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Text of notice (far right)

WATNEYS are glad to be associated with the admirable project and were happy to meet the cost of transporting this dredger from Reading to Odiham on Monday 29 July 1974. The Surrey and Hampshire Canal society purchased the dredger in May 1973. In conjunction with the Hampshire County Council it is being used in a five year project to restore 32 miles of the canal to full navigability.

Any one interested in joining the Society and helping in the restoration should contact Alan Babister at 31 Elmsleigh Rd Farnborough, Hants.
Tel. Farnborough 46147

BasingstokeCanal Restoration
- Dieter Jebens and David Robinson

[Published 1985]

booklet front cover (32K)

Basingstoke Canal 1769-1964
The Harmsworth Connection
The Campaign for Public Ownership
The Early Days
The Hampshire Rangers
Silt Disposal
Ash Lock
Deepcut Dig
Lock 25
Youth Training Schemes
Deepcut Railway
Lock Gate Workshop
SCC, MoD and BR
Accomodation Bridges
Woking Eastwards
Visiting Working Parties
Company Sponsors
Fundraising and Publicity

Published by: Fulltone (graphics) Ltd. for the
Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society,
Meadow Vale, Guildford Road,
Normandy, Guildford, Surrey.

Copyright Dieter Jebens and David Robinson, 1985
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The Earl of Onslow, President, The Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society

"In the year that England won the Ashes, I first went on a canal from Braunston to Ellesmere Port and Chester. My father did the washing up and my mother looked at castles while a hired bargeman did the steering. The idea was that the children - myself, my sister and a friend - would open and close lock gates, but "the best laid schemes o'mice an' men, gang aft a-gley".

It poured throughout and we played monopoly. That holiday certainly aroused my interest in, and my affections for the canals of England. It was rekindled the year after I was married when we took a day trip from Market Drayton with my parents-in-law. My father-in-law (wearing plus fours) fell in, in the classic fashion while pushing the boat out from the bank, and my young brother-in-law was sick on the way home in the car. After that, almost every year we, as a family, have taken canal holidays, so I was more than pleased to be asked in 1971 to be President of the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society. I have always taken a delight in the silly and funny things that go wrong on canals. The fact that time vanishes and seems of no importance; the fact that one observes more clearly what goes on, both in the countryside that is passed and in the living industrial museums - all go to make canalling and the canals an essential part of a civilised holiday.

The canals, the precursors of the railways and motorways, may have a limited commercial future; they may attract eccentrics and I am perhaps one where they are concerned, but they do provide idylic holidays. This being so it is an excellent idea that this Basingstoke Canal is being restored. The Book itself is a brief but fascinating story of the efforts of countless volunteers aided by imaginative County Councils, who have seen the benefit that so many can obtain, not only from the canal's re-opening, but also from the actual enjoyment and satisfaction of getting stung by nettles whilst clearing overgrown towpaths, of falling into oozy slime-filled locks whilst repairing them, all probably in the pouring rain of an English summer. In a bygone age that sort of thing used to be called character building, and I am not sure there was not a good deal of truth in it.

Lord Onslow, Mr Cranley Onslow MP, Mr Robin Higgs, etc. (13K) (Left to right) Lord Onslow, Mr Cranley Onslow MP, Mr Robin Higgs and Lady Onslow with her daughter (centre) Lady Charlotte Emma, aboard the John Pinkerton at Ash Lock.

The Society has shown quite enormous stamina and faith. It is hard now with so much established, repaired and revitalised, to realise what the totally derelict canal of 1968 must have looked like to a dedicated band of enthusiasts who have been the driving force all these years. I presume there have been arguments, but none have been serious. I presume there have been mistakes, but none are noticeable. I know that people like Robin Higgs, Dave Gerry, Lisa Hamilton, Frank Jones and June Sparey to name but a few of the hundreds whose contribution is appreciated by us all, will be remembered by future generations who will enjoy being able to travel from Odiham to Weybridge through to the Thames, and if they wish down to the open sea.
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1769: A 21-1/2 mile long canal is proposed from Basingstoke to the Thames at Monkey Island.
1778: An Act is passed for a canal 44 miles long from Basingstoke through Odiham, Frimley and Woking to the River Wey, with a branch to Turgis Green.
1783: Efforts are made to start work on the canal after a delay caused by the War of American Independence.
1788: Work started.
1792: 34 Miles and 24 locks are completed. Plans are being discussed for an extension of the canal to join the River Itchen.
1796: The canal is completed to Basingstoke. There is a variation from the original plan in that the loop around Greywell Hill has been replaced by a 1,200 yard tunnel through it, and the branch to Turgis Green has not been built. The length of the canal is 37 miles; the waterway falls 195 feet through 29 locks, each capable of passing a fifty ton barge 72ft 6in long and 13ft 10in wide.
1825: The Basingstoke Canal is in a state of decay; only one trader remains. A Bill for the Hants-Berks Junction Canal between Old Basing and Newbury fails to pass through Parliament.
1839: The London and South Western Railway is completed from London to Basingstoke. Trade on the canal has revived, mainly because of the requirements of the railway engineers. Frimley Aqueduct is built to pass the railway under the canal.
1869: The first Basingstoke Canal Company is wound up.
1874: The canal is sold for £12,000
1878: The concern is liquidated, and remains so for twelve years.
1890: There is a breach at Crookham: a 4 small culvert gives out, the banks on either side give way, water floods the country all around and the canal is left dry for miles. The liquidated company is without funds to repair the damage. J. Orlando Law and others raise £50,000 to completely restore and deepen the canal, and use it for transporting bricks from the Nateley works. The canal prospers for several years.
c.1900: The railway is widened from two to four tracks, and Frimley Aqueduct is extended proportionately.
c.1905: Nateley brickfields run short of clay; the brick traffic ends, and regular commercial traffic ceases above Aldershot.
1905: The canal is auctioned. It is bought for £10,000 by a Dorset landowner acting on behalf of the notorious M.P. Horatio Bottomley.
1905-10: Bottomley floats the "London and South Western Canal Corporation" and sells thousands of shares, many duplicated and worthless. The company goes into liquidation. Bottomley is twice prosecuted for conspiracy to defraud, but neither time convicted.
1911: A private Act of Parliament is passed enabling Woking UDC to carry out repairs to bridges and other canal works, and charge the company with a proportion of the cost. The repairs are proceeded with, and the owners duly approached for their share of the costs. They refuse to pay.
1913: The Court of Appeal rules that the Council cannot claim anything from the company, that the company cannot levy tolls, and that the company is under no liability to maintain the navigation. It is also ruled that such rights and obligations still lie with the concerned liquidated 35 years ago but never wound up; every member of that concern is now dead. One of the judges states his opinion that the public right of navigation is not destroyed, but this is not relevant to the case.
1914: By the Railway and Canal Act of 1888, any canal that has not been fully navigated for three consecutive years can be abandoned. Mr A.J. Harmsworth has already twice navigated to Basingstoke to prevent abandonment. His third attempt fails; his narrow boat Basingstoke, loaded with five tons of sand is forced to stop at Basing.
1923: The canal passes into the ownership of Mr A.J. Harmsworth for £5,000. He sets up a successful road and water transport service.
c.1934: Drainage culverts from a pond on Greywell Hill have become blocked, water pressure builds up, and a tree on an island in the pond falls through the roof of Greywell Tunnel.
1947: Mr A.J. Harmsworth dies, aged 79.
1949: The Canal is auctioned on March 1st in 37 lots"...with boat houses and cottages, as a going concern above Woking...". It is bought for the reserve price of £187.10s per mile, a total of £6,000 by a purchasing committee Subsequently the New Basingstoke Canal Company is formed. Its managing director is Mr S.E. Cooke.
1964: Mrs Joan Marshall, the general manager, leaves the company, having held the post for 15 years.

