Home  / BW6


Company of Proprietors of the Basingstoke Canal Navigation


Records of the Company of Proprietors of the Basingstoke Canal Navigation: a notice 1858, table of distances early 19th century, account of material to be carried on the canal 1787, share certificate 1798.



Reference code


Access Status

These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /​ Biographical history

The first attempt to build a Basingstoke Canal was in 1770 as part of a scheme to bypass the Thames. But the improvement of the Thames itself caused the project to be shelved until 1776 when a group of promoters suggested a line of canal to run from Basingstoke to the River Wey. A survey was done by Joseph Parker and an Act passed in 1778. Nothing further was done until 1788 due to the American War. Capital was then raised, William Jessop was appointed surveyor and consultant engineer and in the October John Pinkerton, who often worked with William Jessop, was appointed contractor. The 37 1/2 mile long canal, from Basingstoke to the River Wey at Byfleet, was opened in September 1794. It had 29 locks built for boats 72 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 6 inches. The company was also involved in carrying with somewhere in the region of a dozen barges. The canal was almost bankrupt from the beginning, although it was saved by Dr. Robert Bland, the new chairman in 1797. Between 1792 and 1808 there were many schemes to continue the canal westwards to either Andover or Winchester. Traffic on the Basingstoke was often threatened by road and rail improvements which included the opening of the London & Southampton Railway as far as Basingstoke in 1839, and the Guildford-Farnham Railway in 1849. The canal was nearly sold in 1850, but Aldershot Camp was constructed between 1854 and 1859, reviving the canal. However the canal was in Chancery in 1866 and between then and 1910 it changed hands no less than nine times. From 1866 to 1874 the canal was in the hands of the receiver. In 1874 the canal was bought by William St Aubyn who formed the Surrey and Hants Canal Company, which was wound up in 1878 and back in the hands of the receiver. The original canal company was also wound up in this year. In 1880 the canal was bought by Messrs Dixon and Ward who sold it to J B Smith for £14,800. It became the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Corporation Limited until 1882. In 1883 the London and Hampshire Canal and Water Company Limited was formed by creditors, but by 1887 the canal was back in the hands of the receiver. In 1895 it was bought by Sir Frederick Hunt who re-floated it as the Woking, Aldershot and Basingstoke Canal and Navigation Company Limited. For further information 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.

Associated material

[See also: BW7-10 for records of the Basingstoke Canal during other periods of ownership]