Thames and Severn Canal

Thames and Severn Canal

Stroudwater Navigation

1 Wallbridge Lower Lock

A419 road bridge

2 Wallbridge Upper Lock

Railway bridge

A419 road bridge

3 Bowbridge Lock

4 Griffins Mill Lock

5 Ham Mill Lock

6 Hope Mill Lock

7 Goughs Orchard Lock

Brimscombe Port

8 Bourne Lock

Railway bridge

9 Beales Lock

10 St Marys Lock

Railway bridge

A419 road bridge

14-16 Bell/Red Lion/Valley Lock (3)

17-18 Bakers Mill Locks

19-21 Puck Mill Locks

22-28 Daneway Locks (7)

Sapperton Tunnel

A433 road bridge

A429 aqueduct

Cirencester Branch

29-32 Siddington Locks (4)

33-35 South Cerney Locks (3)

36 Boxwell Springs Lock

37-38 Wildmoorway Locks (2)

39 Cerney Wick Lock

North Wilts Canal

proposed diversion

A419 road bridge

40 Latton Lock

A419 road bridge

41 Eysey Lock

42-43 Dudgrove Double Lock (2)

River Thames to Cricklade

44 Inglesham Lock

River Coln

The Thames and Severn Canal is a (former) canal in Gloucestershire in the south of England, completed in 1789. Its eastern end is Inglesham Lock near Lechlade where it connects with the River Thames. Its western end is Wallbridge near Stroud, where it connects with the end of the Stroudwater Navigation. It has one short arm (branch), from Siddington to the town of Cirencester. Competition from the railways removed much of the canal's traffic by the end of the 19th century, and most of the canal was abandoned in 1927, the remainder in 1941. Since 1972, the Cotswold Canal Trust has been working to restore the canal as a navigation, with some sections now in water. The intention is to re-open the whole canal, although some major engineering obstacles will need to be overcome to achieve this.

An Act for the construction of the canal was passed in 1783. Josiah Clowes was appointed head engineer, surveyor and carpenter to the canal in 1783 to assist Robert Whitworth. Clowes became resident engineer and was paid £300 per year. Clowes' work on the canal gave him a reputation which made him highly sought after in the last five years of his life. He left the construction of the canal shortly before completion to work on Dudley Tunnel. The canal was completed in 1789 at a cost of £250,000. With the Stroudwater Navigation, which had been completed in 1779, it completed a link between the River Severn and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal in the west and the River Thames in the east. Both the Stroudwater Navigation and Thames and Severn Canal are "broad canals". This means that boats with a 14 ft (4.3 m) beam could use them. The Thames and Severn Canal was just under 28.7 miles (46.2 km) long and had 44 locks. The branch to Cirencester added a further 1.5 miles (2.4 km). The canal's summit is 363 feet (111 m) above sea level and includes the 2.1-mile (3.4 km) Sapperton Tunnel. At the time of its completion, this tunnel was the longest in England. The canal always had problems with its water supply due to springs breaking through the clay lining of the canal bed. In summer when the springs receded, water was lost through these holes at a rate greater than the available supply. In one of the attempts to rectify this problem, the size of the locks was reduced which resulted in their unusual double headed appearance. In a further attempt to prevent water loss, at King's Reach, the section immediately east of Sapperton Tunnel, the canal was lined with concrete rather than puddle clay. In 1819 another canal company, the North Wilts Canal, completed a link between the Wilts and Berks Canal at Swindon and the Thames and Severn Canal at Latton. As the 19th century progressed, railway competition took much traffic from the canals. The Thames and Severn Canal was in economic difficulties by the 1890s. Much of the canal, including Sapperton Tunnel, was abandoned in 1927. Poor water supply, in large part due to a lack of reservoirs and their maintenance, also contributed to its demise. A western section survived in use until 1933, and the Stroudwater Navigation was not abandoned until 1941.

Volunteers for the Cotswold Canal Trust have been working since 1972 to restore both the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames and Severn Canal. The trust has rebuilt a number of locks and bridges and some small sections of the route are now in water. The first phase will be the reopening of the Stroudwater Navigation between Stonehouse and Wallbridge and the Thames and Severn Canal between Wallbridge and Brimscombe Port. The original line of the Stroudwater Navigation between Stonehouse and Saul Junction on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal has been divided by both the construction of the M5 motorway and development of the A38 trunk road. The trust will conserve this section of the route until alternative links under these roads can be devised and funded. Restoring the central section of the Thames and Severn Canal will also pose engineering difficulties: firstly to overcome the water supply that was always inadequate, and secondly because Sapperton Tunnel is blocked by two rock falls. Restoration of the eastern section between Latton and Lechlade could be more promising. It would form a link between the upper Thames, the North Wilts Canal and the Wilts and Berks Canal. Since June 2010 the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) have been fundraising to enable Inglesham lock and around 420 yards (380 m) of the pound above it to be restored.

Literary connections
In 1953, C. S. Forester published Hornblower and the Atropos ( ISBN 0-316-28929-9), a historical novel set during the Napoleonic Wars, in which Horatio Hornblower travels along the canal (including the tunnel) to London.

River Thames, Lechlade