Saturday, 3 May 2014

Canal Cuttings (12)

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines the last 200 years or so of the inland waterways. With particular interest in the 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. 

Stroud water Canal 

The Spectator:  18th February 1955

By John Betjeman: Doomed Canals At the same time as this news, I learn that the County Council of Gloucestershire has constructed a hideous flat concrete bridge over the Stroud Water Canal at Bridgend, Stonehouse, in place of an elegant hump-backed affair. This will effectively prevent any boats using the canal from the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal, should the waterway ever be used again. Apart from the architectural beauty of the Georgian Stroud Water Canal, with its locks and ashlar wharves and houses in that historic cradle of early industrial- ism, it must be as short-sighted a policy to imagine that canals are always going to be useless as it is to destroy our branch lines and smaller railways. 

I have just been reading Lark Rise by Flora Thompson which describes North Oxfordshire in the pre-motor age. She writes of the main turnpike road to Oxford. with its milky-white surface and thin pale mud 'like uncooked batter,' and how nothing went along it for hours at a time, though now, as a first-class tar-sprayed road, it hums day and night with traffic. 'People were saying that far too much money was being spent on keeping such roads in repair, for their day was over . . .' Let the British Transport Commission, which must surely now be the most despised and unpopular body in the country, remember that times change and that the canals and little railways may come back into usefulness.

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