Construction commenced in 1793. By 1800, the Canal was substantially complete, a short gap
remaining between Stoke Bruerne and Blisworth where civil
engineering problems with the long Blisworth Tunnel delayed final completion until 1805.
For some years thereafter the Canal
very profitable, but from the 1840s onwards it fell into commercial
decline as the railways
gradually captured its
long distance trade. Throughout the industry, canal companies were forced to reduce
their tariffs to
barely economic levels to retain what business they could in the face
of this new and voracious competition ― many went to the wall.
In 1894 the Grand Junction Canal Company bought two of the Leicestershire
canals, by then on the verge of bankruptcy, thereby extending its domain to Leicester.
Then, in 1929, the Company amalgamated
with the owners of the Regentís and Warwick canals to form the Grand Union Canal Company,
thereby bringing under single ownership the waterway from Brentford and Limehouse on the Thames,
to Birmingham. Further canal purchases in 1932 extended
the network from Leicester to the River Trent and onwards to the
Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border. But despite the Company bringing a
greater mileage of canals under unified control and investing heavily in
improvements, rail and increasingly road continued to dominate
the transport industry. A growing shortage of boatmen prepared to accept the
rigors of canal life added to the Companyís difficulties.
By the mid-1950s, only the section of the Canal below Uxbridge remained
commercially viable. A decade later, trade had diminished to negligible
proportions, but by then canal carrying was being superseded by leisure cruising, a fact recognised in the 1968 Transport Act, which gave British
Waterways a remit to
develop our inland waterways for leisure use. Today the Grand Union Canal (as it now is) carries more
leisure traffic during the summer season than its predecessor did commercial traffic during its heyday as a major
The following account deals with these events in more detail ― we hope you find
it interesting . . . .
FOREWORD . . . .