In the 1790s it was intended to link Southampton with Salisbury, using part of the existing Andover-Redbridge Canal and constructing new sections to Salisbury and Southampton. In Southampton an 880-yard tunnel was to be excavated to carry the canal under the Marlands, and it was then to branch, south to the docks, and east to Northam. Construction of the new sections commenced in 1795 or 1796. However, because of mismanagement and unexpected difficulties costs rocketed and the canal was never completed. By 1803 it was only navigable from Redbridge to the west end of the tunnel. There were similar problems at the Salisbury end and by 1809 the project had been abandoned.

In the town the southern part of the canal started at the Platform at God's House Tower, followed the line of the old town moat along what is now Canal Walk, continued by a line west of the Strand (modern Queensway), and thence through Houndwell, a little west of Palmerston Road, to a point opposite North Front where the modern railway line continues to Northam. Turning west the tunnel carried the canal under the Marlands to Blechynden. At Millbrook Point the canal ran south of the later railway line, but curved northward to cross the railway and Millbrook Road to run along the side of Gover Road to the city boundary.

When the Southampton-Dorchester Railway was constructed in the 1840s it was originally intended to use the existing canal tunnel to carry the railway under the Marlands. However, because of engineering problems this idea was abandoned and a new tunnel was constructed 100 yards to the south. The railway line east of the tunnel was constructed on the bed of the canal for some distance.

Most of the remains of the canal have been obscured by later development. In the 1930s, however, wharf stairs and mooring rings were discovered in the basement of a shop in Canal Walk (image below).

Canal Steps

Image Unavailable

These steps originally led down to the canal. They are photographed here in the 1930s in one of Lankester’s warehouses in Back-of-the-Walls.

Further reading:

The Bankrupt Canal, by Edwin Welch. (H/pj)
The Canal That Never Was, (Exhibition Catalogue). (H/pj)
Southampton Occasional Notes, by ‘Townsman’, p31-32. (HS/h)
Georgian and Victorian Southampton, by A. J. Brown, p39. (HS/h)
'Southampton Canal tunnel' by Edwin Course, in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society, volume 33, 1976, pages 73-8. (H/f)


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