A Bill for the creation of the North Walsham & Dilham Canal was first read in Parliament in February 1812 and received the royal assent in May 1812. It empowered the raising of £33,000 plus a further £10,000 if that proved insufficient. Actual construction did not start until April 1825 and boats were able to use it by June 1826. The canal was just under 9 miles with 6 locks at Honing, Briggate, Ebridge, Bacton Wood and 2 at Swaffield. Small wherries were generally used of around 50ft x 12ft 4in and 3ft draught. Cargo was mainly corn, flour, coal, manure and wood.
The canal was not a financial success and in 1886 it was sold to Edward Press for £600 but the solicitor employed by the company to distribute the proceeds of the sale absconded with most of the money. Edward Press died in 1906 and the canal was sold at auction for £2550. It was sold again in 1921 and a new company, the North Walsham Canal Co Ltd was formed. The last boat known to have used part of the canal was the wherry Ella in 1934 but shortly after the canal silted up and the works became derelict. The canal is still owned by the North Walsham Canal Co Ltd.
There were proposals in the 1960's to restore the navigation to full working order but as this video shows, the Broads Society were far from happy about the idea!
In 1981 IWA Norwich Branch assisted in clearing the canal around Tonnage Bridge. In 1992 the East Anglian Waterways Association put forward some far reaching proposals for the restoration of the canal and in 1996 IWA Norwich Branch became associated with the project. In 2008 The North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust was formed to take the restoration forward.
There is a considerable amount of information available about this canal. First is 'The Canals of Eastern England' by John Boyes and Ronald Russell, published by David & Charles as the last part of its 'Canals of the British Isles' series in 1977.
Next is the East Anglian Waterways Association web site here which has some excellent photos and lots of information about the canal and it's surroundings.
The Norfolk Mills web site is an excellent resource. Click on this link for information about Briggate Mill and then explore the rest of the site for all the other mills on the canal.
To find out more about the North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust you can view their website here.
The NW&DC Trust holds regular working parties at various points along the canal. They meet on the last Sunday of the month and on one other Sunday each month. They are always on the lookout for new volunteers so check out where they will be on this page of the EAWA web site.