History Newspaper Archives
Newspaper Archives 1890 - 1899
1892 Wilts & Berks Canal Dinner

 

WILTS AND BERKS CANAL DINNER
Management and men dine together.

 

In response to an invitation from the directors of the Wilts and Berks Canal Company about 30 of the employes, with several directors, sat down to a capital lunch at the Goddard Arms Hotel, Old Swindon on Saturday.
Mr. T Turner was at the head of the table, supported on his right by Mr. F. T. Easton, of Ravenscourt Park, London, and on his left by Mr. W. J. Ainsworth, the manager and secretary to the Company. While facing him in the vice-chairs were Mr. C. H. Masters, J.P. of Barrow Green, Oxted, Surrey, and Mr. Alleyne Boxall, of London.   The loyal toast having been honoured after the approved fashion, pipes and cigars were lighted and "Success to the Wilts and Berks Canal Company" was submitted from the chair.
After tracing the history of the canal from its early days, Mr. Turner remarked that in the present management of the canal they had a SPIRITED BODY OF DIRECTORS, who had undertaken the work of the resuscitation of the canal for commercial purposes, and they hoped to take a fair share of the trade of the district through which the waterway passed, and to receive in the future some recompense in the shape of a dividend.
The canal could not only be used for the purpose of commerce, but in places could be made an ornamental piece of water. The portion which passed through New Swindon, for instance, could be made very picturesque.
In conclusion, the chairman coupled with the toast the name of Mr. Alleyne Boxall, who as a director, was always ready to forward in any way the interests of the company. --- Mr. BOXALL'S health having been cordially received, he acknowledged the compliment in a few pointed remarks.

 

The state of inanition into which the navigation had fallen was not he said, due to the idea that carriage by water would not pay, nor to a belief that there was not sufficient trade in the district through which the canal passed, or that the undertaking was not in the right hands, it was due to the fact that the recent proprietors were well aware that a large sum of money would have to be spent, and this they were not prepared to provide.
During the last year THE NEW MANAGEMENT had been doing a great deal.

 

Mr. Master had formed an honorary committee, and they had accomplished a large amount of practical work. The company was also very lucky in having secured as its manager and secretary an able man like Mr. Ainsworth, who discharged a great responsibility.
After urging on the men the advantages of unity among themselves and the manager, Mr. Boxall concluded by observing that it struck him as very strange that the landowners who were prepared to lay out upwards of a million pounds in the construction of the canal should have allowed it, for the want of a little energy, to fall into the state of partial disuse in which it had been for the past few years.THE WORK OF RESTORATION.
MR. Master next submitted the toast of "the employes of the Canal Company," and in proposing it reviewed at length the state of the canal twelve months ago, contrasting it with the improved condition which had been brought about under the new management.
A committee consisting of himself, Mr. Pickersgill Cunliffe, and Mr. Turner was formed, and they had gone over the whole of the sections, directing the work of restoration.
It was thought that the wisest course to pursue was to deepen the summit of the level, and this was being done.  Though it might appear to the people living in Swindon that very little had been accomplished a great deal of money and labor had been expended and the canal was in a different state from what it was a year ago.
Giving details of the work, Mr. Master said five aqueducts all underground, had been completed, eight lock-sides renewed, nine pairs of new bottom gates and three new top gates fixed, one culvert repaired, and some miles of feeder re-cut and cleaned. Two sets of bottom and two sets of top gates had been repaired, and a considerable amount of work had been done by the Company's dredger.
They had put in six new wooden bridges and repaired three, and two brick bridges had also been renewed. Thirty miles of weeding had been done, and nine miles of the summit level had been repaired.
The canal consisted in its entire length of about 70 miles, all freehold, and the whole of it had been weeded with the exception of 21 miles. In addition, 11 freehold houses had been repaired.

 

As to the cost of working the canal, the current labor expenses had been reduced by £170 on the year, with very satisfactory results, the water on the summit being kept nine inches above the level of neighboring.
All this work he said, would be useless without organisation, and that in turn would be no good without effective labor, for which they looked to the men assembled there that afternoon.

