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Nationalisation - why were some left out?


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This has come about through looking at the CRT waterways today, I nearly said network but I'm looking at the difference between what CRT own and what the network is. CRT don't manage anything like all the connected network (although I think the Bridgewater and the Manchester Ship Canal are the only significant canals they don't own, the other bits are river navigations) but they own some odd outliers - the Swansea and the Pocklington being notable examples, and prior to restoration they didn't own the Rochdale or the Droitwich for example. 

 

I "get" that the idea was to create a nationalised transport industry, hence waterways where the primary business was not transport (some rivers) or where the ownership was not in a limited company (the fens) might not be included, but there seem to be a large number of oddities. Why the Swansea but not the Neath for example? Were some of the oddities caught in the net just because they were railway owned? How did the "edge of kingdom" canals end up being nationalised and thus, ultimately, with CRT?

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It was companies that were nationalised, not assets. So with the railway companies came the canals they owned. I'm sure I've read somewhere that the railway owned canals initially continued to be operated by the nationalised railway operation, and were only later transferred to the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive.

 

There was no need to nationalise the Manchester Ship Canal Company (which also owned the Bridgewater Canal) since it was already in public ownership - Manchester City Council.

Edited by David Mack
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38 minutes ago, David Mack said:

There was no need to nationalise the Manchester Ship Canal Company (which also owned the Bridgewater Canal) since it was already in public ownership - Manchester City Council.

Ah, I hadn't twigged that, or rather I'd forgotten it.

 

I was beginning to get to the idea the government bought out companies that owned railway and canal assets, and am aware they bought almost every railway (they didn't buy the Derwent Valley Railway for example). My particular puzzle was why the Swansea was nationalised but not the Neath - I'm guessing that as the Swansea was owned by a railway company it was caught up by default, not sure how the Neath escaped. The Tennant wasn't, and isn't, owned by a company. I've oft wondered how and why the Rochdale escaped. 

Edited by magpie patrick
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Could it be anything to do with the fact that the Rochdale was moribund by 1948, in the same way that the Festiniog Railway (closed in 1946) and the Tal-y-Llyn (on its last legs) escaped nationalisation?

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I suspect the key is that they were nationalised under a transport act, and so only waterways which were carrying significant tonnages were included, together with all railway-owned canals. I believe there was much discussion over the MSC/Bridgewater, with Manchester's Labour council eventually winning out, given the importance of the canals to the city's income. The Rochdale was still carrying between Castlefield and Ducie Street, as the photo of the 1950s traffic book held in the Waterways Archive shows. However, I seem to recall that the Rochdale was putting together a closure bill around this time, so the canal may have been omitted because of the likelihood of it becoming officially disused.

P1010568.jpg

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Even the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Company was nationalised with the railways and that hadn't had boats carrying since the 1880's. The company still existed and received rent for the route from Ledbury to Gloucester that had a railway built on it. They made more money from the rent than they ever did from boats. No maintenance, no staff, no outgoings at all. Don't tell CaRT!

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Quote

Robert [Aickman] asked [Sir Cyril] Hurcomb [chairman of the BTC] why the Derby canal - one of the few not owned by a railway - had not been brought into the nationalised system since it provided a vital link between the Trent and Mersey and the Erewash. 'Ah, that was one I managed to miss,' replied Hurcomb.

 

– David Bolton, Race Against Time, p43.

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I can't remember where I read this but I recall an exchange where in a discussion about nationalising the railways someone asked about the railway-owned canals, and the government response was along the lines of "Oh, do we get those too?"

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1 minute ago, David Mack said:

I can't remember where I read this but I recall an exchange where in a discussion about nationalising the railways someone asked about the railway-owned canals, and the government response was along the lines of "Oh, do we get those too?"

It's a stage better than "Oh, are there any?"

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11 minutes ago, David Mack said:

I can't remember where I read this but I recall an exchange where in a discussion about nationalising the railways someone asked about the railway-owned canals, and the government response was along the lines of "Oh, do we get those too?"

 

Yes, I remember that one. I think that's probably in a David Bolton piece too, whether 'Race Against Time' or one of his WW articles.

 

The BTC basically appears to have been run as a cushy retirement home for former WWII Generals.

