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A Community Asset

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About The Project

     At the beginning of the nineteenth century, when canal transport was king before the coming of the railways, there was a serious problem on the east to west route using the River Thames and the Thames & Severn Canal. This was the upper reaches of the River Thames, where disputes with landowners, millers and other river users prevented any improvement to the navigation. There were also the archaic 'flash locks'. The delays caused by the Thames problem were eventually overcome by the construction of the nine mile North Wilts Canal. This short canal linked the Thames & Severn at Latton to the Wilts & Berks in Swindon, thereby bypassing the Upper Thames as the Wilts & Berks joined that river in Abingdon.

     When the North Wilts Canal was completed in 1819 it provided a link from the Wilts & Berks Canal at Swindon to the Thames & Severn Canal at Latton.  In order to preserve water supplies the stop lock, with little or no change of level, was built at Latton.  The large basin was constructed in order to allow for the trans-shipment of cargoes between the boats of different dimension which traded on the respective canals.  The North Wilts boats were 72' long by 7' wide, whereas boats on the Thames & Severn were of shorter length and wider beam. Shortly after the opening of the canal link in 1819 the basin became redundant as the Thames & Severn locks were lengthened to accommodate the narrowboats.

    With the abandonment of the Wilts & Berks Canal in 1914, the Basin fell into to disuse, although trade had more or less ceased before the turn of the century. A few years later the Thames & Severn Canal was also closed and the Basin became a very isolated place.

    But life at the Basin flourished thanks to the extended Howse family, and today most of the infrastructure is still in place.

    In 2005 a small group of enthusiasts decided that this little known part of the North Wilts Canal needed to be protected from further deterioration, and preserved as the only remaining intact original structures on the whole canal.  What started out as a simple preservation project has blossomed into full renovation.

    In the years since we have made a lot of progress in spite of the fact that most of the volunteers live many miles from the site and are involved with restoration on other parts of the Wilts & Berks Canal.  Although there are plans to completely restore the Wilts & Berks and North Wilts canals because of the problem caused by the expansion of Cricklade the restored North Wilts will not use this section of the original canal.  Instead a new line to the east of Cricklade will join the Thames & Severn canal at Eisey.