Oxford Canal

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2006

Hugh Compton

Hugh Compton relates the story of an early waterway that has seen many changes and remains a popular boating route today.

James Brindley, who sprung to fame in the 1700s for his construction of the canal from Worsley coal mines to Manchester, is often credited with the idea of a major set of canals constructed on a ‘Grand Cross’ system linking Manchester with Hull, Bristol and London. This project set in motion the building of the Grand Trunk (Trent & Mersey) Canal and to this was connected the Coventry Canal. The gap towards London was taken up by the promotion of a 91-mile canal to Oxford in 1767 with a view to using the river Thames as the final link in joining London with the waterway system. The Oxford Canal was promoted by Sir Roger Newdigate, a coal mine owner near Coventry, the Duke of Marlborough of Blenheim Palace near Woodstock, and Dr David Durell of Jersey, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University. Brindley’s way of doing things was apparent from the very first; to avoid the canal crossing a valley he had to make the initial section parallel to the Coventry Canal from Longf…

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