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Heartland

Oakham Canal

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At the last IWA National, I seem to recall a stand for the Oakham Canal Society which is looking at some form of restoration for this waterway. It is interesting to see such efforts, but how much can be done. In the midlands there were two 1840's canal closures, I believe, through railways being built alonside the route of the former waterway, these being the Oakham and Uttoxeter. With the Oakham there were 19 locks on this waterway that raised the canal from the junction basin at Melton Mowbray to the summit level. The construction of the Midland Railway Syston to Peterborough branch broke up the waterway and reduced what remained to a dry bed in certain parts, but other sections acted as railway drainage channels and might be considered to have retained some water. The making of the section between Melton & Stamford was finally completed in 1848. This work had been delayed following problems with contractors building the railway. The Oakham Canal had not really been a success from completion in 1803 to the agreed sale in 1845 to the Midland Railway. There had water supply issues, and traffic was suspended from time to time through lack of water. It would be useful to discover how much does survive. There are said to be wharf buildings at Oakham, but what of the locks, has any survived?

 

Ray Shill

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If you look at the old maps on "Wheres the path" - http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm - you can see the route of the old canal in places.

 

Type in the name of the town, and you then get a zoomable map and sattelite image side-by-side.

 

Press the copyright symbol to toggle between current and old map versions.

 

Please also feel free to contibute (through Payapal) to this useful resource.

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I don't know the Oakham Canal particularly well, either historically or on the ground, but a few general observations.

 

Although there are several instances of railways buying out canal companies "to use the line for a railway" in practice this isn't easy and wasn't often done. Canals can curve and slope at a rate that railways, and sometimes even roads, struggle with. The purpose was more often to 1) buy off any possible opposition from a struggling competitor, in effect a bribe 2) allow unfettered use of the canal line not needed to accommodate navigation, giving more freedom on levels and no need to provide bridges and 3) gain some of the powers granted by parliament to the canal company.

 

The only canals I can think of that were pretty comprehensively destroyed by railways are the Hereford and Gloucester and the Aberdeenshire Canals. The Somerset Coal Canal was bought by the GWR "to use the canal bed for a railway"... I reckon that less than 10% of it disappeared under the tracks.

 

Edited to add: the Uttoxeter canal was also largely lost, and in my mind is a lost cause, even building a new canal down the valley is virtually impossible unless the money is there to buy out some pretty big developments in the way.

Edited by magpie patrick

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The only canals I can think of that were pretty comprehensively destroyed by railways are the Hereford and Gloucester and the Aberdeenshire Canals. The Somerset Coal Canal was bought by the GWR "to use the canal bed for a railway"... I reckon that less than 10% of it disappeared under the tracks.

Another was the Croydon Canal which was sold off by its owners to become the trackbed of a railway (London Bridge to West Croydon).

 

Stewey

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You could add the Grosvenor Canal too. Most of that is now railway track. Though in fairness is was a very short piece of navigation, and the basin is still in use at the Thames end, though I don't think the rubbish lighters go there any more.

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I was one of the founders of the Melton & Oakham Waterways Society back in 1997, which is the society Ray is referring to. The society concerns itself with both the Melton Mowbray Navigation, a river navigation from the Soar at Syston up to Melton, and the Oakham Canal, a canal from there to Oakham.

 

The MMN is eminently restorable subject to the usual challenges of river navigations. David Hutchings would have made short order of it, and though times have changed, MOWS is making progress towards navigation - for example, Sustrans and Leicestershire County Council are putting in a new bridge at the Soar junction which should restore navigable headroom.

 

It's always been recognised that the Oakham would be much more difficult; but nonetheless, at the very least it deserves some effort towards preserving its structures and opening up foot access to its route.

 

Wharf buildings survive at Oakham (where they're used by the school) and at Teigh. There's one significant stretch in water, to the north of Oakham. Several earthworks are still very visible. However, no locks survive, and there is only one surviving overbridge (on private land, although *ahem* I might have clambered over it in the past). There's also a house on Ashwell Road in Oakham which was clearly a canal pub - you can tell from the side-hatch!

 

To follow up Magpie Patrick's comments - indeed, although the Midland Railway purchased the canal, only fairly small sections were actually used for the railway trackbed. I don't think it would be a particularly significant challenge in the future event of restoration. There is an interesting historical anecdote about the battles between Lord Harborough (a canal shareholder) and the MR surveyors - Google "the Battle of Saxby" for more!

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I was one of the founders of the Melton & Oakham Waterways Society back in 1997, which is the society Ray is referring to. The society concerns itself with both the Melton Mowbray Navigation, a river navigation from the Soar at Syston up to Melton, and the Oakham Canal, a canal from there to Oakham.

 

The MMN is eminently restorable subject to the usual challenges of river navigations. David Hutchings would have made short order of it, and though times have changed, MOWS is making progress towards navigation - for example, Sustrans and Leicestershire County Council are putting in a new bridge at the Soar junction which should restore navigable headroom.

 

It's always been recognised that the Oakham would be much more difficult; but nonetheless, at the very least it deserves some effort towards preserving its structures and opening up foot access to its route.

