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British Industrial History

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Basingstoke Canal

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1769 A plan was made for a 19-mile canal from Basingstoke to join a proposed canal from Reading to Maidenhead

1776 The plan was revised to link with the Thames via the Wey Navigation

1778 The Basingstoke Canal was authorised in 1778 by Act of Parliament which authorised the formation of the Basingstoke Canal Navigation Company. It was an unusual canal, in that it was planned as an agricultural waterway, to carry produce from Hampshire to London and to bring coal in return.

Construction was delayed by the financial crisis during the American War of Independence.

1787 an estimate of traffic was made, and subscriptions were invited. By March 1788 £86,000 had been raised. William Jessop was appointed Surveyor and Consultant Engineer. The construction contract was awarded to John Pinkerton

1791 the Canal was opened from Woodham to Horsell.

By 1792 the Canal was opened to Pirbright. By August 34 of the 37 miles of canal had been dug, 24 of the 29 locks constructed, 52 bridges and 4 lock houses built

The Basingstoke Canal Co ran out of funds, and had to obtain a second Act of Parliament to authorise the raising of more capital.

1794 The Canal was finally opened to Basingstoke

Several plans were advanced to continue the canal to the coast but they were never carried out. Eventually an alternative link was made from London to South Coast by the Wey and Arun Canal which opened in 1816. Water supply to the summit pounds was also a problem. A scheme for the Portsmouth, Southampton and London Junction Canal included either a railway or tunnel at the summit to solve the problem of water supply.

In 1825 it was planned to build the Berks and Hants Canal, linking the Basingstoke with the Kennet and Avon Canal.

c.1840 Once the London and Southampton Railway had opened, trade on the canal slumped. Price-cutting by both companies continued throughout the 1840s.

1862 the Company increased tolls but trade declined rapidly,

1866 The Basingstoke Canal Co went into liquidation.

After this the Canal was owned by a series of speculative companies, all of which failed.

1923 Purchased by A. J. Harmsworth, whose family had been connected with the canal since 1840; he carried on business using the lower reaches of the canal.

1932 part of Greywell Tunnel collapsed. Portions of the canal west of the tunnel were sold. The wharf at Basingstoke was sold in 1936, and is now the site of a bus station.

1937 Owned by the Weybridge, Woking and Aldershot Canal Co

1947 The Basingstoke Canal remained in private ownership when the British Transport Commission took over the inland waterways. When A.J.Harmsworth died that year, his four sons decided to sell it.

1949 The canal was purchased by Mrs Joan Marshall with private finance from Mr S.E.Cooke, an engineer and inventor. The canal was eventually acquired by the New Basingstoke Canal Company Ltd. with S. E. Cooke as Managing Director; Mrs Marshall was general manager until 1964.

1950s the canal gradually deteriorated and trade disappeared.

1966 The Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society was formed to campaign for the full restoration of the canal.

1973 Hampshire County Council took possession of the western end of the canal and Surrey C.C. acquired the eastern half by negotiation in 1976.

By volunteer effort, 32 miles of the canal were restored

1991 The canal was re-opened

See Also


Sources of Information

  • History of the Basingstoke Canal [1]