Workmen from the London and South Western Canal Company at work on the Goldsworth flight of locks (24K)
(Above) 1913. Workmen from the London and South Western Canal Company at work on the Goldsworth flight of locks. Here, still in use, are the methods and tools that had been used 140 years before in the construction of the canals. The unusual white lock gates were a result of white paint being carelessly spilt on part of the gate while under construction. The workman concerned was then instructed to paint the whole gate white!

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The Harmsworth boathouse at Frimley (15K) The Harmsworth boathouse at Frimley below King's Head Bridge.
One of the 15 barges built on the banks of the canal at the Harmsworth's Ash Vale yard (20K) One of the 15 barges built on the banks of the canal at the Harmsworth's Ash Vale yard from 1918 to 1935.

Alexander John Harmsworth, born 23rd September 1869, is a prominent name in the contemporary history of the Basingstoke Canal. But he was not the only member of the family to make a living from the canal. At least two generations proceeded Alec Harmsworth's 24-year ownership of the navigation. Both his father, George Thomas Harmsworth, a carpenter, worked on the canal, and his grandfather, James Harmsworth was employed as lock-keeper at St John's from 1830. Although no direct relationship has yet been proved, a Harmsworth from Basingstoke was employed by the canal's contractor, John Pinkerton, as an inspector of bricks in the construction of Greywell Tunnel.

Long before he bought the canal, Alec Harmsworth worked on the Basingstoke as a carpenter, carter and bargeman. He became a registered lighterman and was eventually made a Freeman of the River Thames.

He married Susan Sandom at Odiham on 1st December 1890, and made their home aboard a houseboat at Ash Vale. He started building pleasure boats for hire and established a boathouse at Ash Vale which was run by his brother Frederick Thomas while his youngest brother, Archibald William Ducket, ran another on at Frimley.

A.J. Harmsworth started trading on the canal in the early 1900's with his first barge Mabel bought from the Nately brickworks company. He purchased more barges and then commissioned new ones. By the time he acquired the canal in 1923, Alec Harmsworth had established a thriving commercial carrying business with a fleet of 20 or more barges and narrow boats, five of which including the tug Shamrock he designed and built on the canal at Ash Vale. He went on to build a new barge each year until 1935.

By the 1920s the business had become a family concern. A.J. Harmsworth's second eldest son, Alexander Thomas, known as 'Young Alec', became responsible for lighterage and wharfage. His youngest son Wilfred Henry became a carpenter and concentrated on the barge building and repair side of the business with his brother Arthur John (both were appointed directors of A.J. Harmsworth Ltd) and their uncles Fred and William Harmsworth. Even Alec Harmsworth's daughters became involved through their husbands who were employed on the canal and barges.

The family's connection with the canal is maintained to this day by Tony Harmsworth, the son of W.H. Harmsworth, who is Hampshire's senior canal ranger. A.J. Harmsworth increased trade on the canal from a dwindling 1,295 tons in 1907 to 31,577 tons in 1935. Without his development of trade upon the canal as a part of the family's more extensive haulage business, the navigation would almost certainly not have survived to be restorable today.

</i>Maudie<I> and </i>Ada<I> moored above Little Tunnel Bridge (15K) Two narrowboats believed to be Maudie and Ada moored above Little Tunnel Bridge situated between the villages of Mapledurwell and Up Nately.
The photograph would have been taken before 1906 when the boats were sold by the Hampshire Brick and Tile Company.

 (11K) The horse drawn barge Gwendoline built at Ash Vale in 1921, capable of loading 75 tons seen at Woodham.
The barge was eventually converted to a houseboat and moored on the Grand Union Canal at Berkhamstead.
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The Society is formed
Prior to 1966 when the Society was formed, interest in the canal's future was limited to official ponderings and confidential reports. At that time the lock-free pounds were still navigable and small boats for hire at Ash Vale and Crookham.

But neglect was causing the canal to deteriorate rapidly. Almost the first step the Society took was to seek the owner's permission for volunteers to halt the decay, but without success. The offer was rejected.

The reason was revealed in July 1967 when the New Basingstoke Canal Co. Ltd. published their plan for the future of the waterway. In a memorandum to the County Councils, the Company claimed that the canal was a barrier to development and suggested the urban sections should be culverted and filled in. In recognition of its amenity value, the plan included piecemeal restoration of the canal's rural areas for recreational use, at the expense of local authorities.
In a short reply, the Society set out an alternative plan for full restoration of the 32-mile waterway. It was now clear that the Society would achieve their plan only under public ownership. To this end a conference of local and County Councillors was held at Brookwood Memorial Hall, in October 1967. The Society successfully put their case for restoring the canal and made many valuable contacts.

This was the start of a vigorous campaign to recruit new members and make the Public aware of the canal and the Society's aims. During the Easter holiday, in 1968, a small armada of boats cruised up the canal to the first lock. The event was well covered by the local Press. Regular membership recruitment drives were organised with public meetings and stands at shows and fetes. By July 1968, the Society had 600 members, the 1000th member was enrolled in October 1969 and by February 1973, the number had doubled.

The Case for Restoration
In September 1968, the campaign was given another big boost with the launch of the Society's publication 'Basingstoke Canal: the Case for Restoration'. It explained how the canal could be fully restored with the use of voluntary labour. A solution which was not only considered to be the least expensive, but also the most viable.

The publication evoked widespread publicity and support for the Society's campaign; almost the only dissenting view was expressed by the Canal Company.

