the Museum was set up in the re-built Foxton Locks Boiler House, Mike was the obvious choice as the first curator.

In the years since, he has helped build and expand the 21st century Museum at the heart of a top tourist destination.

“The best parts were meeting all sorts of people and learning the history” he said.

Why does he think Foxton Locks is so popular?

“It’s the place in south Leicetershire where people bring their visitors. And if you want it to be, it’s a very low-cost place to visit.”

As for a restored Inclined Plane, at the moment the running costs and setting up costs look too much.

But Mike said: “We only need a rich footballer...”

Now in his semi-retirement, Mike plans to tour Britain with his newly acquired 1970s caravan.