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Company of Proprietors of the Portsmouth and Arundel Navigation


Records of the Company of Proprietors of the Portsmouth and Arundel Navigation: Plan of the intended canal, letter to shareholders 1818.



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Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The Act for this canal passed in 1817 and was the last link in the London to Portsmouth barge route. The main engineer was John Rennie. The line ran from the Arun at Ford to Birdham on Chichester Harbour, with a branch to Chichester from Hunston. Barges were able to to reach Portsea Island by dredged channels between the mainland, Thorney and Hayling Islands. At Portsea Island a short canal from Milton led to the terminal basins, making the whole system 28 miles in length. The Portsea Canal and the Birdham-Hunston-Chichester section were enlarged to ship canal size under an Act of 1818. This opened in stages - Birdham to Chichester opened in 1822, then the Portsea Canal, then Hunston to Ford in 1823. Water supply was a problem. The waterway had a total of 6 locks. Trade was slow and never really developed as shippers preferred the coastal route. The steamer Sir Francis Drake was commissioned in 1824 to carry goods and passengers from Portsmouth to Plymouth and Falmouth. In 1830 the Portsea Canal closed and a barge quay was opened in Portsbridge Creek near Cosham. Trade decreased. The last barge sailed from Chichester to London in 1840. The Chichester line was transferred free of charge to the Chichester Corporation under an Act of 1892. The ship canal to Chichester remained in use until the 20th century. No traffic was carried after 1906. It was abandoned by the corporation on 6 June 1928, and sold to West Sussex County Council in 1957. In 1932 the lower reach from Cutfield bridge to Salterns lock was reopened. It is now used for berthing yachts. For further information on the Portsmouth and Arundel Navigation see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and Charles Hadfield's 'The Canals of South and South East England'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain any original structure of record-keeping from the small number of records held for this company. The fonds has therefore been arranged in chronological order.