 

Mr. Master then explained that the canal had been divided into sections for each man, and that premiums would be given annually to the men who were considered to have earned them by attention to their section.
The PREMIUMS AWARDED this year were as follows:-1st section, Eastern Division, C.Higgs, £3; 2nd section, T. Willis, £2; 3rd A Sheppard, £2; 4th Woodward, £2; 5th, O. Hunt, £1; 6th, H. Bryant, £2; 7th, B.Chivers, £2; considerable applause greeted this announcement.
In concluding, Mr. Master said he should himself be pleased to offer a prize of £5 to the man having the best section next year. The premiums already won would be paid when they next received their wages.-Mr. Boxall also offered a prize of £3 for the second best section next year.-- The names of Messrs Ferris, Willis, and Chivers had been coupled with the toast, and the first named responded on their behalf.
" the Management of the Canal" with which Mr. Ainsworth's name was associated, was proposed in eulogistic terms by Mr. F. T. Easton, and supported by Mr. C. H. Master, who spoke in warm eulogy of the loyalty with which MR. Ainsworth had carried out the policy and decisions of the directors.
In the management of the EXTENSIVE PROPERTY of the company Mr. Ainsworth had an immense amount of detail to attend to, and though his close attention to the business of the company involved his often being engaged from six in the morning until nine at night he appeared to thrive very well in spite of his arduous labors ( laughter and applause ) -- Mr. Ainsworth suitably acknowledged the compliment.
Addressing himself to the men, he reminded them that they had obligations of duty to fulfil, and making reference to Nelson's famous signal, said he failed to see why it should not be an obligation of equal force in peace as in war.

 

Before resuming his seat Mr. Ainsworth proposed "The health of the directors of the Wilts and Berks Canal,"
Coupling with the toast the name of Mr. Master, who in replying, spoke in commendation of the work of the men, specially mentioning the exceptional work accomplished by the carpenters, -- The concluding toast "The Chairman," was proposed by Mr. Easton and suitably acknowledged.
The company shortly after separated.

 

EVENING NORTH WILTS HERALD Monday August 29th 1892.

 
Jan 1890 The Canal bridges
North Wilts Herald Wednesday January 29 1890

New Swindon Local Board - The Canal Bridges

 

The Surveyor also reported that two brick bridges belonging to the Canal Company adjoining the recreation ground, were in a dilapidated condition, and needed immediate attention.The brickwork of the arches was cracked, and the bricks forming the walls, from which the arches sprung, were very worn and weathered, and would soon be undermined by the effects of the water.
Mr. J. J. Smith proposed that the Clerk give the Canal Company notice to put their bridges and footpaths in the district in repair, to the satisfaction of the Surveyor.

 

Mr. Baker seconded, and the proposition was carried.


The Golden Lion Bridge

The Surveyor further reported that he had examined the apparatus used for raising the Golden Lion Bridge. He found that in the posts on the Bridge Street side there were cog wheels, on which fell the principal part of the work of raising the bridge, these wheels were in good order.
In the columns on the Regent Street side there were simply two wheels over which the chains slid; the teeth of these wheels being worn out, the chain had no grip, and consequently slipped, causing one portion of the bridge to go down quicker than the other.
If the existing four columns were moved to the back of the footpath on either side, and the two posts on the Regent Street side supplied with cog wheels, the same as on the Bridge Street side, he believed there would be sufficient strength to lift a bridge the whole width of the road and the footpath.
A letter was read from Mr. H Franklin, of 24, North Street, Swindon, stating that he was walking down Regent Street on Friday evening, when not noticing that the Golden Lion Bridge was raised on the one side from two to three inches, he was tripped over by it, the fall resulting not only in personal inconvenience, but in serious damage to the overcoat which he was wearing.  As this was a serious loss to him he should be glad to hear what the Board could do in the matter. It was agreed that the Clerk should write acknowledging the receipt of the letter, and stating that the Board could do nothing.
With regards to the Surveyor's report on the bridge, it was agreed after a short discussion, that the Surveyor should obtain an estimate of the cost for carrying out the proposed work.