Edited by Richard Fairhurst
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While there is some truth in ex-military getting an easy number on canals, those in charge of the D&IWE did have some considerable knowledge of inland waterways.

DSCF5317.jpg

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I think it's fairly obvious that a canal that is restored doesn't automatically become part of the CRT network, some canals (as opposed to rivers)  have been transferred to CRT/BW on restoration (Droitwich, Rochdale for example), others haven't (e.g Basingstoke). 

 

Some derelict canals were nationalised, presumably because they were caught up in the assets of otherwise viable transport enterprises.  Some were restored (Caldon, Peak Forest, Ashton for example) some transferred out for restoration (e.g Chesterfield to Derby Council). Some didn't fare well at all (Newport Branch SU). 

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20 minutes ago, magpie patrick said:

I think it's fairly obvious that a canal that is restored doesn't automatically become part of the CRT network,

A canal restoration society will typically have spent decades fund raising and restoring their canal. These days, would they consider CaRT a safe pair of hands to place it for its long term future?

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37 minutes ago, Jen-in-Wellies said:

A canal restoration society will typically have spent decades fund raising and restoring their canal. These days, would they consider CaRT a safe pair of hands to place it for its long term future?

It's certainly a strategy they look at, but CRT need funding to take new (to them) canals on. As it happens this is where my deliberations started. The Swansea Canal is CRT, the Neath is not, and the challenges of future management are very different, both have their frustrations! I was curious as how they had ended up taking different ownership routes in 1948

Edited by magpie patrick
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5 hours ago, magpie patrick said:

I think it's fairly obvious that a canal that is restored doesn't automatically become part of the CRT network, some canals (as opposed to rivers)  have been transferred to CRT/BW on restoration (Droitwich, Rochdale for example), others haven't (e.g Basingstoke). 

 

The Droitwich project had progressed slowly for years under the Droitwich Canals Trust with local authority support, but got rather bogged down. At the time BW were in expansive mood, so their takeover made sense and got the project moving again.

 

The Rochdale was taken on by the Waterways Trust, as a means of overcoming legal difficulties with the transfer from the Rochdale Canal Company, then owned by property company Town Centre Securities. TWT then subcontracted the restoration to BW. TWT ended up as part of CRT, and so CRT gained full ownership of the Rochdale.

 

The Basingstoke was restored under the aegis of the owners Surrey and Hampshire County Councils. Transfer to BW was mooted at one time, but BW said they would need a substantial dowry, and none was forthcoming. So it stayed with the councils.

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I suspect that the foundations for the  decision where waterways which passed to the DIWE from January 1st 1948, was laid down during the war when transport was controlled. The railway owned waterways passed to the DIWE  a few months later.

 

That the DIWE was both waterways and docks is another factor to be considered in this thread. As is the other waterways that became part of the Environment Agency jurisdiction. Perhaps it should be a matter of discussion is why some river navigations became DIWE and some did not. In England & Wales the variation in ownership at 1950 is to be noted:

 

River Alde no authority an open navigation

Ancholme River- River Ancholme and Winterton Beck Catchment Board

Arun (Sussex)- Littlehampton Harbour Board

River Avon, Port of Bristol Authority

Basingstoke Canal- New Basingstoke Canal Co Ltd

Black sluice drainage and navigation & Kyme Eau - Witham and Steeping Rivers Catchment Board

