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The Restoration of the Canal
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You are in [Themes] [Transport] [Kennet & Avon Canal] [The Restoration of the Canal]


In 1954 the British Transport Commission planned to close the canal, but this triggered a major outcry. John Gould appealed to the High Court for an injunction to prevent the BTC allowing further deterioration of the Kennet and Avon. He delivered a petition of 20,000 signatures to The Queen. Questions were asked in parliament, and a Committee of Inquiry was set up.

A new dawn in the life of the Kennet and Avon canal was about to appear.

Volunteers were enthused to begin the process of clearing the canal of years of debris. In 1961 the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust established; in 1963 the Kennet and Avon was taken over by "British Waterways".

Restoration work began. After huge endeavours by keen volunteers and other professional workers, the restoration gathered pace.

On 20 July 1974 the canal was officially re-opened to Hungerford wharf (175 years after its original opening to Hungerford).

The 'Rose of Hungerford': The Rose of Hungerford trip boat has played a key part in the enjoyment of the canal at Hungerford. It was launched at Great Bedwyn in Aug 1982, and the Official Commissioning of the "Rose of Hungerford" took place at Hungerford on Sat 6 Mar 1983. See
- "The 'Rose of Hungerford' takes to the water", NWN Aug 1982
- the invitation to the Commissioning
- "Hungerford's canal boat is christened", NWN 31 Mar 1983
- "Rose of Hungerford" promotional leaflet, c1983

Work continued to restore the entire canal to service, and on 4 August 1990 the re-opening of the entire canal was celebrated at Hungerford wharf.

The grand official opening was by HM The Queen on board The Rose of Hungerford at Caen Hill on 8 August 1990 - recognising both the importance of Hungerford in the original conception of the canal, and the fact that it was at Caen Hill that the canal had been completed in 1810 (180 years earlier).

The restoration had taken about 30 years of hard work, but even then it was not absolutely complete. Much further work was required to install back pumps at several locations, and to improve further various locks and bridges. The Kennet and Avon project was successful in achieving the largest ever National Lottery funding - 25 million in 1998.

Now fully restored, the work of ongoing maintenance continues.

The canal is in greater use now than at any time in its 200 year history. Its activities include:
- Narrow Boats
- Day trips (e.g. The Rose)
- Fishing (Hungerford Canal Angling Association was
      formed in 1900)
- Walking
- Cycling
- Canoeing
- Commercial

In 2010 the Kennet and Avon Canal was reclassified from "remainder" waterway to "cruiseway" status – ensuring its future funding.

Its engineering highlights include:
- Caen Hill flight
- Avoncliff Aqueduct
- Dundas Aqueduct
- Bruce Tunnel
- Crofton Pumping Station
- Claverton Pumping Station

Above all, it passes through some magnificent scenery. The bicentenary was recognised by Kirsten Elliott in her book "Queen of Waters".

In 2003 the brick road bridge over the canal was strengthened by specialist structural engineers Bersche-Rolt.

In Oct 2003 a car parked on the wharf rolled back and teetered on the edge of the canal. See "Just inches away from disaster", NWN 23 Oct 2003.

1955 Caen Hill(w)

Volunteers clearing the choked canal at Caen Hill, 1955

K&A Aug 1964-01w

The canal at Crofton choked with weed, 1964. (Photo by Brian Hawkins)

K&A Aug 1964-04w

Hungerford Marsh lock, 1964.
(Photo by Brian Hawkins)

canal_19 Town Lock c1970w

Hungerford Town lock, c1965.

Canal Woolhampton-02w

Restoration of Woolhampton lock

Canal Heale's(w)

Restoration of Heale's

219-canal_24 Re-opening_02b(w)

Re-opening of the canal to
Hungerford wharf, 20 July 1974


The canal breached when
the pod of a dredger broke
the 1910 elm culvert under the canal
near St Lawrence's church, 1980


The canal above Town lock empty following the breach near
St Lawrence's church, 1980


Unloading the pre-fabricated swing bridge on the wharf, prior to installation near St Lawrence's church, Apr 2010


The new swing bridge in place near St Lawrence's church, May 2010

Hungerford 4 Aug 1990w

Celebrating the re-opening of the entire Kennet and Avon canal, at Hungerford wharf, 4 Aug 1990

Rose and Queen 2(w)

The Queen travelling in the Rose of Hungerford at Caen Hill flight for the official re-opening of the entire Kennet and Avon canal,  8 Aug 1990

See also:
- The Avon Navigation
- The Kennet Navigation
- The Building of the Kennet and Avon Canal
- Crofton Pumping Station
- The Prosperous Years
- A Century of Decline
- "The Kennet & Avon Canal", by Kenneth R. Clew, David & Charles 1973.
- Invitation to Official Commissioning of the "Rose of Hungerford", Mar 1983
- Rose of Hungerford promotional leaflet, c1983
- "Queen of Waters", by Kirsten Elliott, Akeman Press 2010
- The Bruce Trust - A charity providing wide-beam canal boats on the Kennet and Avon Canal for
     hire for self catering holidays by disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people and their carers.

Updated: 16.3.2015

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