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North Walsham and Dilham Canal Navigation


Records of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Navigation: a share certificate and receipt for calls due on shares 1825.



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These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The North Walsham and Dilham Canal is the most northerly of the Broadland navigations. It follows the course of the River Ant from near Dilham to a basin immediately east of Antingham Ponds. The river was already navigable to Dilham, but in about 1810 the possibility of extending the navigation to North Walsham was being investigated. John Millington of Hammersmith carried out surveys and the Act was passed in 1812. The actual construction of the canal did not start for several years. The delay was probably due to a claim for damages for a possible loss of trade by one of the Dilham traders, Isaac Harris Lewis. The damages were settled and work on the canal started in 1825 with John Millington as engineer, although the work was carried out by a contractor, Thomas Hughes. He went on to succeed John Millington as engineer in 1827. The line of the canal was independent of the course of the River Ant, so is therefore a true cut, not a river navigation. The canal officially opened in 1826. The canal's course ran from Wayford Bridge on the Ant to North Walsham and on to Swafield and Antingham Ponds, a total distance of 8 3/4 miles. There were 6 locks giving a total rise of 58 feet. Coal traffic did not develop as it was cheaper to bring it overland from the nearby coastal beaches to North Walsham. Corn, timber, flour, cattle cake and animal feeding stuffs were the main traffic on the canal. There was also the 'cabbage wherry' which took vegetables from Antingham to Yarmouth market. The canal was not a financial success, and in 1866 powers were acquired to sell it. It was finally sold in 1886 to a local miller, Edward Press, of Bacton Wood mill near North Walsham. He ran his own wherries, and so had a good reason for buying the canal. After 1893 the canal above Swafield locks to Antingham Ponds was abandoned. On 2 July 1906 Edward Press died and the canal was sold by auction on 11 September 1907 to the General Estates Company. They kept the canal until 1921 when it was bought by E G Cubitt and G Walker, local Ebridge millers. They formed the North Walsham Canal Company Limited. Meanwhile the canal had been badly damaged by the severe floods of 1912 when the bank was breached above Bacton Wood lock. Attempts were made to improve the canal. The last wherry to use the canal passed in 1934. Not long after this the canal silted up, and today the locks are derelict. Pleasure craft are able to navigate the tidal section up from Wayford Bridge to the tail of Honing lock. The independently owned dike to Dilham village has been restored. The canal remains are still owned by the North Walsham Canal Company Limited. For further information on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and John Boyes and Ronald Russell's 'The Canals of Eastern 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.