The Basingstoke Canal
The Basingstoke Canal was built in 1798 and ran for 37 miles.
It started at the junction with the River Wey near Byfleet and went via Woking,
Aldershot, Odiham, Greywell and Basing, to Basingstoke. The canal was built as
an easier and cheaper route for goods from Salisbury, Bristol and the West
Country to London.
In 1800, however, England was in the grip of the Napoleonic
Wars, the Government decided to divert transport of goods from the roads to the
inland waterways. In 1802 the Basingstoke Canal Company offered the Government
ten barges " in case of invasion, or the appearance of the enemy on the
coast, to transport stores free of expense from London to any part of the
At Greywell the barges had to pass through a tunnel three quarters
of a mile long. This was done by the process of "legging." Two men lay
on their backs on the barge and pushed with their legs on the wall of the
tunnel. In the winter months, if the canal froze over you could skate as far as
Odiham. By the early 19th century Edwin C. White, a timber merchant, had set up
a depot alongside the Wharf in Basingstoke. Before the first world war, E. C.
White was one of the biggest employers in Basingstoke. As well as the men in the
saw mill, he also had men felling and carting from Herriard, Hackwood,
Stratfield Saye and Savernake Forest.
At the end of the 19th century it was decided to clean up the
canal. During the clean up the clay puddling was removed by mistake. The water
leaked away and the old canal gradually became silted up and unusable The last
working barge came through in 1914, Greywell Tunnel had partly fallen in, and it
took months for the barge to arrive at Basingstoke. Happily since then the canal
has undergone a period of restoration and has gained back some of it's former
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