But support through the Society's membership was not enough. A petition, calling for the two County Councils to take action, was organised and resulted in 10,000 signatures being presented to the Councils' representatives at Ash Lock on June 14th, 1969. A further 5,000 names were subsequently added to the list.

Like most groups of canal enthusiasts, the Society started with practical aims. But because of the owner's refusal to allow voluntary working parties, another way had to be found of showing that the Society was not just a pressure group. An ambitous project to build a pair of lock gates was started and successfully completed in July 1969. At a ceremony at Ash Vale bargeyard, Paul Vine, author of'London's Lost Route to Basingstoke', secured the final plank with a golden-plated nail. In 1973 work started on a second pair of much larger lower gates which were completed in July of the same year. Both pairs of gates cost the Society £418 in materials against a commercial value of £3,000.

Purchase negotiations
Despite the Society's apparent progress, news of purchase negotiations between the canal owner and the Councils was less encouraging. As early as March 1967, purchase discussions had been reported. Again in 1968, a joint meeting between the relevant County Council committees was reported to have taken place but no statement was issued. Then, in January 1969, Surrey County Council said they were considering purchase, and that the authorities in Hampshire had commissioned an engineer's survey on the condition of their section of the canal. A situation report in August did not reveal any further progress: Surrey was definitely interested - subject to price and agreement by Hampshire to buy their end. But Hampshire's survey had not proved satisfactory and a further report was expected to be ready in March, 1970.

At last, in June 1970, Hampshire announced their plan to enter into purchase negotiations following a positive report from Col. Bowen, a retired Thames Conservancy engineer. In spite of years of neglect, the Hampshire section of the canal was found to be in reasonable condition.


Top left - Towpath refreshments at Crookham Village for Hampshire Councillors during a canal inspection cruise in 1979.
Bottom left - Canal Society founder member Les Harris, exercising the right to navigate the Basingstoke Canal in 1967.
Above right - Spanton's Timber Yard, at Woking, now demolished. The last commercial barge loaded with timber for the yard came up the canal in 1949.

Joint purchase negotiations were opened in July 1970, the Canal Company had valued the canal at £100,000 and so it came as no surprise to learn that both parties were seeking independent valuations.

Twelve months elapsed before any further news was released. Talks between the authorities and the owner had reached a 'delicate situation' and a report would be made by the end of 1971. By February 1972, however, negotiations had broken down. Surrey County Council stated their intention to apply for compulsory purchase orders under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Hampshire followed suit in December and by July 1973, both the authorities had published official notice of their applications.

The inevitable Public Enquiry ensued. It was held at Farnborough Town Hall and opened on November 1st 1973. On the first day a surprise announcement was made that the Canal Company had agreed to sell the 15-mile western end of the canal to Hampshire County Council.

In Surrey, public ownership remained unsettled. The canal's owners sought a Certificate of Appropriate Alternative Development. Their application was rejected and so an appeal was lodged with the Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment.

In February 1975 the DoE confirmed the compulsory purchase orders. For Hampshire confirmation came as a mere formality but for Surrey it signalled an imminent conclusion.

On March 8th 1976 an official of Surrey County Council left County Hall, Kingston-upon-Thames, with a cheque for £40,000 which was accepted by the Canal Co.

Easter 1968, Canal Society's 'protest' cruise at Lock 1 (22K) Easter 1968, Canal Society's 'protest' cruise at Lock 1 publicising the campaign to save the Basingstoke.

Mr W.H. Harmsworth and his son, Tony, building the Society's first pair of lock gates (16K) Mr W.H. Harmsworth and his son, Tony, building the Society's first pair of lock gates at Ash Vale barge yard in 1969.
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clearing towpath w from Barley Mow (25K) clearing Barley Mow bridge-hole (6K) repairing Whitewater aqueduct (8K)

While the Basingstoke was still privately owned, several unofficial working parties were active up and down the canal, mostly clearing the towpath which was almost impassable in places. One group, led by Clem Hebert, a local councillor, cleared the bridge-holes at Colt Hill (below) and at North Warnborough, the hard way, standing knee deep in liquid mud. At the end of 1973, with their compulsory purchase order confirmed, Hampshire County Council gave the go-ahead for the first official working party. On November 17th and 18th, 180 people arrived to help clear the towpath from Barley Mow Bridge westwards (above left). At last the Canal Society was able to get to work. In just two weekends the towpath from Barley Mow Bridge through to Broad Oak Bridge was transformed; trees were trimmed back, and undergrowth cleared and burned. At the same time the bridge-hole at Barley Mow was cleared of bricks and rubble down to the original depth (above right).

By the end of 1974 Hampshire County Council had placed a contract for the repair of the Whitewater Aqueduct (above, bottom right). This structure, carrying the River Whitewater under the canal, had been leaking for some years. The river, only a few feet lower than the canal at this point, flowed down 6 brick culverts, under the canal bed through 3ft diameter wooden trunking, and up again through brick culverts; an interesting structure dating back to the early days of the canal. To carry out the repair work, the river was diverted across the canal and the old structure removed and replaced by larger diameter concrete pipes. Three of the old brick culverts can be seen in the picture. One complete 26ft length of wooden trunking was removed, together with samples of the old bricks, for preservation.

clearing Colt Hill bridge-hole (23K)

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In 1974, a few months after their acquisition of the western end of the canal, Hampshire County Council appointed David Gerry, a former chairman of the Canal Society, as Canal Manager, and a permanent staff of four rangers.

The rangers first task was to ensure the canal's safety. The banks were inspected for any weaknesses or leaks, and all the bridge-holes had stop plank grooves cut in the brickwork (right).
In most cases the necessary repointing was done. The rangers first had to clear the accumulated rubbish. At the same time any necessary repointing was done. The rangers went on to replace leaking culverts which run under the canal.
cutting stop-plank grooves (21K)

By 1975, with the steam dredger working above Colt Hill, Hampshire also started dredging, using Hymac excavators to clear a short length below the lift-bridge at North Warnborough.

The Council later used Hymacs to clear the 4-1/2-mile length between Pondtail Bridge, Fleet and Ash Lock.

By 1980 Ash Lock had been substantially restored, Ash Embankment cleared and the breach filled (right).

Canal cuttings and embankments also required attention, including two landslips. One below Swan Bridge at North Warnborough, was cleared and stabilised in 1978.

Ash embankment breach filled (14K)

The other became a major £80,000 operation at Dogmersfield in 1983. After excavating the slip, a stepped retaining wall was built of gabions filled with 1,500 tons of Oxfordshire stone (below).

repairing the landslip at Dogmersfield (21K)

The excavated material — 5,000 tons of it—was carried in barges down the canal to reinforce the embankment adjacent to Tundry pond.
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The 70-ton steam powered dredger, Perseverance, was built in 1934 by James Pollock & Sons at Wallingford on the Thames and by Grafton Cranes of Bedford, for the Grand Union Canal Company at a cost of £1,639.