 

 
1893 Towing Paths
4 Items on the Canal Towing Paths

April 15

Dealing with this matter another long letter was received from Mr. Ainsworth, Secretary to the Wilts and Berks Canal Company, but as it was written without prejudice we do not feel justified in publishing the contents. It referred to the negotiations which have been carried on for some time past between the Board and the Canal Company as to the repairs of the towing paths alongside the canal in the Boards district.
A brief discussion followed the reading of the letter, and on the motion of Messrs Jones and Batt, it was referred to the Canal Committee of the Board.

April 29

The clerk stated that he had had a consultation with the solicitors to the canal company respecting the towing paths and he thought the board might take over the footpaths as highways subject, of couse, to the paramount right of the Canal Company to use the footpaths.
The Chairman said the general purpose committee would meet in the ordinary course on Thursday, and the matter was referred to that committee for discussion.
Mr. Thomas said he should like to include the Golden Lion Bridge for consideration by the committee, and the Chairman said he thought it would come on in the ordinary course.
Mr. Smith said in reference to the proposed footbridge over the canal near Read Street, that Mr. Williams had offered to sell the Board a piece of land, 16ft wide by 120ft long, for £20, and in addition to give a piece of the same dimensions.
Mr. Prothero proposed that the offer be accepted-this was seconded by Mr. Mills and agreed to.

May 13

With reference to this question, which has been under discussion by the Board for some time past, a further letter was received from Mr. Ainsworth, manager and Secretary to the Wilts and Berks Canal Company, accepting on certain conditions the supplemental provisions agreed to by the board.
These provisions with regard to public right of way over the towing paths were as follows: (1) the width of the public footway or towpaths not to exceed six feet from the water edge: (2) in case of the Local Board should desire to widen the footway at any point they shall be at liberty to do so, and for that purpose to take and use the fence adjoining, but thereupon the Board to relieve the Canal Company from all liability in regard to the future maintenance of that part of the fences, this not to prejudice the Canal Company's absolute right to any land created by the narrowing of the canal: (3) the Local Board to have the liberty at all times for the making or repairing of the footways to use the canal within their district free of toll for carrying all materials to be used.
It was resolved to refer some details in regard to this matter to the same committee just appointed to deal with the previous matter.

December 16

Mr. Batt asked if anything was being done with regard to a settlement of the question with the Wilts and Berks Canal Company as to the repair of the canal towing paths in the Boards district.The Chairman said there had been numerous interviews with the Canal Company on the subject, and every possible leniency given to the Canal Company to carry out their proposed arrangement but nothing had been done, and he thought the time was now passed when this matter should go from post to pillar and pillar to post without anything being done.
The fault was that the Canal Company would not fix any definite time for finishing the camp-shedding, and unless the Company were prepared to do that the arrangement between the Board and the Canal Company, so far as they had gone, must fall through.
In reply to the Chairman, the Surveyor said it would take six months to do the camp-shedding.
After a few other remarks, Mr. Morris proposed that notice be given to the Canal Company that unless they commenced the work of camp-shedding in connection with the towing paths in the Boards distric by the 1st February next, and also undertake to complete the work within three months from the date, all previous negotiations between them and the Board be at an end.
Mr. Adams seconded the proposition, remarking that he thought it was quite time this matter was brought to some definite conclusion.
The proposition was carried unanimously.

Swindon Evening Advertiser

 

