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The Prosperous years of the Kennet and Avon Canal Company were from its opening in 1810 until 1852 - shortly after the opening of Brunel's Great Western railway.

In 1818 there were over 200 boats using the canal. The average time to travel from Newbury to Bath was 3 days 9 hours.

50% of tonnage was Somerset Coal Canal coal, which joined the Kennet and Avon at the Dundas aqueduct.

Further improvements were made, including:

Claverton Pumping station: In 1813 Rennie built a water-driven beam engine on the river Avon at Claverton. It was a smaller affair than the Crofton Pumping Station, and delivered rather less water - 100,000 gallons per hour were lifted the 47ft to the canal (see adjacent pictures).

Photo Gallery:


The twin beams inside Claverton Pumping Station, Jun 2010

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Claverton Pumping Station, (Jun 2010)

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The water wheel inside Claverton Pumping Station, Jun 2010

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- Claverton Pumping Station, (Jun 2010)

- The twin beams inside Claverton Pumping Station, (Jun 2010)

- The water wheel inside Claverton Pumping Station, (Jun 2010)

Goods through Hungerford:

The following lists show the goods passing through Hungerford in 1814:

Towards Reading & London:

- Welsh coal
- Gloucester coal
- Somerset coal
- Bath building stone
- Hanham paving stone
- Limestone from Bristol
- Limestone from Bath
- Slates
- Tin plates
- Iron from Wales
- Copper
- Salt
- *Timber
- *Grain and flour
- Irish provisions
- Mediterranean products (esp fruit)
- West Indian products (esp sugar)

Towards Bath & Bristol:

- Gravel
- *Chalk and Whiting
- Flints
- Peat ashes
- *Timber
- *Grain and flour
- Baltic products (timber, pitch)
- Mediterranean products (esp fruit)
- East Indian products (esp tea)

The items in the lists above marked with an asterisk (*) are those that were commonly loaded and unloaded at Hungerford.

Between 1814-1816 the new parish church of St Lawrence was built. Standing as it does on the banks of the canal, it is not surprising that it was built of Bath stone, and was designed by a Bath architect.

By 1832 the Kennet and Avon Canal Company was a prosperous concern. It owned lots of wharves, including Hungerford, which had a crane, gauging station and warehouse. An agent and toll collector were stationed at Hungerford

The years 1824-1839 were the peak prosperity for the canal, with toll receipts in excess of £42,000 per year, and average dividends on shares being 3%.

It is perhaps fitting that the original Chairman of the company, Charles Dundas, died during this period of great Kennet and Avon canal succession - on 30 Jun 1832 - aged 81, from cholera. He had been an MP for over 50 years, serving in ten successive parliaments. There is a memorial tablet on the chancel arch in Kintbury church.

First Mention of the Railway: In 1824 there was the first proposal for railway from London to Bristol. Mr John Blackwell (a Hungerford man working as an engineer for the Canal Company) was sent to investigate. He reported "there are limits to their powers, which are nearly approached". How wrong could he be?! [John Blackwell's memorial is in St Lawrence Church - 291 IMO/JOHN BLACKWELL, Esq.,C.E., for many years resident of this town who died September 28th 1840 aged 65 years and of FANNY his wife who died February 15th 1840 aged 56 years. S. Aisle - W. of Porch Wall. (They died at Hungerford and are interred in a vault in the adjacent churchyard.)]

In 1832 Brunel was appointed to survey route; In August 1835 the Great Western Railway Act passed. Building started shortly after. For a few years, 1835-40, the Kennet and Avon Canal Company continued to prosper – partly due to supplying building materials for railway!

Charles Brand - The Kennet and Avon Canal Company’s Principal Agent and Accountant:

In 1833 Charles Brand was appointed as the Company's Principle Agent and Accountant.

The research into this appointment and into the life of Charles Brand has been carried out by Neil Hardwick, who has kindly sent the well-researched paper on the subject to the Virtual Museum (Jan 2020). It is available in full here.

Rope marks on the canal bridge:

As you walk along the tow path under the High Street canal bridge, look out for the deep grooves cut into the stonework by tow ropes. These date from when barges were pulled by horses. The ropes were made from cotton, the ropes got wet and picked up grit from the towpath making them very abrasive. Pulled tight between horse and boat, over time they left their marks.

The decline begins:

However, on 30th June 1841 the Great Western railway from London Paddington to Bristol Templemeads opened. The canal entered a Century of Decline.

See also:

- The Avon Navigation

- The Kennet Navigation

- Building the Kennet and Avon Canal

- Crofton Pumping Station

- The Prosperous Years

- A Century of Decline

- The Restoration of the Kennet and Avon Canal

- Kennet & Avon Canal Photo Gallery (for additional archive photographs)

- "The Kennet & Avon Canal", by Kenneth R. Clew, David & Charles 1973.

- "Queen of Waters", by Kirsten Elliott, Akeman Press 2010