The Canal Society acquired the dredger from the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust in 1973. There followed twelve months of intensive work. The boiler was descaled and retubed under the direction of Ian Cripps who recalls "lying inside the boiler wearing goggles and a respirator, cutting out tubes with oxy-acetylene equipment on a hot July afternoon". The crane was stripped down and overhauled, and the hulls renovated and repainted.

After a brief steaming and demonstration, the dredger was dismantled again ready for overland transportation from the River Kennet at Reading to the canal at Odiham.

On July 29th 1974, the hulls were lowered onto the canal at Colt Hill and the dredger reassembled. By the end of the year the boiler had been re-installed and the crane's mounting refitted. The steam grab and jib were restored at the Apprentice Training School, Pyestock and returned to Colt Hill with the assistance of an Army unit.

replacing dredger roof (14K) Ian Cripps sitting on the refitted boiler at Colt Hill with Brian Bane (centre) helping to replace the roof of the dredger.

Now, ten years on, the dredger team has cleared over seven miles of the canal between North Warnborough and Dogmersfield, removing 30,000 tons of mud a mile. The volunteers, originally led by Brian Bane and now Andy Stumpf, have worked practically every weekend contending with the vagaries of the English climate, breakdowns and other unexpected mishaps.

dredger craned into the canal at Colt Hill (27K)The dredger being craned into the canal at Colt Hill.

Their determination and enthusiasm has made a significant contribution towards restoration of the canal.

(Below) A space is cleared in the weed on the canal at Colt Hill, Odiham for the dredger hull. (Left)
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Vehicular access to any waterway is both a practical and financial problem. This was evident when volunteers started dredging at Colt Hill in 1975. Heavy lorries could neither reach the canal-side nor could the Society contemplate the cost of removing silt by road transport.

The solution was to lay a narrow gauge railway along the towpath for skips to be manhandled alongside the dredger, filled with silt, and tipped on an adjacent site. The idea was conceived by Stan Meller and John Peart.

dredging in progress (19K)

A somewhat Heath Robinson layout was devised with the line running on a makeshift pier over the dump-site some 20 yards from the dredging area. With oozing, black mud everywhere, the site resembled a re-creation of the Somme during the First World War, but the railway proved to be a practical method of moving the silt. As the dredger progressed westwards the railway line was extended, sidings added and a 1939 Hudson Hunslet 22 hp diesel locomotive was introduced to relieve aching backs. Now with 900ft of track, an 8-skip train could carry a load of 10 tons to the dump site. Each weekend 70 yards of canal were dredged, 600 tons of silt removed. 10cwt of coal and up to 2 tons of wood were burnt on a typical weekend.

dredging with railway (22K)

When barges, tugs and a dragline crane were introduced, the railway was made redundant. But with its application proved, the track was transferred to Deepcut to carry construction materials to the equally inaccessible flight of 14 locks.

dredging at Colt Hill (20K)

Perseverance with attendant mud barge and Bantam tug at Colt Hill, the start of dredging the canal eastwards at the beginning of 1977.
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In 1969 Ash Lock acquired special significance during the 7-year campaign to save the canal. Following the breach which occurred in Ash Embankment during September of the previous year, the Canal Company obtained planning permission to build a reinforced concrete dam across the head of the lock chamber. It replaced the decaying upper gates, as a safety measure, to ensure water could not reach the breach below.

1913 attempt to reach Basingstoke (17K)
clearing Ash Lock, May 1974 (14K)
(Top) Ash Lock 1913. . .Alec Harmsworth's last attempt to reach Basingstoke. (Bottom left) Ash Lock 1969. (right) Volunteers clearing the chamber in May 1974.

The dam also served as an ominous threat to the Canal Society's aim to have the waterway retained and restored as a continuous navigation, and as a positive step towards the owner's proposal to truncate the canal. This was one of the reasons why volunteers built a pair of new upper gates which were offered to the Canal Company the same year. In reply, the Company's solicitor, Mr Harry D.Swales, declined the offer on behalf of the canal's owners, pointing out that". . .a proposal by your Society to install lock gates of your construction at Ash Lock could not possibly fit in with the arrangements that are envisaged for this lock".

The gates, along with a pair of lower gates built later, were subsequently stored under water until 1980 when Hampshire's canal rangers fitted them in the restored chamber (bottom, left), following demolition of the concrete dam (top left).

demolition of concrete dam (5K) Ash lock restored (6K) June 1984 rally (19K)

The Society has celebrated a variety of achievements since restoration work started officially in 1973, but no event gave quite the degree of satisfaction as the sight of Ash Lock filled with boats, during a memorable weekend rally held on the site in June 1984. (above right).

WVS workers setting up a field kitchen (25K) WVS workers setting up a field kitchen to feed the army of 'navvies'.

volunteers digging trench (20K)
Above: Volunteers digging a trench for a bypass weir and culvert around a lockchamber, designed to control the water levelautomatically, saving the need for a lock-keeper to open the paddles to let excess water through the chamber.

clearing top cill of Lock 15 (17K)
Clearing the top cill of Lock 15 for inspection and repair work. Most of the cills, both top and bottom, had to be excavated and re-built.

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One weekend in October 1977, an army of 600 volunteer 'navvies', from all parts of the country converged on the Deepcut flight of locks to take part in 'Deepcut Dig'. Two exhausting days were spent clearing the lock chambers, removing old lock gates, repairing brickwork and constructing five new bypass weirs and channels. In real terms, the voluntary work achieved was valued at around £8,000; work which would have taken a year to complete by normal weekend working parties. 400 bags of cement, 90 tons of ballast, 10 tons of sand, 18 concrete mixers, 14 hand powered concrete breakers, 4 dumper trucks, hundreds of hand tools were used and 1,400 pints of beer consumed. The event was described as "the most exciting and worthwhile venture I have seen in the whole time I have been involved in local government work", by the Chairman of Surrey County Council, Brig. David Bastin.

Frank Jones, Job Creation Programme Co-ordinator, 'holds-up' Brig. David Bastin, SCC's Chairman with an army pistol recovered during his inspection tour of 'Deepcut-Dig'.  (14K)

volunteers clearing lock chamber (25)A barrow run to clear mud and debris from the bottom of the lock chamber while the gang above remove coping stones and start demolishing the decayed brickwork.

There can be no doubt that this massive working party, organised by the Canal Society and The Waterway Recovery Group, gave a tremendous boost to the eventual restoration of the whole flight.
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In 1969, Lock 25, one of the Deepcut Flight, lay derelict and neglected, typical of all the locks on the canal. An official working party made a start in 1974 to clear a thick layer of silt, vegetation and rubbish from the chamber.