 
June 1891 Tender fro dredging the Canal

A tender for dredging all 70 miles of the canal

The directors of this canal have accepted the tender of Messrs. Laver and Company, Bath, for dredging the canal, repairing the bridges, wharf walls, and other matters. The canal is to be dredged to its original depth and sectional area for its entire length of 70 miles.
This important inland navigation commences at the river Thames, at the south side of the town of Abingdon, in the county of Berks, and proceeding south westerly across the Hundreds of Ock and Wantage, passing the town of Wantage, goes westward through the Hundreds of Kintbury,Eagle, and Shrivenham, and enters the county of Wilts in the division of Swindon. Passing the towns of Swindon and Wootton Bassett it crosses the divisions of Chippenham and Calne, and going between those towns reaches the division of Melksham. Passing the town of Melksham, it terminates at Semington, where it joins the Kennet and Avon Canal.
At Eastcott, in the division of Swindon a Branch known as the North Wilts Canal proceeds from the Wilts and Berks Canal, and joins the Thames and Severn Canal in the division of Cricklade, and near the town of that name. There are also branch canals to Wantage, Longcott, Calne, and Chippenham.
That part of the river Thames where this canal locks into it is 180 1/8 feet above the sea.
From the commencement of the canal to the Wantage river, 7 ¾ miles, there is a rise of 9 ½ feet.
Thence to the last end, of the summit level, 15 miles, there is a rise of 71 ½ feet or a total rise of 168 feet.
The North Wilts Canal, from Eastcott to Latton at the junction with the Thames and Severn Canal, is nine miles with a fall of 58 feet 8 inches to Latton.
The total length of this navigation with its various branches from Semington to Abingdon is 70 miles.
There are 57 locks, with an average fall of 7 feet 6 inches, and about 78 feet long.
The water supply is derived from two reservoirs made by the company-one at Coate, near Swindon, 89 acres in extent, and the other at Tockenham, near Lyneham, with an area of 20 acres- and from the river at Calne.
The favourable geographical situation of this inland waterway enables it to form an important link in the chain of our inland navigation.
It forms part of one of the through waterway routes between London and Bristol.
By its connection with the Thames it is in communication with all the Midland counties, and having access to the Severn enables inland transit by water to the counties of Gloucester and Worcester and cheap transit for coal from the Forest of Dean to the counties of Wilts, Berks, and Oxford, and by means of the Somersetshire Coal Canal, which forms a junction with the Kennet and Avon between Bradford and Bath, it forms a distributor for minerals of this district also.
The aggregate capital authorised by the various statutes relating to the Wilts and Berks Canal amounts to £561,900, and the starute relating to the North Wilts Canal authorised £90,000, making a total of £651,900.
The summit level crossed by the Kennet and Avon Canal is 116 feet higher than that of the Wilts and Berks.
To secure this lower elevation Mr. Brunel laid down the main line of the Great Western Railway alongside of this canal through Swindon, instead of following the more direct route through Hungerford.
The distance from London Bridge to Bristol by this route is 107 miles.
The Wilts and Berks Canal was admirably laid out and substantially constructed by the late Mr. R. Whitworth. The works bear witness to the sound materials and workmanship, no less than to the well considered design of Mr. Whitworth.
When the works are completed and the canal has been put in a thorough state of order it will be the means of facilitating a large amount of traffic between Bristol and London, and intermediate towns. The works are being carried out under the sole direction of the engineer Mr. P. Munro, St. Stephen's Chambers, Bristol.

Swindon Evening Advertiser June 29 1891

 

 
Jan 1894 Canal Rates Enquiry

The Wilts & Berks Canal - Local Witness.

The enquiry appointed by the Board of Trade to consider the rates, tolls, and charges submitted by the various canal companies in Great Britain was resumed yesterday morning at the Westminster Town Hall.Mr. T.H.Pelham, the Commissioner appointed by the Board of Trade, presided.
The schedules of the Lower Avon Navigation Company were first considered, the most striking piece of evidence being the statement of the company's manager that the Upper Avon Navigation Canal, which extends from Stratford-on-Avon to Evesham, had been closed since the construction of the Great Western Railway. The railway company, he said, purchased the canal, and had since allowed it to go into disrepair until it was now no longer navigable.
The Commissioner next took the schedule of the Wilts and Berks Canal, and Mr. W.J. Ainsworth, the manager of the company, gave evidence. He stated that the nominal capital of the company was £30,000, £15,000 of which was paid up. The total length of the canal was 69 miles, the largest town upon it being Swindon, which was about in the centre. The district through which it passed was in the main an agricultural one.
During the last year the tolls amounted to £575, and the income of the company was made up by rents from various properties. If they had only the tolls to rely upon for their income there would be a very heavy balance on the wrong side of the accounts each year. The income derived from the rents amounted to about £1,000 a year.  Working expenses amounted to about £1,700 a year. Up to 1888 they had paid a dividend of about 4 per cent, but no dividend has been declared since that date.
The total of A and B traffic under the present classification was about 8298 tons, and the total of the sea traffic 3874 tons. The total traffic Nos. 1 to 5 amounted to 8820 tons, or a total tonnage of about 13,000 tons in round figures. Any increase of traffic must undoubtedly go to Swindon.The bulk of that traffic was foreign grain. Up to recently there had been a considerable quantity of coal from Somersetshire, but that had gone to Swindon and passed on.The maximum tolls were about double their actual tolls. What the company desired was to obtain under the new conditions a maximum equal to the present actual tolls and no more.Witnesses representing other companies were afterwards heard, and the enquiry was again adjourned.

