Surrey Schemes

Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2017

Richard Dean

Richard Dean explores the abandoned schemes for links from Surrey to London and Croydon via the Thames.

Despite its proximity to the capital, the part of Surrey nearest London has never seen a great deal of canal building. Proposals were made in 1778 for a canal from Ewell to the Thames at Kingston which did not progress, but the idea reappeared in the 1790s as part of Ralph Dodd’s scheme for an extensive canal serving the northern part of the county, reaching from the Thames at Rotherhithe to Kingston, with branches to Epsom, Croydon, and several shorter ones near London. At the same time rival schemes were being projected for a canal to Croydon: one from the Thames at Wandsworth up the Wandle Valley, the other on a more easterly direct route from London through Deptford and Penge. Anticipating water supply problems, the Wandsworth projectors decided to adopt a tramroad instead, and their pioneering Surrey Iron Railway opened in 1803 including a short canal – which was really an extended dock – at Wandsworth. Dodd’s scheme, christened the Grand Surrey Canal, wa…

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