brief background to the Thames - Severn Link
waterway between the rivers Thames and Severn consists of two
canals which meet end on in Stroud. The first to open was the
Stroudwater Canal which was build between 1775 and 1779 but was itself
the third in a series of attempts to link the woolen mills of Stroud
to the River Severn. It is a broad canal designed to take Severn Trow
of up to 68ft in length and a beam of 15 ft. These craft could carry
cargos of up to 100 tons. The Thames & Severn Canal was
built between 1783 and 1789 and was a much greater engineering feat
as it climbed to Sapperton Tunnel which pierced the Cotswold Scarp.
The tunnel was the longest built at the time of construction but was
also of one of the largest in cross section.
completion of the T&S Canal provided the first inland
waterway route between London and the Midlands but the poor state of
the Thames navigation upstream of Oxford was to greatly limit the
success of the through route.
of the Kennet and Avon Canal captured most of the
Bristol trade and the coming of the railways in the mid 1840s started a
slow decline in trade from which the canals would never recover.
level of the T&S Canal always required careful
maintenance and water supplies from the River Churn in Cirencester
needed to be supplemented by pumping at Thames Head using a beam
trade declined in the late 19th century, the water levels on the
summit were frequently allowed to drop to levels which caused
navigation to become impossible.
Canal's plight became worse when control of the canal
company fell into the hands of the Great Western Railway who, in the
1890s, sought to close the eastern part of the canal. A Trust was
formed to restore the canal but this ran out of money and
Gloucestershire County Council took over. The GCC did reopen the canal
turn of the century but the levels of trade were insufficient to
justify maintenance costs and the last boat traversed the whole
canal in 1911. The canal east of Chalford was abandoned in 1927
and the rest in 1933.
Stroudwater Navigation did not suffer the high maintenance costs
of its younger brother and successfully captured a considerable amount
of local trade, mainly supplying coal to the many mills in the
Stroud Valley. However, commercial traffic ceased in WW2 and the
canal was formally closed in 1954 although
The Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation , its
owners, continued to exist.
T&S Canal and the Stroudwater Navigation are the
of restoration proposals. The
Cotswold Canals Trust has
spear headed the campaign for 40 years and a breakthrough means
that the project to fully restore these canals
is being backed by the Cotswold Canals Partnership, whose
members include the
Environment Agency, Natural England and all the Local Authorities along
the whole route.
The initial phase of substantial restoration, Phase 1A, has cost about
£20m to fully restore the length between Stonehouse and Hope Mill near
Brimscombe. Plans are advancing to fully redevelop Brimscombe
Port. This 6 mile length
is arguably the most difficult in the whole 36 mile route.
other sections and structures of the canal have been restored with some
navigation including some of the flight of locks at Eastington. The
current challenge is to restore the 4 mile long Phase 1B length needed
to connect Phase 1A to the rest of the national inland waterway network
at Saul Junction. This is also expected to cost about £20 million.
Progress on other sections of the rest are also taking place and
it is hoped that these will accelerate as more of the canal re-opens.