 (20K) 1974. Volunteers, almost up to their knees in mud, tackle the daunting task of clearing tons of silt and vegetation from the bottom of the lock by hauling the spoil up in a bucket on a makeshift hoist, Beyond, the jungle condition of the canal presents another formidable job.

By the time Surrey County Council had bought the eastern length of the canal, considerable progress had been made on the lock by Canal Society working parties. The chamber had been finally cleared of rubbish and vegetation old crumbling brickwork removed and a start made on repairing walls.

By 1976 the top and bottom aprons were restored as they were originally built—oak cross beams with clay in between and elm planking over the top. The original culverts were also rebuilt. Financed by the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society, the lock was rebuilt to the original Basingstoke designs. The work is a credit to all those volunteers, led by Peter Jones, who helped in its restoration. The task proved a valuable experience in learning building techniques, solving restoration problems and the logistics of renewing lock chambers. Volunteers went on to restore locks 19 and 17 of the night.

chamber cleared (16K) 1976. The lock chamber has been cleared, the chamber walls are being repaired and the top cill well on the way to completion involving complete re­construction - all done by voluntary workers.

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Without the Manpower Services Commission's training schemes for unemployed school-leavers, restoration of the Deepcut 14 flight of locks would not have been completed today.

The Society was awarded a £34,633 grant, plus £775 for running costs in March 1977, to provide a basic training and employment to 18 youngsters, supervised by six craftsmen, for a short period of six months. The grant was made under the original Job Creation Programme soon after it was launched.

The Deepcut project was co-ordinated by Frank Jones as a full-time job. He had previously acted as the Society's working party organiser.

In the Autumn of 1977 the project was extended for a further six months with a grant of £18,000 by which time MSC workers had already restored three lock chambers. It was also reported that a third of the original recruits had found jobs with local builders.

MSC youth training workers unloading bricks (20K) Lock 24. MSC youth training workers unloading bricks from the railway supply line in readiness to reface the chamber wall.

Lock 26 showing the old lock gates removed and the extensive brickwork demolition necessary to restore the chamber. Lock 26 being restored (20K)

The following year the Society was granted £137,000 for a further 12 month JCP project to employ 45 young people.

The work of demolishing unsound brickworks and re-building lock chamber walls, cills, and water inlet culverts was extended to building new lock gates. A derelict Army swimming pool, adjacent to Lock 28, at Deepcut, was converted to a workshop for the specific purpose of building gates.

There followed STEP, WEP, PBWE, YOP and lastly the Youth Training Scheme which is a far more sophisticated evolution of the original JCP, involving college lectures to supplement both workshop training and on-site working.

Restoration of the fourteen Deepcut locks culminated with the re-opening of Cowshot Manor Bridge, at Pirbright, in 1982 and re-building the unique dry dock, (adjacent to Lock 28) in 1983. The dock, which was part of a wharf and barge repair yard, was abandoned at the turn of the century and in-filled in 1930.

During the seven years, youth employment schemes have been organised at Deepcut, the MSC has granted the Society more than £500,000 to finance them.
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The Deepcut Line was first laid at Lock 25 and ran for a continuous length of just over 1-1/2 miles along the towpath between Locks 22-28 during the height of its operation. The railway carried some 7,000 tons of bricks, sand and other building materials. The train would often be given a friendly acknowledgement by westcountry bound BR express drivers, with the rasping blare of the engine's horn, as the passenger trains sped by alongside.

The Railway group was helped by Henry Frampton-Jones with the loan of some track and rolling stock. These also came from such diverse sources as the Finedon Sewage Treatment Works and the West Sussex Industrial Archaeological Society. Move to Ash Embankment.

In 1980 the railway-line, stock and engine were transferred to Ash Embankment. It was laid almost the full length of the 1,000-yard long embankment and utilised to transport 14,000 tons of clay needed to re-puddle the water channel, (bottom right).

The Hunslet locomotive was supplemented by two engines loaned by Mr Frampton-Jones. A 15 hp Ruston-Hornsby and a more powerful 30 hp Motor Rail Simplex built in 1960. £1,000 was provided by Rushmoor District Council for an engine shed which was built at the Gas Works Yard below Lock 29.

While operating the railway, other volunteers were needed to load and off-load a mountain of clay. The records show regular visiting voluntary working parties, noticeably the WRNS from HMS Dauntless based near Reading, and the Fleet Branch of Toc H.

Full credit must go to Stan Meller and his team whose tenacity to the railway concept and its contribution to restoration progress can only be recorded but never adequately quantified.

Track laying at Deepcut (17K) Track laying at Deepcut
Unloading clay on Ash Embankment Unloading clay on Ash Embankment (22K)

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1984 rally at Ash embankment (21K)Crossing Ash Embankment during the 1984 boat rally.


The Society's first experience in constructing lock gates culminated in 1969 with the completion of a pair of upper gates, each weighing 15 cwt. The timber cost the Society £120 and work was supervised, if not largely done, by Mr W.H. Harmsworth and his son Tony at the former Ash Vale barge yard.

This led Society volunteers to construct a pair of much larger upper gates working to a 1921 specification used by Alec Harmsworth. A team of 15 volunteers took 400 hours to build the gates, each measuring 12ft high by 8ft 9ins wide and weighting 1V2 tons.

The frames were built of selected English Oak, secured by steel straps, and yellow deal for the planking. The gates (valued at £3,000) were completed in 1973 at a cost of £418 for materials.

The workshop at Deepcut was not established until 1979. A derelict and overgrown Army swimming pool was discovered in the beech woods adjacent to the canal above Lock 28. Originally it was suggested that the pool, built in the 1930's, might be cleared and filled with water again and used to store newly built lock gates. The idea of converting the pool to a workshop was the ingenious suggestion of Surrey's Countryside Officer, Raymond Stedman, to solve the more pressing problem of accommodation in which to build gates.

Job Creation leader Frank Jones seized on the idea and, with MoD approval, work started. First, two feet of mud had to be excavated. Then the walls of half the pool were extended upwards and roofed over to provide 2,250 square feet of workshop area complete with store-room, mess room and an office above. The other end of the pool was opened up to give access to a concrete-based yard where finished gates could be stored. 28 Another imaginative solution, to the problem of moving the heavy, finished gates to the lock chambers, was successfully demonstrated. A narrow gauge railway line was laid leading from the workshop yard to the canal, for gates to be run down onto the water and then floated to the site.

Lock gates have been built mainly by MSC workers under skilled supervision. Frank Jones paid several visits to the British Waterways Board's Bulbourne workshops to study construction techniques. Oak for the massive frames was provided by Surrey County Council from their estate near Dorking. Latterly, voluntary workers have been building lock gates at Deepcut.

