Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, and Railways, of Great Britain/Avon River, Gloucestershire

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10 Anne, Cap. 8, Royal Assent 22nd May, 1712.
47 George III Cap. 129, Royal Assent 14th August, 1807.
51 George III Cap. 167, Royal Assent 15th June, 1811.

THIS is a continuation of the same River Avon as mentioned above; but was made navigable to Bath, by different parties, and under separate authorities. The source of the River Avon is at a short distance west of Badminton Park, the seat of the Duke of Beaufort, in the county of Gloucester, and after meandering through these beautiful grounds, enters Wiltshire, taking a northerly direction close to the town of Malmsbury, and thence westward to Dauntsey, a seat of the late Earl of Peterborough, where, changing for the south, it passes Christian Malford, winding to within a little distance of Bowood, the seat of the Marquis of Lansdowne; thence to the town of Chippenham, to which place, a branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal is carried. In its course it runs by Lackham House, and Laycock Abbey, to the west of the town of Melksham; thence to the town of Bradford, a little below which, at Avon Cliff Aqueduct, it is crossed by the Kennet and Avon Canal; and again, a mile north-west of Monckton Combe, by another aqueduct, called Dundas Aqueduct; from whence, it takes a circuitous route to Bath, at which place it becomes navigable, and continues so through Bristol, to the Severn. The Kennet and Avon Canal locks into the River Avon, at Bath, and the proprietors, under the above acts, have jurisdiction only from the city of Bath to Hanham Mills, the length being eleven miles, with a fall of 30 feet, by six locks.

The river, from Bath, to the tideway at Hanham Mills, was made navigable by certain commissioners, who were appointed by the mayor, aldermen, and common council of the city of Bath, under powers granted them by an act of the 10th of Anne, entitled, 'An Act for making the River Avon, in the counties of Somerset and Gloucester, navigable, from the city of Bath, to or near Hanham Mills.' The commissioners were thirty-three in number, and amongst them were his Grace the Duke of Beaufort, the Marquis of Worcester, Timothy Goodwin, Bishop of Kilmore and Ardaugh, and Lord Noel. The deed of appointment bears date the 11th of March, 1724.

Until 1813, the barges were towed on this navigation, by men only, in consequence of having neglected, in the act of Anne, to secure a horse towing-path along the banks. The proprietors, (entitled, "The Proprietors of the Tolls arising from the Navigation of the River Avon,") consisting of the Company of Proprietors of the Kennet and Avon Canal Navigation, Sir C. Willoughby, Bart. and ten other persons, found it desirable that such powers should be obtained; they, therefore, applied to parliament, in 1807, and obtained an act, which is entitled, 'An Act for enabling the Proprietors of the Navigation of the River Avon, in the counties of Somerset and Gloucester, from the city of Bath, to or near Hanham Mills, to make and maintain a Horse Towing-Path, for the Purpose of towing and haling, with Horses or otherwise, Boats, Lighters, or other Vessels, up and down the said River.' Under this act, ten commissioners were added to those appointed under the former act, but the tolls remain unaltered.

Four years after this act of the legislature, (in 1811) a company, consisting of two hundred and eighty-three persons, many of whom were proprietors of the Kennet and Avon Canal, obtained an act, for making a canal between the cities of Bath and Bristol, which was entitled, ' An Act for making a navigable Canal between the cities of Bath and Bristol; and also for supplying with Water the Inhabitants of the city of Bristol and its neighbourhood.'

This canal was to commence at the end of the Kennet and Avon Canal, at Bath, and to run parallel with the River Avon, on its southern bank, to the town of Keynshamn, where the line crosses to the opposite bank; thence, running parallel to Crew's Hole, it leaves the river, and crosses the upper end of Pyle Marsh to Old Market Street, in the city of Bristol, and from whence there was to be a short cut, locking down into the Bristol Dock, or Floating Harbour. The length would be about thirteen miles.

The company were incorporated by the name of "The Company of Proprietors of the Bath and Bristol Canal, and Bristol Water Works," and empowered to raise, among themselves, £500,000, to be divided into five thousand shares of £100 each, with further power to contribute, among themselves, £150,000, or to borrow the same sum by mortgage of the tolls.

The estimate for the canal and water works, which was made by John Rennie, Esq. F.R.S. amounted to £453,530, of which, £343,030 related to the canal; and it appears that £365,400 was subscribed before going to parliament.

As no portion of this canal has been executed, nor is ever likely to be, under the powers granted by the above recited act, it is unnecessary to introduce the rates that were allowed by the same. The Kennet and Avon Canal Company acted judiciously in purchasing the principal part of the shares in the River Avon; for by obtaining the management of the river, they have been enabled to secure a better navigation to the public, and to themselves ample remuneration. The parliamentary rates are as follows.


The Rates allowed by the Act, 10th Anne, are Five Shillings per Ton, on all Kinds of lading, for the whole Distance, and for every Passenger, for the whole Distance, Sixpence; but the Company have considerably reduced the Rates, which vary according to the Articles of lading.