 

Wharf buildings survive at Oakham (where they're used by the school) and at Teigh. There's one significant stretch in water, to the north of Oakham. Several earthworks are still very visible. However, no locks survive, and there is only one surviving overbridge (on private land, although *ahem* I might have clambered over it in the past). There's also a house on Ashwell Road in Oakham which was clearly a canal pub - you can tell from the side-hatch!

 

To follow up Magpie Patrick's comments - indeed, although the Midland Railway purchased the canal, only fairly small sections were actually used for the railway trackbed. I don't think it would be a particularly significant challenge in the future event of restoration. There is an interesting historical anecdote about the battles between Lord Harborough (a canal shareholder) and the MR surveyors - Google "the Battle of Saxby" for more!

 

 

I must extend a thank you to Richard Fairhurst for his detailed explanation. I was keen to hear about the surviving wharf buildings at Oakham and Teigh and looking at "old maps" and "google earth" does pick up on the many parts of the route including the wharf buildings. If I recall the Old Ordnance Survey of the 1830's the locks were at Brentingby and Wyfordby, these areas appear to be on sections of canal not covered by the railway. Being somewhat isolated has anybody looked at these areas to see if any parts of the locks remain. There would also have been an aqueduct over the Eye near Saxby, where the canal route passed to the north of the railway.

 

Ray Shill

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In 1984, David Tew was the Author of the Melton to Oakham Canal, which was an update of his 1968 book, and included a detailed description of the canal as viewed in 1983. There are photographs of mileposts that then remained, or had gone 1967-1983, buildings present in 1967 but not in 1983, a canal over bridge at Edmonthorpe, a culvert under the embankment at Edmonthorpe, a two arch culvert passing Wymondham Water under the canal, a two arch aqueduct at Saxby. Wyfordby Lock Chamber 7 remained then but the lining bricks were stated to have gone. Tew mentioned there were a number of other culverts under the surviving bed in different places. It would be useful to see what had happened to the structures at Saxby and Wymondham Water now.

 

Ray Shill

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Of interest indeed, though I am unsure if I count as an "esteemed" member. There's quite a bit left to see.

Welcome to CWDF, Carter.

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Of interest indeed, though I am unsure if I count as an "esteemed" member. There's quite a bit left to see.

 

Indeed there is.

 

As time permits I hope to walk the route of the canal as far as Saxby. It keeps me out of the pub ;)

 

Welcome to CWDF, Carter.

 

Thank you.

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I do hope someone sees this and replies. In 2011 my partner and I bought Pile Bridge Farm, Saxby. There are two stretches of canal crossing the land which maps highlighting the route seem to disregard. The canal has been filled in partly by the Saxby to Bourne railway line, now disused and another part by Lord Harborough's curve which was part of the original railway line from Oakham to Melton Mowbray. Now we thought that we would excavate out the canal that is enclosed by Lord Harborough's curve and the Saxby to Bourne line and make it a little more usable for birds etc. Fortunately or rather unfortunately, when footing the bill, the builder disturbed some sort of a drain and the water is seeping away. I know I can hear you all groaning, but there in the clay, is a brick construction, which to us non water way people looks like a lock, now I don't know if it will be of any interest to anyone to come and have a look at it before it goes under water again probably for the last time. Richard Fairhurst, on 30 Apr 2012 briefly touched on the history of the Battle of Saxby which happened on one of our fields, and Heartland posted on 26th June 2012 about the 2 arch aquaduct at Saxby. We have a 4 arch construction, which we believe is an aquaduct over the River Eye. I would love some more information if anyone is interested, please come back to me if you are.


Thank you.


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I do hope someone sees this and replies. In 2011 my partner and I bought Pile Bridge Farm, Saxby. There are two stretches of canal crossing the land which maps highlighting the route seem to disregard. The canal has been filled in partly by the Saxby to Bourne railway line, now disused and another part by Lord Harborough's curve which was part of the original railway line from Oakham to Melton Mowbray. Now we thought that we would excavate out the canal that is enclosed by Lord Harborough's curve and the Saxby to Bourne line and make it a little more usable for birds etc. Fortunately or rather unfortunately, when footing the bill, the builder disturbed some sort of a drain and the water is seeping away. I know I can hear you all groaning, but there in the clay, is a brick construction, which to us non water way people looks like a lock, now I don't know if it will be of any interest to anyone to come and have a look at it before it goes under water again probably for the last time. Richard Fairhurst, on 30 Apr 2012 briefly touched on the history of the Battle of Saxby which happened on one of our fields, and Heartland posted on 26th June 2012 about the 2 arch aquaduct at Saxby. We have a 4 arch construction, which we believe is an aquaduct over the River Eye. I would love some more information if anyone is interested, please come back to me if you are.

Thank you.

Edited by Learner L

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Hi Sulans


If you could google Melton and Oakham Waterways Society there are contact numbers on there who will be able to give you the information you need. There is a work party working on a stretch of canal still in water on the Ashwell to Cottesmore road at Rutland rail museum, Sunday 19th May. Pop across and have a look.


Edited by Learner L

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