Eight first-year apprentices at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, also contributed by constructing two pairs of gates which were installed at Lock 20 in 1981 (below).

constructing lock gates (17K)

lock gate workshop (11K) finished gate (13K)
entering water (13K) floating down the canal (13K)
(top left) The lock gate building workshop at Deepcut. (top right) a finished gate being transported down to the canal. (bottom left) entering water. (bottom right) floating on the water for towing to a lock site.
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dry-dredging (18K) Surrey County Council, as part owner of the canal, has made a major contribution by dry-dredging a considerable proportion of the navigation

Work started in October 1976 with a week's contract given to Dragon Plant Hire. Eight months later the operator, Fred Hill, was still at work and had cleared the 2-mile length of the Deepcut lock flight. He became so attached to his work on the canal that he joined the Council as a lengthsman for a time.

The Council's administration of restoration work is undertaken by a Kingston-based Countryside Officer with the support of civil engineers, forestry workers and other specialists required. The Council also has a staff of three wardens, one of whom, Les Foster, was employed by the New Basingstoke Canal Co. Ltd.

The Council has also supplied building materials to the MSC team and to voluntary working parties.

Army Training
As the largest riparian landowner and a member of the original Joint Working Party-an administrative committee representing the two county councils the Society and the MoD - the Army supported restoration occasionally in a variety of ways.

A training unit of the Royal Engineers from Cove sandbagged the canal bank along the western side of Mytchett Lake (below, bottom left). Royal Engineers from Chatham undertook demolition, bricklaying and dredging work at Locks 17 and 18. Heavy transport and mobile cranes from REME's base at Church Crookham have found useful training exercises launching barges and the Society's tugs (below, top left). Even some dredging has been undertaken by an Army Hymac excavator at Pondtail Bridge, Fleet, and a number of recruits were once detailed to join in the Society's sponsored walk - at the so double!

craning tug(6K) . bank strengthening (9K) aqueduct relining (20K)

British Rail, or the London and South Western Railway as it was known when the main line was built under the canal in 1838, is responsible for maintaining the aqueduct which was subsequently widened in 1901.

British Rail drained the aqueduct in 1981 and re-lined it (above, right). Unfortunately the work was not entirely satisfactory and further work was undertaken in 1984.
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Among the most attractive features on any canal are the brick-arch accommodation bridges. Often found in remote parts of the waterway, they served to link small communities whose tracks and footpaths were severed when the navigation was originally cut.

Accommodation bridges have a particular importance on the Basingstoke because of its rural nature and lack of other canal architecture, such as warehouses or other industrial buildings, associated with the majority of inland waterways.

The Society joined with the Inland Waterways Association to pay the cost of virtually re-building Blacksmith's Bridge at Dogmersfield in 1975. To ensure the authentic renovation, the Society tracked down the White Hill Tile and Brick Works at Arborfield, near Reading, and ordered 4,000 hand-made semi-circular coping bricks to complete the parapets. These bricks were also used on the four bridges renovated by the County Council which span the canal on the northern perimeter of Dogmersfield Park.

The value of restoring accommodation bridges was dramatically emphasized when the Society undertook the restoration of the long disused and derelict

remains of Broad Oak Bridge near Odiham, and Cowshott Manor Bridge at Pirbright.

Not only had both been reduced to an eyesore, but modern counterparts, built alongside, did nothing to enhance the environment.

Re-building the first at Broad Oak presented some real problems in that there were no engineering plans of the original, which was built in 1794. Two consulting engineering members of the Society pieced together a plan. They advised on the use of the traditional 100-ft line to ensure that the ellipse of the brickwork, both in plan and elevation, was faithfully reproduced and an authentic replica built.

These structures will stand as lasting reminders of the ingenuity and skills drawn together to perpetuate our canal heritage for future generations.

(Below) The Earl of Malmesbury at the tiller of the John Pinkerton, with Lady Malmesbury and Peter Fethney.



(above) Broad Oak Bridge, officially re-opened by the Earl of Malmesbury in July 1981, cost £14,000 which was raised by the Society.

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(above) Cowshot Manor Bridge was similarly re-built by MSC workers and re-opened in October 1982 by the High Sheriff of Surrey, Mr J.P.M.H. Evelyn.
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Voluntary restoration work on the St John's (Goldsworth) flight of five locks started in June 1981. (right).

Two other voluntary work sites were established much earlier. Pablo Haworth organised the first regular working party at Lock 6 early in 1975, at the time Surrey County Council finally purchased the 15 mile eastern length of the canal. Pablo's team has continued working ever since, moving on to Lock 5 and then down to Lock 4 (below).

The Inland Waterways Association, Guildford and Reading branch has also been at work for a considerable length of time. A group was formed by Jeff Holman to 'adopt' Lock 1 in February 1977. In spite of difficult conditions caused by water above and below the lock, work has progressed steadily and the chamber is now almost restored.

The local authorities have also been active. In addition to providing materials and plant, Surrey CC has progressively had the canal dredged, and Woking BC announced a £10,000 work programme in 1984.

(Right) Volunteers constructing a by-wash channel alongside a lock chamber.

volunteers rebuilding lock chamber (9K)

volunteers constructing a by-wash channel alongside a lock chamber. (6K)

Pablo's team on Lock 4 (18K)

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The Society has been supported by a great many local groups of volunteers and visitors from further afield. It is only possible to record a few which inevitably are those who appear regularly.

When work started in 1975, members of the International Voluntary Service undertook demolition work on Deepcut Lock 27.

The London branch of Waterway Recovery Group was also among early visitors to Deepcut at Lock 24 (right). Ken Parish has organised regular parties from the Kent and East Sussex branch of the IWA now known as the K&ES Canal Restoration Group.

The Southampton Canal Society, led by Peter Oates, has also had close links with the Canal on the Deepcut flight work. The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, probably the biggest 'independent' waterway group in the country, has organised working parties on the Basingstoke.

Perhaps the most bizarre was a group of lorry drivers who camped by the canal with their wives and girl-friends. Unaware of the restoration work, their curiosity was aroused by work at Lock 25, and like other bystanders, were infected by the enthusiasm of the workers and joined in. They became known as Mob H and once visited Lock 1 equipped with Hymac excavators loaned by one of their employers.

Summer work camps have, in recent times, brought visitors to the canal. The fortnight's camp at St. John's in August 1984 proved especially successful. Eighty volunteers attended from as far away as the USA, West Germany and Iceland. Aided by SCC, they put in 4,000 hours and achieved £15,000's worth of work, building a pair of lock gates, clearing a lock chamber, constructing a by-pass weir and bank protection work, using steel piling in conjunction with a pneumatic hammer.

