Company of Proprietors of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal Navigation
Records of the Company of Proprietors of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal Navigation: legal, administration and financial records 1793-1866, plans of the canal 1792-1837.
In 1792, John Snape surveyed the line from the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at King's Norton to Stratford, without a connection with the River Avon. The Act passed in 1793, and a supplementary Act was passed in 1795 for the Lapworth branch to join the Warwick and Birmingham Canal at Kingswood. Construction of the main line began in 1793 with Josiah Clowes as engineer. The 93-mile summit level running from King's Norton to Hockley Heath was completed in 1796, having used all the available money and with Josiah Clowes dying in 1795. A new Act to raise money was passed in 1799 (the Stratford company being encouraged by the completion of connecting waterways) and the line of the canal was altered to run within 1/8 mile of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal so as to cut down the length of a joining connection. Work recommenced under Samuel Porter (formerly Clowes's assistant) and the 18 locks down from the summit and the junction at Kingswood were completed in 1802. After some financial troubles, with tolls reduced to a very low figure, work began once more in 1812, with William James in charge. In 1813, he personally bought the Upper Avon Navigation above Evesham. In 1812 he had hired William Whitmore as engineer, and in 1816 the canal reached the River Avon at Stratford, 25 5/8 miles long with a 352 yard tunnel at King's Norton and four aqueducts and 56 locks. Water came from the feeder streams until the Earlswood reservoirs were built in 1821 on the summit and water was pumped into the canal by beam engines until 1936, when electric pumps replaced them. Traffic on the northern section developed as through traffic, not passing through Stratford. The completion of the Stratford and Moreton Tramway in 1826 helped to advance trade. In 1842 the company leased the Upper Avon to Evesham for five years to protect and increase trade on the Avon. Tolls had been reduced on the canal and connecting waterways to counter railways, and when the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway (OWWR) offered to buy the canal, its sale was completed in 1856. Traffic then declined and when the Great Western Railway absorbed the OWWR in 1863, there were further losses. The canal south of Kingswood ceased to be navigable in about 1945. Under nationalisation, the canal was taken over by British Transport Commission and in 1958 the Warwickshire County Council applied for a warrant of abandonment. Public protests and action by the Inland Waterways Association led to a British Transport Commission Act of 1960 authorising a five-year lease to the National Trust. With various large donations and contributions from the public, the canal was restored and re-opened in 1964, and freehold transferred to the National Trust in 1965. The upper sections of the canal remained with the British Waterways Board. The canal became very popular, but in spite of the tolls paid by boaters, income always fell short of expenditure. After eleven years of negotiations with various organisations, responsibility for the southern section was transferred to British Waterways on 1st April 1988 and a repair programme was started. For further information on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations', Charles Hadfield's 'The Canals of the East Midlands' and The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal Society website at http://www.stratfordcanalsociety.org.uk/history.html
The company filing system could not be ascertained for the majority of records, but where possible the original filing system has been recreated. This has resulted resulted in the records being divided into two series: one for legal, administrative and financial records and one for plans of the canal. Each series is arranged chronologically, but where records may relate to each other they have been kept together which means the dates may fall slightly out of sequence.
[See also: BW115 for records of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal during other periods of ownership]