January 10 from North Wilts Herald

 
May 1893 Cambria Bridge Swindon

May 13 The widening of Cambria Bridge & Road

The clerk reported that he had written to Mr. Ainsworth, secretary and manager to the Canal Company, stating that the board were proposing to widen Cambria Bridge and to lay an 18 inch iron pipe across and under the canal, and for these purposes the Board would require the practical control of the canal at that point for 14 days.  The Board would also be glad of the use of the canal Company's piling. He also wished to know on what terms the Board would allow this.
A reply was now received from Mr. Ainsworth stating that he found that £5 per day was formerly paid for the stoppage of the canal during the making of the bridge, but having regard to all the circumstances the Canal Company would be satisfied with £2 2s 0d per day for the first 14 days, to be increased to £5 5s 0d per day after the first 14 days, and to include the use of the pile planks, &c.  He (Mr. Ainsworth) desired, however, to see a plan of the proposed widening of the bridge.
As to the laying of an 18 inch pipe under the canal a nominal easement of 1s per year only would be charged for this, but it must be laid at a sufficient depth to satisfy the Canal Company's requirements.-Mr. Adams proposed, and Mr. Batt seconded, that the terms offered be accepted.- This was carried unanimously, the members being of the opinion that the terms were very reasonable.
It was further resolved on the motion of Mr. Batt, that the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Mr. Jones be appointed as a committee to interview the canal company and arrange for getting the work commenced forthwith.

May 27 Canal bridge

The Canal Committee of the Board reported that arrangements had been made with the Canal Company for stopping the traffic at Cambria Bridge Road and the Whale Bridge during the alterations and improvements to those two bridges.
The arrangements were to the affect that a charge of two guineas per day would be made by the canal company in respect of the Cambria bridge, and if the Whale bridge improvement be carried out simultaneously, then the charge in respect of the two bridges would be £2 7s per day for the first fourteen days, and six guineas for each day beyond the fourteen days.
With regard to the land required of the canal company for improving Cambria Bridge Road, the Company offered it for £5, and an additional five guineas for the privilege of allowing the storm water to flow into the canal at Cambria Bridge and the Whale Bridge for six months from the 24th June next.- These terms were accepted.

