South of the end of the “Mile Wall”, Lee Lane leaves the main road continuing the latter’s southward direction. It would seem that Lee Lane was probably constructed at the same time as the diversion of the turnpike road as part of the lane looks as if it was built on top of the canal.
For the first ½ mile (0.8km), the course of the canal runs inside a belt of woodland on the west side of the lane - much of it as a fairly deep, dry depression. The woodland runs as far as Spaniard’s Lane which crosses Lee Lane. The road then occupies the canal’s alignment for just over ¼ mile (0.4km) to the site of Lee Lock which lies on the west side of the lane. There are no visible remains of the lock structure but it is quite possible that it is merely buried under infill.
South of the lock, the overgrown canal, which often contains water, runs beside the lane for a further ¼ mile (0.4km) although the remains seem a little narrow and it may be that the canal was encroached upon during construction of the roadway. A short distance before reaching the junction with Lee Drove, the course of the canal crosses Lee Lane and then immediately crosses Lee Drove NG Ref: SU362181. WGS84: 50° 57′ 43″ N, 1° 29′ 06″ W. into a wooded area a few yards west of a parallel stream.
The canal carries on to the south passing behind several cottages. It then swings round to the south-east passing to the east of Lee Manor. This section is relatively unaltered and sometimes portions of it contain some water. The canal bed crosses the railway line about 80 yards (70m) north of Coldharbour Lane Bridge over the railway and continues until it meets the approach ramp of the bridge.
Lee to Nursling
South of Coldharbour Lane for about 650 yards (600m) the canal has been completely eliminated. The Ordnance Survey 1:2500 mapping surveyed in 1865 (the year the railway opened) shows no trace of the canal.
From the survey for the OS First Series One Inch in 1806-7 it would seem that Groveplace Lock was near or in the strip of woodland next to the railway Approximate position NG Ref: SU364171. WGS84: 50° 57′ 08″ N, 1° 28′ 59″ W.. This has not been confirmed and it may be that it was destroyed during construction of the railway. Certainly south of its site the railway was built along the canal.
It seems the next lock, Barber’s Lock, was a few yards south of the present M27 motorway bridge Approximate position NG Ref: SU363162. WGS84: 50° 56′ 40″ N, 1° 29′ 01″ W. but again this is unverified. The railway was built on the alignment of the canal as far as Dairy Lane Bridge. Just north of this bridge, Nursling Station was opened in 1883 and closed in 1957. The station master’s house is still lived in but the rest of the station has totally disappeared.
South of the station site, the railway and the course of the canal diverge - the latter curves away to the south-west carrying the water of a stream that has been to the east of and not far from the line of the canal since Ashfield. That stream’s course was affected by the construction of both the canal and later the railway. South of the station, the original course of the stream runs parallel to and south-east of the canal but today it is a minor feature. Both streams pass under a section of Weston Lane built in the 1960s where two sets of railings indicate the canal NG Ref: SU363156. WGS84: 50° 56′ 22″ N, 1° 29′ 05″ W. and the stream NG Ref: SU363156. WGS84: 50° 56′ 21″ N, 1° 29′ 04″ W..
South-west of Weston Lane, the canal used to pass Weston House (apparently demolished in the 1960s) to Nutshalling Lock NG Ref: SU362156. WGS84: 50° 56′ 20″ N, 1° 29′ 09″ W.. Nutshalling is an old form of the name Nursling. Traces of the lock were visible in the 1960s - it is unconfirmed whether these remain today. South the lock, the canal used to be bridged by Mill Lane at a sharp bend in the road where today a culvert carries little water.
Nursling to Redbridge Canal Junction
At Mill Lane the Test Way rejoins the canal (it left the line of the canal north of Kimbridge). The path runs along the remains of the original towing path with the overgrown remnants of the canal on the left. The path can be very muddy after wet weather and in one place a wooden boardwalk makes passage a bit easier. On the walker’s right hand is the 350 acre (142 hectare) Lower Test Wildlife Reserve administered by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT).
The canal was constructed along the edge of a river terrace and was only a couple of feet above the neighbouring meadows. For about 180 yards (165m), a section of the canal was cleaned out over 20 years ago by HIWWT (although recently it has become a bit unkempt again).
About 700 yards (640m) from Mill Lane, the line of the canal comes up to the railway again which is on an embankment about 8 feet (2.5m) above the waterway. The path turns to run beside the railway fence for around 250 yards (230m) until it arrives at a level crossing across the railway track. Crossing the railway gives access to Test Lane and the south end of the Nursling Industrial Estate. The Test Way turns right here to cross the floodplain meadows to Totton and Eling.
