Oxford Canal Improvements

Historical Canal Maps: NarrowBoat, Summer 2019

Richard Dean

Richard Dean describes Charles Vignoles’ 1828 plan to shorten the northern Oxford

Under Brindley’s direction, the earliest surveys for the Oxford Canal seem to have been carried out by Robert Whitworth. His engraved plan, dated 1769, shows a fairly winding route at the northern end, typical of canal construction of the time. This follows the contours of the ground with low embankments across side valleys, and the long length to Hillmorton being at the Coventry Canal level. In this form the Act was obtained in April of that year, and cutting started in September, led by Brindley’s assistant Samuel Simcock. But by then there had been a significant change in the layout, the canal now rigidly holding to the contour with long diversions up the side valleys to reduce earthworks to an absolute minimum, adding an extra 7 miles to this northern length. The need to raise the level to 6 inches above the Coventry Canal may have marginally contributed to this decision, which presumably the canal committee and Brindley had authorised, perhaps anticipating reduced cons…

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