Swindon Advertiser May 1893

 
April 1893 Towpath repair & maintenance
A letter to the Swindon Board from the Canal Office
April 7 1893
The Secretary of the Canal Company sends us for publication the following copy of his letter read at the last meeting of the New Swindon Local Board, with reference to the towing paths:
Canal Office, Swindon April 7th 1893 LOCAL BOARD AND SWINDON TOWING PATHS Without prejudice.
Dear Sir.
The suggestion made at the last meeting of the two Committees were yesterday again considered by the Directors of the Canal Company.
My letter on the subject of the 10th , seems from the tenor of your reply, to have been taken by your Board to indicate a policy of postponement on the part of the Canal Company.
Such an impression was entirely erroneous, and was not justified by the terms of my letter, which merely suggested a method of dealing with the matter simpler, in the opinion of my directors, than the method previously proposed.
They were therefore, disappointed that the Local Board should adopt a resolution, the tone of which seems discordant with the friendly exchange of views proceeding between the two committees.
Continuing the discussion of the subject in the same sprit of compromise in which the Canal Company has hitherto approached it, I am instructed to submit the following facts and proposals for the consideration of your Board.
The tow-paths in question were made some 80 years ago, and have since been maintained exclusively by the Canal Company, who have thus provided a convenient footway for many years entirely free of cost to the ratepayers, to whose continual use far more than to the canal traffic, the present condition of the Swindon towpaths is, in the opinion of the directors, due.
Although from this long use a public right of way has been claimed and admitted over certain parts of the Swindon tow-paths, the Canal Company does not admit that the fact gives your Board any locus standi whatever with reference to the repair of these paths, and in that position they are sustained by their council.
Notwithstanding these facts the Canal directors will be willing to repair the banks of the towpaths in accordance with your Surveyor's letter of the 17th February, and to undertake to pay the Local Board the sum of £60 on the 29th September 1894.
The repairs are to be done as follows.
New camp shedding, 1 mile and 13 yards; old ditto repaired, 21 yards; banking up 640 yards, masonry raised one foot, 32 yards. The Local Board thereupon to metal the towpaths through their district, and to keep them metalled at their sole expense.This proposal varies the original one to the extent of £40 being about the extra cost involved in making up the 648 yards of banks and 32 yards of walling, which was not taken into consideration when the committee last met.
The arrangement would necessarily be subject to the following provisions to protect the present rights of the canal company, viz, it must not prejudice the Canal Company's rights to quit rents now payable; the Local Board must not erect any bridge or other structure or towpath, or occupy any part of it in any way, except for the purpose of this agreement, without the Company's consent; the right of the Company to any land now abutting on the towpath or to any which may be created by the narrowing of the canal must not be prejudiced; the Local Board must repair, erect, and maintain such fences as they deem necessary for the protection of the paths; there are many cases in which for the purpose of the canal company no fence is required, and where the contrary is the case, the fences usually erected by the canal company in compliance with their Acts would be of a different character from those needed for the protection of the towpaths; the rights and obligations of the Canal Company under their Acts of Parliament shall not be affected in any way, except so far as they are specifically varied by this agreement.
In making the above proposal the directors of the Canal Company are undertaking an expenditure far beyond any to which they are liable under their Acts of Parliament, but they do so in order that the friendly relations established between the Canal management and the local authorities may not be impaired, and in order to facilitate an arrangement which, if carried out, will effect a vast improvement in the appearance of the town and the convenience of the inhabitants.
I am dear sir, Yours faithfully, W.J.AINSWORTH. Secretary and Manager.

Swindon Evening Advertiser 7 April 1893
 
Oct 1892 Illegal Fishing & Swimming

ILLEGAL FISHING

William Speck , G.W.R. employee of 16 Cricklade Street, old Swindon, was summoned for fishing in the Wilts and Berks Canal at Stratton on August 13th. Mr. W.J. Ainsworth, secretary to the company spoke to seeing defendant and another man with six rods, fishing in the canal at an early hour.When challenged for their licenses they produced one or two old ones.They said they were going to get a license going back-an old excuse.-Fined 5s and 9s 6d costs; and allowed a month for payment.
George Smith laborer, of 26, Albert Street Old Swindon, was summoned for a similar offence at the same time and place-William Clark, a canal employe, said he saw Smith fishing with five rods about 6am.He bought a ticket later in the day.-Mr. Ainsworth spoke to seeing Smith and the defendant in the previous case fishing together.-Defendant said he had no wish to defraud the company; he intended to get a ticket later in the day.-Fined 5s and 13s costs, to be paid within a month.

BATHING IN THE CANAL

George Vizard, of 10 Oriel Street, New Swindon, was summoned by Mr. Ainsworth for bathing in the canal on September 19th.- Defendant admitted the offence but said he was a stranger in the town, and was ignorant of the fact that bathing was prohibited.-A lad named Plumley spoke to seeing defendant in the canal near Dunsford's Wharf.He swam across, cought hold of a boat moored at the spot, and said to witness "come on we'll have a pretty game today." A woman was passing, and defendant also called to her.John Plumley stated that he saw defendant and another man dressing on the bank.-George Evens, Wharfinger, gave similar evidence, and said both men refused to give him their addresses.-Defendant denied that it was he who was in the boat.The man who was with him entered the water first and got stuck in the mud, and he (defendant) tried to help him out.The statement that he spoke to the boy Plumley and the woman was incorrect. He had never been before a bench before, and had always tried to keep respectable.He was only earning 16s a week and had a widowed mother to keep.-he was fined £1.6s including costs, and allowed a month for payment-Defendant left the court remarking that he had lost his good character, which he had always tried to retain.

