Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Canal cuttings (7)

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been doing some research from old newspapers and magazines. Covering the last 200 years or so of life on the inland waterways. With particular interest in the major issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 

City and Suburban

The Spectator 9th June 1955

By John Betjeman. The protest meeting in the Town Hall building at Oxford last week was packed to overflowing with hundreds of people who wanted to save the Oxford Canal from the dead hand of the British Transport Commission. We were wise enough at the meeting not to stress too much that this eighteenth-century canal was one of the most beautiful and varied in England. Beauty is no argument for saving anything from the Commission. But there are good economic reasons for saving the canal. It is still possible to carry goods from the middle Thames to Liverpool by barge while the Oxford Canal is open as the main link to the Midlands. Until it was nationalised in 1947, the Oxford Canal paid a dividend. Since the enemy allowed it to be'overgrown with weeds and the National Coal Board dissuaded carriers from using it, it has become a financial liability. If only ten pairs of boats were to use it a day so Mr. Leslie Morton, the manager of a successful canal freight-carrying company, told us the canal could pay for its upkeep from Oxford to Napton Junction, which would cost £5,000 a year.

Captain Munk, the owner of a large hiring firm of pleasure boats, pointed out that holidays on inland waterways were increasingly popular, that the Norfolk Broads were now overcrowded and the Thames becoming so, and that he himself was building narrow boats for hiring on the Oxford and similar canals, and never had any difficulty in letting them. On the roads, lorries and private cars were at loggerheads for room; commercial and pleasure craft were friendly to one another on canals and rivers. A splendid leading article in last Friday's Daily Express pointed out that on the Continent full use was made of the canals, and they all paid. The Board of Survey appointed by the Transport Commission, which recommended the abandonment of 700 miles of canal, consisted of a dock expert, a road-traffic expert and a man who knew about big canals like the Manchester Ship Canal. No one who knew anything about the lesser inland waterways, their value to farmers and anglers, as well as their potential efficiency as a means of transport, sat on this idiotic board. If the Minister of Transport were to spend what it costs to make ten miles of new trunk road on putting into order the 700 miles of canal he intends to abandon, he could have an alternative freight system which could save the country from the traffic muddle it is in at present. On water, 18 h.p. will haul fifty tons; on the road, 28 h.p. will carry only twenty tons.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please put your name to your comment. Comments without a name may automatically be treated as spam and might not be included.

If you do not wish your comment to be published say so in your comment. If you have a tip or sensitive information you’d prefer to share anonymously, you may do so. I will delete the comment after reading.