The Oxford Canal

Description of this historic site

The Oxford Canal, a waterway used for transporting goods. It was built during the Imperial period and is still in use.

Notes about this historic site

1 The canal was first considered as an extension of the Coventry Canal in the 1760s. For a time, though, the Coventry Canal existed as an isolated stretch. In 1768 a meeting was held to promote the Oxford Canal and in 1769 the act was obtained. There was much support from collieries, especially from Sir Roger Newdigate whose pits were joined by the canal to the Coventry Canal.
2 The Oxford- Coventry Canal junction proved a problem due to the former company’s reluctance. Eventually legal proceedings forced them to accept a junction at Longford. This was always unsatisfactory, as, i) the canals ran parallel for some distance and ii) the different heights meant that water was lost to the Coventry Canal at the junction. By 1771 ten miles of canal were open, by 1774 it had reached Napton and by 1778, Banbury. The line was complete to Oxford in 1790, a total length of 91 miles. For the first 11 years the canal was a section of the shortest Midlands-London route. In 1800 the Grand Junction took this title, but in itself this stimulated trade in the Northern section of the Oxford Canal. In 1829 the very winding northern section was straightened, reducing the canal’s total length from 91 to 77 miles. Changes included building a new Newbold Tunnel, the widening and embanking of Brinklow Arches and the abandonment of Wolfhamcote tunnel and loop. Many sections of the old canal were retained as feeders or to serve local industry at Stretton (WA3566) and Kings Newnham (WA3641). The new line was opened in 1834, except for the new junction with the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury which was made in 1836. By 1842 the company was suffering from railway competition and despite addtional works such as the opening up of Fenny Compton tunnel in 1865-8, receipts continued to fall. The canal survived with trade at a much lower level and is presently used mainly by pleasure craft, operating from stations on the old wharves, such as at Stretton.
3 cf West Midlands SMR No 5862.

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