MISCHIEVOUS BOYS

A small boy named Stephen Hurst, living at Thomas Street, New Swindon, was summoned for throwing rubbish into the canal on September 24th.-John Ferris, one of the company's carpenters, said a number of boys were throwing stones and clay into the water, and when they saw him they ran away- a girl named Ellen Hazel identified the boys as one of those who were throwing rubbish into the canal.-Mr. Ainsworth said the nuisance was so great that a constant watch had to be kept .Sometimes when the locks were cleaned out 30 or 40 tons of stuff were found at the bottom-The Bench said the canal must be protected. They adjourned the case for a month, and ordered the parents to pay 10s to the Secretary in the meantime.

Swindon Evening Aadvertiser 18 Oct 1892

 

 
1893: Wilts & Berks Annual Dinner

The annual dinner given by the directors of the Wilts and Berks canal company to their employees, took place at the Goddard Arms Hotel and was attended by some 40 people.
An excellent repast was served up, and after partaking of the good things the company devoted a little attention to pipe and glass, a few complimentary speeches alternating the proceedings. After the loyal toasts had been submitted from the Chair, "success to the Wilts and Berks Canal company" was proposed by the Chairman who expressed the pleasure it gave himself and co-directors to meet once again, as they were doing that afternoon with their employees.
Taking a retrospective view, he said they had found a little more than they wanted in the way of mud and weeds in the water. They desired to put the canal in such a working condition that it should meet local requirements and canal trading generally. The first thing to be done was to clear the canal and restore it to its original condition. In the next two or three years, our canal would be the most used canal in the country. No canal in the kingdom was better situated in regard to its natural resources.
Mr Boxall rose to respond, he observed that not one man had died last year whilst working on the canal either through accident or naturally. The canal had also entertained visitors recently in the shape of the cavalry brigade at Coate during manoeuvres.
Mr C.H Masters proposed the next toast "The Canal Employees" in it he said he was gratified that the whole 70 miles was open and free of weeds for navigation. Boats loaded with 21 tons could now come up to Swindon but they were of no use to the North Wilts Canal because little had been done to the Thames and Severn Canal.

Swindon Advertiser

 

 
May1897 Proposed Closing Of W&BC

Our post box to The the Editor of the Noreth Wilts Herald 7 May 1897

Sir.- May I ask you to allow me a few lines on this subject in your next issue.
I have been connected with the Wilts and Berks Canal over 50 years, and should consider it a calamity to the whole district through which it passes, and especially to the farmers if it were closed, as nearly every farm adjoining the canal is more or less dependent on it for water, particularly in a dry season. A neighbour of mine tells me he would not have it closed for £50 a year, as he is entirely dependent on it in the summer.
I am sorry to say very few of the farmers have supported it as they ought, or it might have been kept open, but I am perfectly satisfied it cannot be kept open under present circumstances. I believe if it was taken over by the county authorities it could be made to pay its way, and I wonder no petition has been promoted with this object. Nothing can beat water for heavy, slow traffic, and omitting mention of the advantages of the canal for the carriage of coal, grain, timber, and other heavy stuffs, and if only the large quantity of road stone used in the district was carried by it the result would be a considerable revenue, and also a considerable saving in carting, as the stone could be discharged at any landing near its destination.
Another very serious matter to consider is the fact that should the canal be closed there would be "only one shop" and every one knows what that would mean.
I am perfectly satisfied if the working of the canal was taken up in the right quarters and energetically pursued the waterway would be a public benefit, and would maintain itself.
It will be a great mistake to have it closed.
Yours respectfully,
A FARMER.