Barkway Carriage Wash has been added to Historic England's National Heritage List of remarkable places.

Believed to be the earliest known example of a modern-day car wash, the Barkway site is one of 44 historic places added to the list from the east of England this year.

Barkway Carriage Wash, which is also known as a 'carriage splash', dates from 1600 and is one of only four such structures known in England.

Royston Crow: The historic carriage wash in BarkwayThe historic carriage wash in Barkway (Image: 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.

A carriage wash had two functions: to clean the wheels and name plates of coaches and to soak the wheels to prevent the wood from shrinking from the metal rims.

Water for the carriage wash came from an underground channel below the road, which consisted of a brick-lined structure with a gentle slope at one end leading into the water.

The structure was the right depth to submerge the wheels without flooding the carriage or being too deep for the horses, and was surrounded by brick retaining walls to hold in the water.

Barkway Carriage Wash was used into the 20th century, until carriages were replaced with motor cars.

Residents also remember it being used for filling steam tractors well into the 20th century.

Nationally, 227 historic buildings and sites have been added to the National Heritage List over the past year.

Historic England is running a Missing Pieces Project to uncover hidden histories. To get involved go to


Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: "A range of remarkable historic buildings and sites are added to the List each year and 2023 is no exception.

"We’ve examined and protected some amazing sites this year, which together give us a window into our rich and varied historic environment.

"The festive period is a great time to find out more about the historic places all around us.

"I encourage everyone to explore the heritage on our doorsteps and to add what they discover to our Missing Pieces Project for everyone to see and enjoy."