Saturday, 22 October 2011

Devizes and the "Kennet & Avon" Canal.

Devizes stands beside the Kennet & Avon canal, an artificial cut that was dug to link the River Avon in Bath to the River Kennet in Newbury.  Work commenced  in 1794 and the canal provided a waterway trade link between Bristol to London and was opened in 1810,  much to the delight of the businessmen of Devizes, who had campaigned for its construction and route through the town, as  John Rennie, the canal engineer had originally planned a  canal that bypassed Devizes.   Its opening increased trade between neighbouring towns, especially with Bath and its rich source of building materials.  Many Devizes buildings of "Bath Stone" date from the opening of the canal.  Devizes is famous for its "Caen Hill" flight, 29 locks that bring the canal 237ft uphill into the town.  

Sixteen of these locks are consecutive, and are one of the wonders of the British Waterways network.  The canal thrived until 1841, when the opening of Brunel's "Great Western Railway," a fast rail link between London and Bristol, reduced the waterway's traffic almost overnight.  The canal fell into a slow decline until it was abandoned after the last war.   Attempts were made to close it completely, but in 1955 a group of enthusiasts formed the K&A Trust and with volunteer help managed to restore the canal until it was opened by the Queen in 1990. 

A full history can be read on: History and Museum, the Kennet & Avon's informative website.  These photographs show the canal gift shop at Devizes Wharf, which is housed in the old wharfside buildings.  It is a local tourist attraction and visitors from around the world come to see the museum, read about the history and take a ride on the "Kenavon Venture" the Trust's tripboat that operates cruises on the canal throughout the year. 

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