Andover Canal

Latter Days

The Manchester & Southampton Railway agreed in 1845 to purchase the canal for £30,000. A Bill was presented to Parliament but failed; a further attempt in 1847 also failed. However, the L&SWR were authorised to buy the canal and also build a line from Basingstoke through Andover to Salisbury thus providing a roundabout route from Andover to Southampton. Work on the railway was started but stopped in 1849. In the same year, the canal company started carrying goods on the canal themselves, buying the sixteen 18-ton barges working on the waterway. The existing carriers had told the company that without large toll reductions they could not continue.

The M&SR and the L&SWR agreed with the canal company in 1850 that when the purchase money was paid, the canal would be closed. An advance of around £9,000 was distributed to the canal shareholders, but the purchase was not completed. In 1851, the Basingstoke & Salisbury Railway was set up by local interests to finish the line left uncompleted by the L&SWR. The railway eventually reached Andover in 1854, when the canal was forced to reduce its rates in order to retain traffic.

The L&SWR became interested in the canal again when the Great Western Railway was involved in a company that proposed a Southampton to Bristol line through Salisbury. This company made a provisional agreement to buy the canal in 1856 and notice was given for a Bill to close the waterway but the railway Bill was rejected by Parliament.

The next year, however, the canal proprietors themselves formed the Andover Canal Railway Company (later renamed to the Andover & Redbridge Railway) with a capital of £130,000. It seems that they acted with the agreement of the GWR who wished to build a broad gauge line along the canal to Southampton with a possible link northwards to the GWR at Pewsey. After opposition from the L&SWR, an agreement with GWR was reached that the former should purchase the new railway company and that the line should be built as standard gauge.

The canal was closed on 19 September 1859. The railway paid £25,357 for the navigation. The Andover and Redbridge Railway Company was absorbed by the L&SWR in 1863. The "Sprat and Winkle" line, as the railway came to be known, was opened without ceremony on 6 March 1865 as a single track, having used about 14.5 miles of the bed of the canal. The first train reached Andover with only 5 passengers on board.

In its early years, the railway, serving a sparse intermediate population, showed little sign of making money, and its train services were slow and infrequent. It even achieved some local notoriety for uncomfortable travel because much of the track had been laid on the bed of the canal. Using the canal alignment resulted in some very sharp curves, described by one L&SWR Director as 'more like angles'. During the 1880s, the line was upgraded to double track and realigned to provide a through route from the Midland & South Western Junction Railway, which was to link Andover with Cheltenham. This widening obliterated yet more of the canal.

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Based on page created 26 January 1999 - updated 16 February 2009 - layout updated 29 November 2017.

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