Wey and Arun Canal

Wey and Arun Canal

What is now known as the Wey and Arun Canal runs 23 miles (37 km) through 26 locks from the River Wey at Shalford, Surrey to the River Arun at Pallingham. It comprises parts of two separate undertakings – the northern part of the "Arun Navigation", between Pallingham and Newbridge Wharf, which opened in 1787, and the "Wey and Arun Junction Canal", which connected the Arun at Newbridge to the Godalming Navigation near Shalford, south of Guildford, opened in 1816.Passing through a rural landscape, there was little freight traffic to justify its continued existence, and the canal was officially abandoned in 1871.

Without maintenance, the canal gradually became derelict over much of its length. However, since 1970, active restoration by The Wey & Arun Canal Trust has resulted in several miles of the waterway being restored to navigable standard. Work is continuing, with the ultimate aim of re-opening the entire canal to navigation.clear

Arun Navigation

The River Arun was used in an unimproved condition for centuries, but work was carried out on the river itself and the port of Arundel in the 16th century, which allowed boats to reach Pallingham Quay near Pulborough by 1575. An Act of Parliament received the Royal Assent on 13 May 1785, entitled "An Act for amending and improving the Navigation of the River Arun, from Houghton Bridge, in the parish of Houghton, in the county of Sussex, to Pallenham Wharf, in the parish of Wisborough Green, in the said county; and for continuing and extending the Navigation of the said River Arun, from the said Wharf, called Pallenhara Wharf, to a certain Bridge, called New Bridge, situate in the parishes of Pulborough and Wisborough Green, in the said county of Sussex".As its name describes, this authorised works to improve the Arun upstream from Houghton Bridge (the tidal limit) to Newbridge, near Billingshurst. The route involved a new artificial cut of 4.5 miles (7.2 km) from Newbridge along the river to Pallingham, crossing the river by an aqueduct on three strong brick arches at Lordings Lock near Wisborough Green. An undershot waterwheel of a design unique on the waterway system was built into the aqueduct. Driven by the flow of the river this had scoops on the back of the blades which raised a small proportion of the flowing water into the higher canal. This was completed in 1787. A second artificial cut was added in 1790 from Coldwaltham to Stopham, including a 375 yard (343 m) tunnel under Hardham Hill: this cut off a large bend in the river near Pulborough, saving 5 miles (8 km).

The route of the Navigation from Newbridge to Houghton was 12.25 miles (19.7 km) with six locks. The River continues a further 15.5 miles (25 km) to the sea at Littlehampton.

The last barge on the section between Pallingham and Newbridge was recorded in 1888, and Hardham tunnel was closed in 1889. The artificial cuts were officially abandoned in 1896, but limited traffic continued on the old river sections into the 20th century, notably bricks from Harwoods Green below Pallingham and chalk from Houghton Bridge: they were finally stopped in 1938 by a new, fixed bridge on the Havant to Brighton railway line at Ford.

Wey and Arun Junction Canal

In 1810, the 3rd Earl of Egremont began to promote the idea of a canal to link the Rivers Wey and Arun, separated by only 15 miles (24 km). Part of the justification for this canal through a very rural area, with few of the cargoes which had made other canals profitable, was to provide an inland route from London to the south coast of England, an important consideration as England was at war with France and thus coastal shipping at risk of attack.

Josias Jessop (son of the more well known William Jessop) was appointed consulting engineer and made an estimate of £72,217 for construction of the canal, later increased to £86,132 when part of the route was changed.

A survey was carried out in the same year by Francis and Netlam Giles for an alternative route, from the Croydon Canal to Newbridge, via Merstham, Three Bridges, Crawley and Horsham.

An Act of Parliament received the Royal Assent on 19 April 1813, entitled "An Act for making and maintaining a navigable Canal, to unite the Rivers Wey and Arun, in the counties of Surrey and Sussex". This authorised the construction of the canal from the Godalming Navigation (an extension of the River Wey) near Shalford, south of Guildford to the northern terminus of the Arun Navigation at Newbridge. May Upton was appointed resident engineer in July, and work began. Construction was completed in 1816.