Blyth (Suffolk)- Southwold corporation

Bude canal- Stratton UDC

Cam- Conservators of the river Cam

Chelmer and Blackwater- Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Ltd

Chichester canal- Chichester corporation

Colne (Essex)- Colchester corporation

Crouch- open navigation

Dart and Tamar-  the harbour master Dartmouth

Dartford and Crayford navigation- Commisioners of this navigation

Deben- open navigation

Dee - Rivers Dee and Clwyd, Catchment Board

Derby- Derby canal co

Derwent (Yorkshire) - unknown

Don (Goole to Fishlake Ferry- unnkown

Driffield - Commissioners of said navigation

Exter Ship Canal- Corporation of City of Exeter

Fowey- Fowey harbour commissioners

Glen & Welland - River Welland Catchment Board

Grosvenor canal- Westminster city council

Ham docks- Ham River Grit co ltd

Hamble- the berthing master at Southampton

Helford- open river

Humber- Humber conservancy board

Idle- River Trent catchment board  

Market Weighton- Market Weighton drainage board

Medway 3 authorities

Mersey 2 authorities

Middle Level- Middle Level commissioners

Neath - Neath harbour commisioners

Nene- 2 authorities

North Walsham canal- North Walsham canal co ltd

Broads various commissioners for rivers and broads

Great Ouse- Great Ouse catchment board

Ouse (Sussex) 2 authorities

Yorkshire Ouse various, the incl DIWE (for former Aire & Calder Navigation part)

Parrett- Bridgewater corporation

Roach- open navigation

Tochdale- Rochdale canal co

Roding- Ilford and barking navigation co (1926) ltd

Royal military canal- Kent rivers catchment board

Salcombe- Salcombe UDC

Stour (Dorset) none

Stour (Kent) 2 authorities

Stour (Suffolk) ceased to exist an an authority in 1938

Surrey canal - Port of London authority

Tees - Tees conservancy

Teign - Teignmouth Harbour commission

Thames- 2 authorities- PLA and Thames Conservancy

Thames and Severn- Gloucestershire county council

Trent- 2 authorities

Tyne- Tyne improvement commissioners   

Wey two authorities

Wharfe open navigation

Witham drains- Witham fourth disteict internal drainage board

Wye- open navigation

Yealm-  Yealm harbour authority

 

Perhaps the Wye is the most of interest as it remained navigable for 15 miles from Chepstow

 

 

 

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Evenin' all

 

This is a complex question - but Patrick has it absolutely right over the Swansea and Neath; one was railway-owned, the other wasn't. Control of the former railway canals in South Wales (none with any significant traffic) was with the Railway Executive at first, then passed to the control of South Wales Docks until 1958.

 

My understanding is that nationalisation concerned companies that were under wartime control, and one would need to look at the Pick Report for that. The Rochdale had no traffic outside the Manchester area by 1945, and Pick had recommended closure. There were some reconstruction works in wartime, but no traffic resulted. I think that the Ship canal Company was regarded as a dock system, with the Bridgewater something of a feeder, and there was no general nationalisation of dock and ports under the 1947 Act.

 

The railway-owned canals passed to the DIWE because nationalisation was based on the taking over of companies, and that included railway companies that owned all sorts of assets that had very little to do with railway operations! In an alternative world, had there been no existing controls like those of wartime, and had the 1945 Government formed a public corporation that would take over the assets that it felt it could develop (as happened with road haulage to some extent), it is likely that most of the waterways would not have been taken over - certainly Pick saw no future for narrow canals. So there wouldn't be a system at all, just a number or inland navigations based on rivers and ports, and any question for keeping waterways for leisure would not have arisen - the smaller waterways would not have been in public ownership. Luckily for the waterways, the 1945 government was keen to pursue nationalisation, and the easiest and quickest way to achieve this was to continue wartime control and take over almost all waterways-owning companies. My understanding, anyway.              

 

Heartland, thanks for a very useful list. There must be some more to add, but bar the Weaver to Frodsham (no authority!), I can't think of any.

 

Hope this is of interest.

 

Stay safe everyone!

 

Joseph  

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If you keep this up Joseph, I might be tempted to ask you to give a talk to the RCHS West Midlands Group on Zoom, something beyond Hadfield, of course.

 

I did look at Pick, when I put together those notes on Midland Canal Carriers, which are now on CD from Ted Cheers for RCHS Members. And yes Picks report, I agree went a long way to what was chosen to be nationalised. Pick died soon after his report was published, but there is a copy at the National Archives

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Thanks Mike, for the digest, it does go some way to answer the question posed by the chair of the RCHS management committee and perhaps Joseph's observations.

 

As to Joseph, with Zoom Talks, it is a funny thing but travelling expenses are somehow done away with, but then I do wonder if somebody will find a way for a charge on the basis of reputation.

 

We had 94 attendees for the Great North of Scotland Railway  RCHS talk, so there is a clear advantage for getting across transport history to those who are interested. The BCNS talks are also  attracting interest, I see. 

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