Southampton & Salisbury Canal


Seal of Southampton and Salisbury Canal Company

This canal was a child of the Canal Mania of 1792 when investors were more than willing to invest their money into any canal scheme in order to receive large profits. It was seen originally as a part of a more general scheme for an inland waterway route linking Bristol with the South Coast. However, like a number of canal projects promoted around the same time, the Southampton and Salisbury Canal lost its shareholders a great deal of money and, indeed, was never completed.

Map of Southampton and Salisbury Canal and its connections

The history of the canal’s construction is a sad tale of a project ineffectively controlled. Although 200 years ago the methods of administering such a company and its business were not as well established as today, even by the standards of the time the proprietors were somewhat amateurish and naïve in conducting their affairs. Above all, there seem to have been few checks upon expenditure. The company appears to have learnt its lessons - but only when it was too late.

The project consisted of two separate lengths of canal which were connected by the Andover Canal. The first length was to run from God’s House Tower in Southampton to a junction with the Andover Canal at Redbridge. There was also to be a branch to run north-east from Houndwell to allow connection with the Itchen Navigation at Northam. The second length left the Andover Canal at Kimbridge and should have run to Milford on the then outskirts of Salisbury but in fact was not constructed that far.

After more than two hundred years, parts of the canal that were constructed have totally disappeared although remains can be found, particularly on the Salisbury arm.

Some sources give the name of this waterway as the “Salisbury and Southampton Canal” but most contemporary documents, including the shares and the company seal (see above), show the name of Southampton first.