However, a public footpath continues along the west side of the railway. At this point, the railway parts company from the course of the canal. This continued to follow the edge of a river terrace for about ¼ mile (400m) returning to and crossing the railway to eventually run about ten yards east of it.
The path beside the railway reaches a pedestrian level crossing where the walker will join Test Lane NG Ref: SU369145. WGS84: 50° 55′ 44″ N, 1° 28′ 32″ W.. Whilst the course of the former canal southward was a little less straight than the railway, their centrelines are never more than 10 yards apart as far as the waterway’s terminus at Redbridge.
Redbridge Canal Junction
About 280 yards (250m) from its end, at the northern end of the modern Gover Road, the Southampton Arm of the Southampton & Salisbury Canal joined the Andover Canal having passed under a bridge carrying Test Lane.
The Southampton Arm had a short life. On 8 December 1802 the canal from Redbridge to the west end of the tunnel at Southampton was reported open for barges carrying 25 tons of cargo. It appears that traffic on the Redbridge to Southampton Tunnel section had ceased by the end of 1808.
Near the junction, on the Southampton Arm of the Southampton & Salisbury Canal, there would probably have been some form of stop lock or gate so that in the event of water loss from one of the canals, it would be possible to prevent the other canal also losing water. There would also have been a bridge carrying the towing path on the south side of the Southampton Arm over the Andover Canal whose towing path was on the west bank. These features were probably destroyed when the railway was constructed.
Redbridge and its bridges
Located on the tidal estuary of the River Test, and acting as the terminus of the Andover Canal, Redbridge was a considerable trading post for commodities such as coal, timber and corn. In addition it was a centre for ship building with many merchant and Royal Navy vessels being constructed here in the 18th and 19th centuries. There was a similar depth of water at Redbridge to Southampton so that ships of the time could easily make Redbridge.
When the canal was first proposed in 1770 there was just one bridge spanning the tidal River Test: a bridge thought to have been built in the 17th century replacing a series of earlier bridges which had replaced a ford. The name does not refer to its colour but is derived from “Reed Bridge” after the extensive reed beds just upstream. A further bridge was built in the causeway in 1793 (the year before the canal opened) to give boats making for the canal more headroom and draught than available under the medieval structure. It is known as County Bridge as it was paid for by the county.
Next by date came a fairly low level timber viaduct carrying the Southampton and Dorchester Railway which opened in 1847. This was replaced in 1883 with an iron viaduct just to the south of the original. In 1964 the viaduct was replaced by two shorter bridges with an artificial island between them, more or less on the site of the original viaduct.
On 18 November 1930 Redbridge Road Bridge (A35) was opened to provide an improvement over the medieval bridge which was closed, together with the railway level crossing (known as “Test Gates”), as a through route. The 1930 bridge was augmented by a second westbound carriageway known as Redbridge Viaduct in the 1970s.
The waterfront at Redbridge
The entrance lock to the Andover Canal was about 80 yards (75m) upstream of the medieval Red Bridge but is now under the railway line. There was a bridge over the tidal entrance to the lock giving access to the land west of the canal. Until sometime between 1896 and 1907, there used to be a house called Ivy Cottage together with some outbuildings on this land. Also there was a group of buildings labelled ‘Brick Kiln’ on an Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1867 but they disappeared from the map revised in 1896.
Across Test Lane from the medieval Red Bridge is the Anchor Inn (formerly the Anchor Hotel) which is a Grade 2 listed building. The right-hand part dates from the early 18th century, the left-hand side from the early 19th. Built when Redbridge was a shipbuilding village and separate from Southampton, the pub was once a courthouse and is reputed to be haunted from that time.
On its right are 63 and 65 Test Lane which are Grade 2 listed buildings. These were once outbuildings of the hotel and are believed to have been used as warehousing. Before the construction of the railway, tidal water used lap up to Test Lane on both sides of Red Bridge.
Redbridge Wharf is located to the south-east and now on the other side of the Southampton to Bournemouth and Dorchester railway line. Redbridge’s access to the water was severely restricted in 1847 when the London and South Western Railway opened the Southampton to Dorchester railway. The line ran along the waterfront before crossing the Test south of the old Red Bridge.
Redbridge’s maritime connections were further weakened in 1880 when the LSWR acquired Redbridge Wharf and adjacent land in order to construct their Permanent Way Works and the wharf area was extended. Timber for railway sleepers was brought in by boat whilst wooden sleepers were still in use. The works finally closed in 1989. Part of the wharf is now a public park only accessible via the Redbridge Station footbridge.
Although a bit simplified, a very good idea of the appearance of Redbridge Wharf in about 1967 can be gained from an award-winning model railway layout, named Redbridge Wharf, constructed by Winchester Railway Modellers. This can be viewed on their website.