Southampton and Salisbury Canal: Picture Gallery No 7

Salisbury Arm: West Dean to East Grimstead

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From the Tithe Map of 1843 for West Dean, it appears that the river and canal passed through the village green as two separate channels which have since been combined. The present day channel which approaches from East Dean that has a footbridge over it is the alignment of the canal. The river lay to the north and this is confirmed by the remains of it shown just to the east of the village on the Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1871. This map shows that the two channels through the village had been combined by this date. The southern end of the barn between the canal and the former Red Lion public house stands over the former course of the river and does not appear on a map until 1901. We pass from Hampshire into Wiltshire just west of the barn. Indeed, the boundary passed through the bar of the Red Lion!

However, it looks as though the present day channel leaving the green under the road bridge at the other end of the village green is on the original line of the river and that the canal was to its south-west (on the left looking upstream). It seems that fairly extensive changes to the River Dun along much of the valley occurred as a result of the construction of the railway between 1844 and 1847.

At the upstream end of the village green, the County Council road bridge has replaced the two arch bridge designed by John Rennie to replace the original canal bridge destroyed by a flood in February 1799. Upstream of the bridge, there is a single channel for the river. The course of the canal is not visible but was on the left hand bank. 70 yards beyond the bridge, the railway crosses the river on its own bridge next to the level crossing at the station. There is no accommodation for the canal.

Upstream of the railway, the canal was on the southern bank. The Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map surveyed in 1871 showed that about 2 acres in this area had become allotment gardens which today have been abandoned and overgrown as woodland. As a result, all traces of the canal for over 200 yards have disappeared. A public footpath to East Grimstead crosses the River Dun by means of a footbridge in this area.

Most guides to the remains of the canal, omit to mention or gloss over a major feature of the canal in this area. This is the sizable cutting that lies between a large pond to its north and the railway line to the south. The cutting passes through a spur of higher ground and it is a matter of speculation as to why it should have been cut.

The origin of the pond is uncertain: on the one hand the land owner has maintained that it was a fish pond belonging to the church but others have claimed it was built and used as a reservoir for an irrigation scheme down stream that was built around 1760. Either way, there are a number of possible reasons why the canal was not routed north around the spur.

Whatever the reason, it seems that the impecunious canal company was forced to take a costly route south of the pond through a deep cutting.

During the construction of the railway and its cutting through the same spur of land, the navvies dumped much of their spoil between the railway and the canal cutting with some partially blocking the latter in several places. Together with several chalk pits within area of the wood, this makes the ground quite confused.

One further feature of this area needs mention. There were two locks at West Dean as part of the canal's climb from Kimbridge to Alderbury. 20 years ago, members of the Southampton University Industrial Archaeology Group established by levelling that the difference in level between the village green and the cutting is in the region of 5 metres (about 16 or 17 feet) which is the equivalent of 2 locks. Their position is uncertain but it seems most likely that they were at the eastern end of the cutting to reduce the volume of excavation required.

About 150 yards beyond the western end of the cutting, the railway crosses the course of the canal. Some 150 yards beyond the railway, the River Dun leaves the course of the canal to pass under the railway on its passage around the hill to the village of West Dean. The River Dun used to occupy a separate course north of the canal for nearly a mile west of this point but since at least 1871 and probably since the construction of the railway in the 1840's, the water has been diverted into the old canal and the old course of the river is only discernable after very wet weather.

Some 500 yards west of the railway crossing and just north of Windrush Farm is a modern culvert carrying a farm access over the canal. This consists of four corrugated iron tubes with some brickwork on the south side. Whilst this is the site of an original bridge over the canal, the bricks appear to be more modern. The original bridge here was probably a drawbridge (one of 16 between Kimbridge and Salisbury that Joseph Hill included in his estimate of 1794). A short distance west of the culvert, is the site of Lock 9 but other than a slight change in ground level, there is no visible evidence of it's existence.

About 350 yards west of the Windrush Farm culvert, the River Dun and a slightly diverted canal pass under the railway in a brick culvert.

Continuing westward for about another 200 yards, the canal is crossed by a small brick accommodation bridge allowing access to a field between the railway and canal. Probably built at the same time as the railway, it seems to have had little maintenance over the years. Its arch is far too small to allow the passage of boats.

Having followed a generally westerly direction since West Dean, the canal bends to follow a south-westerly course but in little more than 100 yards the canal is crossed yet again by the railway. The River Dun enters the course of the canal at this point having run along the northern boundary of railway for some distance. The site of Lock 10 is also in this area, probably lying under the railway embankment or immediately south of it.

The canal continues its south west direction until it meets the West Dean to East Grimstead road. The Ordnance Survey Old Series One-Inch map surveyed in 1806-7 does not show this road as far west as this point on the canal but ending near Lock 10. Incidentally, this map shows the railway (added to the map some years later) a little south of its correct position. Although today there is a bridge for the road under the later railway, it seems that there might not have been a bridge over the canal here. However, the fact that on the south side of the road the canal entered a cutting as it swung through 90 degrees to the north west would point to some feature being present otherwise why not build the canal along the contour?

The line of the canal passes under the railway embankment just a few yards west of the railway bridge and continues for about ⅔ mile running beside or close to the south side of the West Dean to East Grimstead road. The first hundred yards or so of the canal bed has been infilled but beyond this much of the canal bed remains reasonably intact albeit overgrown. Somwhere along this section is the site of Lock 11 (probably about ¼ mile west of the railway bridge) but its exact location is yet to be verified. For about the last 250 yards from Dillon Farm to East Grimstead Church, the ‘dry’ canal enters a cutting about 10 feet deep.

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Page created 31 October 2016 and published 7 April 2017.

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