On 17th of March 2010,Bruce Hall, of the Cotswold Canals Trust gave a talk to the Society on the 36-mile journey from the Severn to the Thames through the industrial area of the Stroudwater Navigation to the rural Thames and Severn Canal. The most important cargo was coal especially from the Forest of Dean which was needed to supply power to the mills of the Stroud Valley.
The Stroudwater Navigation opened in July 1779; construction of the Thames and Severn Canal started at the western end in 1783 and the first barge entered the canal at Wallbridge in 1785 when the canal had probably reached Chalford. The Sapperton Tunnel, the third longest canal tunnel ever constructed took five years to complete. In July 1788 much of the tunnel structure was complete when King George III and family visited the site, the stretch from the Coates portal eastwards is called King's Reach in his honour, the first barge passed through the tunnel in April 1789.
On 19th November 1789 the first barge reached Lechlade, celebrated by a ball, a bonfire and a12-cannon salute from nearby Buscot Park. Competition from the railways was too much for the Thames and Severn along with the problem of excessive water leakage and despite efforts it closed in 1933.
The Cotswold Canals Trust has recently acquired Inglesham Lock and the new owner of the Round house there is very supportive, but it will require much work.
Canal Bridge at Coates
The Roundhouse at Lechlade
The restoration of the Stroudwater Navigation is well under way. Pictures of abandoned industrial sites were shown which had been transformed into the more modern use of housing and leisure. Bridges have been replaced by Gloucestershire County Council, towpaths reinstated and what were barriers of new roads and motorways have been turned into surmountable challenges. In some places the course River Frome has been a useful diversion.
The Tunnel Entrance at Sapperton
More can be learnt at the Cotswold Canal Visitor Centre at Wallbridge Lock in Stroud (not open Fridays or Sundays) or visit www.cotswoldcanals.com.
The Roundhouse at Coates
Sapperton TunnelLatton Basin
© 2013 Fairford History Society