Many thanks to Stroud District Council & Cotswold Canals Trust
for facilitating this camera's location and capitally funding its installation. The Cotswold Canals, encompassing the Stroudwater Canal and the Thames & Severn Canal, form integral pathways within the Stroud District. These canals serve as valuable resources, offering the public opportunities for both active and passive recreational activities. Beyond their recreational significance, these canal corridors hold great importance as landscape features, boasting historical, architectural, nature conservation, and educational value. Notably, the canals have been historically intertwined with industrial activities.
The initial plans to render the small River Frome, also known as the Stroudwater, navigable, can be traced back to the final years of the 17th century. The purpose of these plans was to support the woolen industry by facilitating the transportation of coal from the Severn to Stroud and conveying finished cloth to market. However, opposition from mill owners hindered the realization of these plans. A revival of the idea emerged in 1728, when John Hore, renowned for successfully making the River Kennet navigable, proposed an approximately 8.2-mile (13.2 km) canal with 12 locks, suitable for 60-ton barges. An Act of Parliament was obtained in 1730, supported by individuals involved in the cloth industry. Nevertheless, opposition from certain millers resulted in a deviation from Hore's recommendations, reverting to the concept of making the river itself navigable. The millers were granted powers that effectively closed the navigation for two months each year, and high tolls were imposed, dissuading usage. Consequently, no further action was taken.In 1754, John Dallaway, a commissioner appointed under the 1730 Act, enlisted the services of engineer Thomas Yeoman to conduct a new survey. Yeoman's subsequent plan, published in the following year, outlined a navigation route from Wallbridge to the Severn, spanning an estimated cost of £8,145. The proposed route included 16 locks and four stanks (likely half-locks or staunches). To appease the millers, water for operating the locks would be sourced from a reservoir below Wallbridge, covering 2 acres (0.8 ha) and filled on Sundays, when the mills were inactive and did not require water. Toll levels were set at a more reasonable rate. During the scheme's development, John Kemmett, Arthur Wynde, James Pynock, and Thomas Bridge devised an alternative plan involving cranes at each mill weir to transfer cargo from one level to another using boxes. In 1759, an Act was obtained authorizing Kemmett and others to construct the canal without locks, in order to prevent water loss to the mills. The Act allowed a two-year timeframe for completion, but despite some progress by April 1761, Kemmett was granted a six-year extension. The project was eventually abandoned after improving approximately 5 miles (8 km) of the river, as it was deemed excessively costly.In 1774, with improved understanding of canal construction, a renewed effort was initiated. William Dallaway, son of John Dallaway, took the lead and enlisted the surveying expertise of Thomas Dadford Jr., known for his work on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, and John Priddy, who had served as the engineer during the construction of the Droitwich Canal. The projected cost of a canal that would bypass the river and mills amounted to £16,750, with an eventual raise of £20,000. Recognizing that a new Act of Parliament was unnecessary, as the powers granted by the 1730 Act remained in effect, Thomas Yeoman, the surveyor of the 1754 plan, was commissioned to conduct a revised survey. A route was selected that necessitated 12 locks. Construction work commenced under the supervision of engineer Samuel Jones, but he was swiftly replaced by John Priddy. However, in 1775, landowners and millers mounted a legal challenge, questioning the legality of building a canal under the 1730 Act. An injunction was obtained, and the Gloucestershire Assizes ruled against the Act's applicability. Consequently, a new Act was obtained on March 25, 1776, granting authorization to raise £20,000, with an additional £10,000 available if required. To garner support for their respective causes, both sides commissioned poetic compositions.Under the guidance of Edmund Lingard, who had previously served as the engineer for the Coventry Canal, construction resumed. The canal was opened in stages as sections were completed. By the end of 1777, it reached Chippenham Platt, followed by Ryeford in January 1779. On July 21, 1779, the Wallbridge terminus was inaugurated, marking the canal's full opening. The project incurred a total cost of £40,930, which was raised through £150 calls on each £100 share, shareholder loans, accumulated debts, and toll revenues from the already operational canal sections. Annual traffic reached approximately 16,000 tons,The Cotswold Canals, composed of the Stroudwater Canal and the Thames & Severn Canal, are significant features within the Stroud District. These canals offer both active and passive recreational opportunities, serving as valuable resources for public enjoyment. Moreover, beyond their recreational role, the canal corridors hold historical, architectural, nature conservation, and educational value, making them important landscape features.The origins of the canals can be traced back to the late 17th century when initial plans were made to make the River Frome navigable, primarily to support the woolen industry by transporting coal and finished cloth. However, opposition from mill owners prevented the realization of these plans. In 1728, the idea was revived by John Hore, an engineer known for his successful navigation projects. His proposal included an approximately 8.2-mile (13.2 km) canal with 12 locks suitable for barges. Although an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1730, it deviated from Hore's recommendations and focused on making the river navigable, facing opposition from millers. This led to the project being abandoned due to unfavorable conditions imposed on navigation.In 1754, a new survey was commissioned by John Dallaway, a commissioner appointed under the 1730 Act. Engineer Thomas Yeoman conducted the survey, and his plan, published in the following year, proposed a navigation route from Wallbridge to the Severn. The plan included 16 locks and four stanks, with the intention of accommodating the millers' concerns by supplying lock water from a reservoir below Wallbridge. However, the project faced challenges, and an alternative scheme involving cranes was proposed but also faced obstacles. Eventually, an Act obtained in 1759 allowed the construction of the canal without locks, but progress was limited, and the project was abandoned due to high costs.A renewed effort was made in 1774, led by William Dallaway, the son of John Dallaway. Thomas Dadford Jr., an engineer experienced in canal construction, and John Priddy, who had worked on the Droitwich Canal, conducted a survey. The revised plan aimed to bypass the river and mills and estimated a cost of £16,750. An Act of Parliament was not required, as the powers granted by the 1730 Act remained valid. Construction began under the supervision of Samuel Jones but was later taken over by John Priddy. However, in 1775, a legal challenge was mounted, questioning the legality of canal construction under the 1730 Act. This led to an injunction and subsequent ruling against the Act's applicability. A new Act was obtained in 1776, authorizing the raising of funds and resolving the legal issues.Under the guidance of engineer Edmund Lingard, construction resumed, and the canal was opened in stages. By 1779, the canal reached its full extent, connecting Chippenham Platt, Ryeford, and the Wallbridge terminus. The total cost of the project amounted to £40,930, financed through various means, including shareholder contributions, loans, debts, and toll revenues. The canal facilitated a significant amount of annual traffic, allowing the company to repay debts and declare dividends.Overall, the Cotswold Canals have a rich history and continue to be valued for their recreational, cultural, and historical significance.