(below, left) Kennet and Avon Canal Trust members making up the towpath at Ash Vale boathouse.
Making up towpath at Ash Vale (5K) IVS volunteers (18K)
driving in piles between Lock 10-11 (7K) Ken and Liz Parish (8K)
(above, top right) Summer work camp volunteers driving in piles to protect the bank between Locks 10 and 11 at St John's.
(above, right) Ken and Liz Parish leading voluntary bricklayers at Lock 19 in 1979.
(above, left) IVS volunteers excavating the top cill of Lock 27.

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Lock 1 is situated 200 yards from the canal's junction with the River Wey Navigation at New Haw. It was 'adopted' for restoration by the Guildford and Reading branch of the IWA. One of the first jobs for the volunteers, organised by Jeff Holman, (above, left) was to have the old lock gates removed in 1977.

At a later date Dick Harper-White organised the monthly working parties which have been hampered by the constant presence of water and vandalism. By 1984 the chamber had been two-thirds restored. (above, right)
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VIP's at Ash Vale barge yard. (27K) (left) June 1972. VIP's at Ash Vale barge yard for a ceremony to mark the completion of the second pair of lock gates built by volunteers.
(left to right) - Mr John Humphries, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Association; Mr R.G. Reekie, Chairman of Surrey's Town and Country Planning Committee; Mr D.G. Pumfrett Chairman of Hampshire's Countryside Committee and the Earl of Onslow, the Society's President.

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(above, from top left to bottom right) --
June 1974, Lady Verney, wife of the artist and writer Sir John Verney, officially opened a new footbridge over Fleet Weir.
August 1975. 3 year old Sally Kelly re­opens Artillery Weir, Aldershot.
Volunteers spent 133 hours re-building the weir.
October 1982. The High Sheriff of Surrey Mr J.P.M.H. Evelyn officially re-opened Cowshott Manor Bridge, immediately below Deepcut lock 17. The bridge was restored to its original design by MSC workers. The original bridge became unsafe and was closed in the 1920s.
September 1979. Surrey Councillor John McFarlane declares Deepcut lock 28 open.
On his left: Mr W. Britton, SCC Surveyor and Mr Raymond Stedman, Countryside Officer. To Mr McFarlane's right, Robin Higgs and Stuart Browning, Society Committee Members.
June 1984. The Countess of Onslow declaring the new let-off weir, built on Ash Embankment, officially operational.
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It is disappointing that there have not been more companies sponsoring the canal's restoration. The few mentioned here do not constitute the entire list of industry sponsors but they go to demonstrate how imaginative support of the restoration effort can also generate some worthwhile publicity for the company.

Johnson Wax of Frimley show a positive interest in their employees' environment. The Company runs an annual community awards scheme with cash prizes. The Society was fortunate to benefit with £1,000 to buy 2 6-1/2 ton 35 hp bantam tugs in 1976, appropriately named Pledge and Sparkle. They've certainly helped to make dredging operations smoother ever since. (top right)

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The dredger itself was helped on its way to the canal in July 1974 by the Watney Mann Group. The Company paid the £1,000 overland move from the Kennet and Avon at Reading to Colt Hill, Odiham. (bottom right)

Restoration was aided by £5,000 awarded to Canal Society member Marguerite Redway in 1979 by Spar the retail grocers. The Company invited entrants to submit a case for improving local environmental feature or building. Marguerite Redway presented a case for restoring Lock 11 at St John's. She won the regional prize and then the top national award. (bottom left)

Shell UK is ever conscious of its responsibilities especially where the environment is concerned. The Company ran its 'Inland Waterways Restoration Awards' scheme for a number of years. In 1979 Shell picked the re-building of Lower Wilderness Weir at Deepcut for a £250 award and two years later the Society was awarded £500 in recognition of the reconstruction of Cowshot Manor Bridge. The IWA's Guildford branch was awarded £275 for their work on Lock 1.
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Voluntary achievements tend to be assessed in terms of physical work and actual restoration progress. But many hours are spent (and often significant expense spared) by all those backroom volunteers who deal with administration, publicity and fund-raising.

During the Society's initial eight years, spent campaigning for public ownership and restoration, widespread publicity played a vital role in gaining the community's support for the concept of re­opening the canal. The canal was regularly 'in the news' locally and sometimes nationally. Millions of words and hundreds of photographs have emanated from the Society which helped gain the support the authorities needed to take action.


(above) Woking's MP Mr. Cranley Onslow, a Vice-President of the Society (left) checks in during a sponsored walk with Society Chairman, Robin Higgs.

One of the more unusual and successful publicity exercises emerged in the form of a travelling exhibition staged in a Portakabin. The authors, in conjunction with Surrey's exhibition designers, set up an attractive display of photographs, artifacts and an audio-visual slide show. The unit travelled the length of the canal during 1977-78 introducing the waterway - its history, restoration and amenity potential in the future - to thousands of curious visitors. As many as 800 people saw the exhibition on a weekend visit to Ash.

Another imaginative publicity enterprise has been the Society's float, entered in Fleet's spectacular carnival procession. Latterly Roy and Penny Tree's initiative - their 'narrow boat' won third prize in a very competitive field of entries in 1982. (below)

1982 Fleet carnival (22K)

Since 1973, fund raising has been paramount among the Society's activities. A wide variety of events have been organised from the humble jumble sale, raising a mere £60, to the coveted Marks and Spencer fashion show. The Society was fortunate in raising £l,200 by organising one of these superb shows at the Army Boxing Centre in Aldershot's military town in February 1977.

Sponsored walks, for which the towpath is an ideally safe route, have become the Society's biggest single annual event raising as much as £5,000. A recent innovation, inviting entrants to walk both for the Society and another charity, has helped to keep participation active.

Another source of financial aid, sought by Richard Allnutt, has been the donations made by charitable trusts. Restoration work has benefitted by contributions amounting to £20,500 to date which the Society has greatly appreciated. Without their support, renovation of the bridges at Broad Oak and Pirbright might not have been undertaken.
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A family party enjoying a cruise on the canal at Odiham.

Waterways must, in terms of amenity values, have few if any equals. For young and old, men and women, active and passive, a canal offers recreation and relaxation. A tremendous asset utilising a fraction of space per square mile.

Fishing on the canal's western length is organised by the Hampshire Basingstoke Canal Anglers Association. By 1983 the Association had stocked the waterway with 10,000 carp, perch, roach and rudd. And that distinctive predator the pike, weighing 30lbs or more, may also be caught in the canal. Angling permits are available from local tackle shops.