The route of the canal was 18.5 miles (29.8 km) with 23 locks.

By the time it was opened, however, the war with France was over and thus one of the key reasons for its construction was removed. As a result it was never very prosperous, but did reasonably well, with a maximum of 23,000 tons carried in 1839. However, railway competition hit hard in 1865 with the opening of the Guildford and Horsham Railway, which was in direct competition with the canal. There were also engineering problems with few sources of water to tap into, compounded by porous soil on the summit level, which led to water shortages.

An Act of Parliament of 1868 authorised closure. It was offered for sale in 1870, but officially abandoned in 1871, with the land sold to many along its route.

This canal is currently being restored by The Wey & Arun Canal Trust.


In 1970, a group of enthusiasts formed the Wey & Arun Canal Society, with a view to reopening the canal. The Society evolved into The Wey & Arun Canal Trust, the present custodians of the canal restoration, in 1973.

The Trust have reached agreements with several landowners to allow restoration work to be undertaken over half the length of the 23-mile canal. As of 2005: twelve bridges have been reconstructed, six locks restored, an aqueduct re-instated, and several miles of canal bed cleared and dredged.

The current major project (2007) is the area where the B2133 road crosses over the canal.

A photo-history of the canal's restoration to date and the latest progress reports may be found on the Trust's website.

The B2133 Bridge

The hump-backed road bridge at Loxwood was removed and in-filled in the early part of the 20th century, severing the canal in two and leaving a major obstacle to restoration.

Modern regulations prevent the installation of a replacement hump-backed bridge, so restoration requires the canal to burrow underneath, leaving the road at its current level. This is a major engineering exercise, achieved by lowering a 400m length of canal so that there is adequate headroom for a boat to pass under the road. At one end of the length, Brewhurst Lock has been reconstructed to reduce its fall to 2 feet (0.6m), and hence lower the level of the water in the pound crossed by the bridge. At the other end, the new Loxwood Lock has been constructed, to provide for the 6 feet (1.8m) difference between the new and original levels of the canal. In between, the canal bed has been lowered by 4.5ft (1.4m), the banks shored up with piling, and a new winding hole created.

As of January 2008, the works on the new bridge have begun. Undertaken by engineers Tony Gee and Partners and contractor C J Thorne of Uckfield the works commenced on site on 7 January 2008. Since then, the piling which will form the wing walls and main structure of the bridge have been completed, with the last of the 142 piles being installed on 30th January. Work has now begun on the temporary road diverson to enable the east side of the bridge to be constructed. The current road restricts all vehicles over 7.5 tonne as a safety measure to the site personnel. Work is expected to be completed November 2008.

A 23m long tunnel will be built for the canal, including a towpath which will also allow pedestrians to cross the road in safety.

ee also

*River Arun
*River Wey
*Portsmouth and Arundel Canal - the two canals were intended to give secure inland navigation between London and the important naval base at Portsmouth

External links

* [http://www.weyandarun.co.uk/ The Wey & Arun Canal Trust] – restoration news and detailed maps of the canal's route
* [http://www.weyriver.co.uk/theriver The River Wey and Wey Navigations Community Site] — a non-commercial site of over 200,000 words all about the River Wey including information and images about the adjacent Godalming Navigation and a section on the Wey and Arun canal


*P.A.L. Vine: "London's Lost Route to the Sea: Historical Account of the Inland Navigations Which Linked the Thames to the English Channel (Inland Waterways Histories S.) "
*Edward Paget-Tomlinson: "The Illustrated History of Canal and River Navigations", Sheffield Academic Press, 1993
*Jane Cumberlidge: "Inland Waterways of Great Britain", Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson Ltd, 1998
*Joseph Priestley: "Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals and Railways of Great Britain", 1831

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