Southampton and Salisbury Canal


A Second Attempt


In August 1799 it was "resolved to employ Mr John Rennie as Principal Engineer" with a Resident Engineer to assist him. They hoped

"by fixing their plans of future proceedings according to his recommendation, by keeping regular and accurate books of accounts, and by appointing a Cttee of Superintendence, they shall be able to compleat the canal in a way that will not only be satisfactory, but beneficial to the Public."

What a pity they hadn't done this four years earlier!

To raise more money, a further Act of Parliament was needed. The company claimed it had already spent £56,000 and was unable to raise more by issuing additional shares. Authority was given to raise the additional £30,000 allowed in the first Act entirely by mortgage, and also a further £10,000 to cover rising wages and material prices. The Bill received the Royal Assent on 9 July 1800.

The new Act led to old creditors presenting their bills hoping for payment before work began again. The committee instead offered bonds for repayment upon completion of the canal. Dealings in the shares began again but new capital did not flood in. Savery, the company's Bristol banker, wrote:

"I've made every exertion I can, but no one here will advance further, and they're particularly sicken'd on account of their Engagements in the Kennett and Avon (which is also a dreadfully bad Affair) so that you may as well persuade 'em to swallow Poison as pay a Shilling more."

Some money began to came in though. Southampton Corporation agreed to make some payments on its shares and the Earl of Radnor offered a mortgage for £1,000. £2,000 came from the Andover Canal proprietors towards the Salisbury arm.

It was decided that the first priority was to finish between Kimbridge to the most convenient place at the end of Alderbury Shoot, nearest Salisbury, where a wharf on the road from the city could be built and to the east of the tunnel from Northam Quay to the Platform at God's House. It decided the second priority was

"that as soon as the above parts are finished, the remaining part of the line from Southampton to Redbridge, and from Alderbury Shoot to Salisbury, be completed."

The company concentrated on collecting money but, as only around £2,000 was was forthcoming from the shareholders, only essential maintenance work was undertaken.

April 1801 saw fresh contracts being let to contractors Brawn and Small but a new resident engineer was not appointed until October. A former Army engineer, George Jones was recommended by Rennie. Work began repairing and finishing the existing works on both arms. By January 1802, however, the contractors were bankrupt and wrote to Thomas Ridding that

"wee are sorry to be under the Disagrable nessaty of leaving the Country."

The company now employed the workmen directly under Jones' supervision. He bought bricks and got them on site ready for the next season's work. The committee decided

"That four Miners be procured from Newcastle as soon as possible to work on the Tunnel at Southampton".

At last, a determined effort appears to have been made to advance the work.


Success almost in sight


On 26 April 1802 the committee reported

"the Canal being now navigable to West Dean All Sorts of Merchandize in proper Barges may be carried on it by paying the regular Tolls."

West Dean was about 5½ miles and seven locks from Kimbridge Junction.

On 8 December 1802 the section from Redbridge to the west end of the tunnel was reported open for barges carrying 25 tons of cargo. It was decided that chalk, lime and other manures would be allowed to pass at half toll - 1d per ton mile. The tolls of 2d per ton per mile, fixed in September 1802 for goods other than manures, were lowered to 1½d in March 1803 "to cause a greater Trade".

By January 1803 the canal was open as far as the beginning of Alderbury Common, 9½ miles from Kimbridge. Beyond this was the deep cutting leading to the 100 yard tunnel under the Southampton to Salisbury turnpike, not yet begun.

As there was not enough money to complete the line to Salisbury, there was a proposal in November 1802 to build a temporary wooden horse railway from the navigable end of the canal at Alderbury Common to the turnpike road (until recently the A36) at a higher level. The estimate for building it, made by Jones, was:

Beech Rails per Yard 10 d    
Sleepers per Yard 4½d  
Laying down per Yard 4 d  
Graveling horse Track 3 d  
  629 yards at 1s 9½d   £56 6s 11½d
  Cutting drain     £5 4s 10 d
  £61 11s 11½d

Road carriage could now be used onwards to Salisbury, and at the other end to the sea and the Itchen, but the canal was not yet attractive to carriers. However, business had begun.

Despite requiring additional transhipments, a new route for the carriage of goods between Southampton and Salisbury now existed. As most of the journey was by water, transport costs must have been reduced. As the Andover Canal company made complaints about overcharging in March 1803, the canal must have been in use at that date.

It was at this point that the canal company came nearest to success.


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Page created 21 May 2005 - published 17 February 2009. Layout updated 7 April 2017.


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