The old wharf area at Reading Road Bridge has become the centre for the annual canoe tourist trials organised by the Westel Canoe Club, in association with the Canal Society. As many as 350 canoeists take part covering distances of 6 to 40 miles.

Years ago the canal supported a good number of boathouses along its length, offering skiffs for hire. Skiffs may still be hired from Ash Vale Boathouse. At the western end, rowing boats, punts and even motor boats can be hired from Benford's Boat Station at Colt Hill.

With the construction of slipways during 1984 at Wharf Bridge (Farnborough Road), Barley Mow Bridge, Winchfield and at Potters (near Mychett Place Bridge), owners of larger boats (maximum speed 4mph) now have launching facilities.

Boat licences can be obtained from the Canal Office, Ash Lock Cottage, Government Road, Aldershot, Hants.

For those content to watch or walk, the canal towpath offers 32 miles of attractive, (often outstandingly so), quiet and always traffic-free recreation.

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(Top left) A Mirror Carp taken from the canal at Colt Hill.
(Top right) Benford's boat station, Colt Hill. (Bottom right) Members of the Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club at Chequers Bridge.

 (23K) In 1976 the Canal Society decided to invest in a tripping boat for use on the 1-1/2 mile restored length of the canal between Colt Hill, Odiham and North Warnborough. A group of members, led by Peter Fethney, set out to design a suitable boat and raise £10,000 needed to commission the hull, buy an engine and fit out.

A 67ft long steel hull with an 8ft 6ins beam was finally ordered from the Daventry boat-builders, Hancock and Lane, with a headroom of 5ft 3ins and a draught of 1ft lO-1/2ins. The vessel was carefully proportioned to have the overall appearance of a traditional style canal narrow boat despite being 1ft 6ins wider, to allow for the comfort of 56 passengers, and the need to carry wheelchairs on occasion.

The hull was delivered in July 1977 and launched at Colt Hill. Volunteers undertook the extensive task of fitting out while a local businessman, Mr George Jackson, contributed £2,100 to complete the purchase fund. A 34 bhp marine diesel was provided by Fetters Ltd. of Hamble.

In the meantime, the Canal Society was involved in protracted and often frustrating negotiations to allay the fears of local councillors, answer criticisms and hold a succession of meetings in an effort to obtain an agreement to operate the boat.

Months of work culminated on 20th May 1978. With her paintwork gleaming and brass fittings sparkling, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu arrived at Colt Hill on a glorious spring morning to name the trip boat John Pinkerton - after the contractor responsible for building the canal - and embarked for a champagne cruise to North Warnborough.

At the outset, the organisers estimated the boat would make an annual profit of £3,000 a year. At the end of the first season the John Pinkerton had made a net profit of £4,500 and an average of £10,500 per annum over the following five years to the end of 1983.
The John Pinkerton, run entirely by volunteers, has not only brought pleasure and a taste of inland waterway cruising to thousands of people, but has also generated a great deal of goodwill for the Society.

The almost universal attraction to 'messing about on the river' - or in this case, canal - was demonstrated by the crowds that turned out to watch 'Water Nobsurd'. Well over 1,000 people lined the towpath at Colt Hill, Odiham in June 1975 to watch the antics of RAF Odiham challenging the 2nd Gurkha Rifles to supremacy of the greasy pole, take a horse-drawn boat ride or see model boats being demonstrated, along with many other attractions.

Crowds line the canal banks at Colt Hill for
'Water Nobsurd'.
Lord Montague launching the John Pinkerton
In the following year a bigger event, officially opened by Mr David Mitchell, Member of Parliament for Basingstoke, attracted thousands more people. The July weekend's programme included trips aboard the steam launch John Player, an angling contest, a waterborne welly tossing competition and the crowning of Julie Burke as the Water Princess.

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Weed cutting is one of the more regular and necessary tasks as transpiration takes as much as a million gallons of water from the canal daily.

Although no longer in use, this unusual craft (above left), built by Howard and Davis of Houghton, Bedfordshire, was bought by the New Basingstoke Canal Co. Ltd., in 1950. Powered by a 10 hp Ford petrol engine, the craft was propelled by paddles at the stern. The main shaft also reciprocated the stainless steel cutting blades which had to be re-sharpened twice a day when in use.

Apart from operating on the canal, the Canal Company hired it out to cut weed on local waters such as Frensham Great Pond. In 1964 it sank at Ash Lock. Ten years later the boat was raised and restored by apprentices at 43rd Command Workshop, Aldershot, including the manufacture of a new set of blades to the original drawings.

In 1983 the county councils jointly purchased a new weed cutting craft (above right) built by John Wilder Engineering at Wallingford. Named Water Warrior by the makers, a Lister 2-cylinder air cooled diesel engine drives port and starboard paddles. Constructed as a weed cutter, a hydraulic rake may be fitted to clear cut weed. It cost £14,000. Dry docking boats also require maintenance, and hiring a crane to lift larger canal craft out of the water can be expensive. YTS workers excavated a filled in former dry dock adjacent to Lock 28 and rebuilt it, complete with lock gates to replace the original stop planks. (top)

The dock was demonstrated for the first time in May 1984 when the John Pinkerton entered it and the hull was ready for inspection within minutes of the gates closing.

Public ownership of the Basingstoke Canal came as a rewarding conclusion to the Society's seven long years of campaigning during which progress was so often punctuated by setbacks and despondency; especially for the active members who fought for the right to save the unique navigation for posterity.

They cajoled, reasoned, argued and patiently explained their aim to anyone who could influence a satisfactory outcome, from parish councillors to county council officers and Members of Parliament. They campaigned for Public support by promoting their objectives by way of meetings up and down the canal and beyond. Their enthusiasm was infectious, the message lucid and their reasoning persuasive.

The successful conclusion to the campaign gave them real hope and confidence in tackling the ultimate and daunting task of the restoration work ahead.

The intervening years have seen basic abilities develop into specialised skills so that to-day volunteers undertake practically any canal restoration task. Despite setbacks, delays and the constant presence of a financial tightrope to balance upon, progress has been constant. Coupled with the input of MSC schemes; from some local authorities and from the two riparian county councils, we can look forward to the re-opening of 32-miles of the canal within the next few years, capable of lasting another two hundred years.

And for those ready for a new challenge, there remains the restoration of the 1,200-yard Grey well Tunnel and some distance beyond.

Grywell Tunnel East portal (23K)
The eastern portal of Greywell Tunnel after restoration work in 1976 to commemorate European Heritage Year.
Little wharf at Colt Hill, c1905 (20K) Little wharf at Colt Hill, c1905

John Pinkerton leaving the former Great Wharf at Colt Hill on a cruise westwards, 1984. The John Pinkerton leaving the Great Wharf (22K)

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Last updated April 2006