Andover Canal: Trade

Very little is known about the day to day running of the canal as the original canal company records seem to have been destroyed. Should anyone know of the whereabouts of any of these records, the Website Manager would be very pleased to learn about them.

Redbridge was an established port and shipbuilding centre at the head of Southampton Water. It is also the lowest bridging point on the River Test. Many merchant and Royal Navy vessels were constructed there in the 18th and 19th centuries. There was a similar depth of water at Redbridge to Southampton so that ships could easily make Redbridge to bring goods for Andover, the Test Valley and Salisbury.

Site of Romsey Wharf

Site of Romsey Wharf, June 2017
© 2021 Google Street View

The canal company had its own wharves at Andover, Stockbridge and Romsey; there were also a number of private wharves including Clatford, Fullerton, Horsebridge, Mottisfont, Timsbury and Redbridge. The canal carried a local trade, mainly bringing coal, building materials, such as slate, and manure up from Southampton Water and carrying agricultural produce down. There was an imbalance in trade and often the boats had to travel down empty.

The maximum tolls that could be charged were 2d (0.8p) per ton per mile on all goods. However, trade was below expectations and was never sufficient to enable the shareholders to be paid any dividends. In 1827 the company were eight years in arrears with its loan interest but by 1851 this had reduced to one year.

Joseph Priestley published a book in 1831 called “Navigable Rivers and Canals” which gave details of every navigable canal and river. He included information about the Andover Canal an extract of which is available here: Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, and Railways of Great Britain.

In the Hampshire Chronicle dated 31 March 1794, there was a notice extolling the virtues of the town of Stockbridge and the nearby canal. A further notice in the Hampshire Chronicle in 1804 announced an auction to be held at the Star and Garter Inn in Andover selling a lease of the whole canal concern. The advertisement was placed by R A Etwall, Clerk to the said Company and enquiries could be made of Mr New who was described as ‘the Inspector’.

Site of Andover Wharf

Site of Andover Wharf, November 2005
© 2005 Peter Oates

In March 1824, the Hampshire Chronicle reported the theft of three sacks of wheat and two of barley from the Romsey wharf. A reward of ten guineas (£10.50) was offered. If the offenders were caught they were liable to be sentenced to death.

A few other records survive including a couple of invoices for services issued by the company. One of these dated 1855 was sent to a Mr Harris about charges for the delivery of 160 tons of chalk loaded at Sir J B Mills’ pit. This is the large chalk quarry that is still on the east side the A3057 about 1 mile (1.75km) north of the Bear & Ragged Staff Inn, near Timsbury. It was delivered to Redbridge at a cost of two shillings (10p) a ton. Another invoice of the same year was made out to Mr Guliver for two loads of ‘Small Chalk’ at £2 per load, but no further detail is provided.

The canal did not lead to a great upsurge of manufacturing along its length, if any at all. Traffic mostly consisted of heavy materials that would have been expensive to transport by land, such as the Caen stone used in the rebuilding of St Mary’s church in Andover in 1844. In 1859, 37,000 bricks for the building of an extension to Broadlands House were delivered by way of the canal.

In 1849, the canal company started carrying all 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 railway from Basingstoke reached Andover in 1854 providing a roundabout route from Southampton. Price-cutting began forcing the canal company to reduce its rates to retain its traffic. The tonnage carried was maintained but receipts fell and little loan interest could be paid after 1854. (Inflation means £1,000 in 1855 would be approximately £90,000 in 2024.)

Toll and Carrying Receipts 1852 to 1857
Year ending June Receipts
1852 3,276
1853 3,751
1854 3,623
1855 3,090
1856 3,261
1857 3,140

In 1859, the Andover and Redbridge Railway Company estimated that the canal carried 2,033 tons between Andover and Redbridge. Presumably some additional cargoes were carried to intermediate destinations. The overall figure is likely to be less than in earlier years as by 1859 both Andover and Romsey were served by rail. The main sources of traffic identified were:

Estimated tonnages carried in 1859
Cargo Tons
Hides and bark 422
Artificial manure 400
Building materials, including slates 400
Coals 300
Timber 200
Corn 166
Soda 100
Other 45
Total 2,033

Robert Tasker set up his Waterloo Ironworks in the Anna Valley south west of Andover in about 1815, less than a mile from the canal at Upper Clatford mainly producing agricultural equipment. Tasker had a private wharf on the canal immediately above Pill Hill Lock. About 400 tons of Tasker's foundry iron came from South Wales via Redbridge and the canal each year. Some 100 tons of iron came from the Forest of Dean and, together with some 200 tons of Somerset coal, this was brought along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Burbage Wharf and then by road waggon. Timber came from Devizes or Honey Street on the Kennet & Avon.

In 1859 it cost Taskers £1 10s (£1.50) for six tons of material. The canal journey from Redbridge took two days, with an overnight stop in Romsey.

There are a number of websites giving the history of Taskers, including Hampshire Cultural Trust and Wikipedia.