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Stratford-upon-Avon Canal

Stratford-upon-Avon Canal runs from the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at King’s Norton Junction to the river Avon at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Things to do nearby

Heritage canal bridge
Water vole

Facts & Stats

25.5 miles

(41km)

The length of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal that is navigable.

55 locks

1964

Official opening

A flotilla of boats descended the canal to assemble for the official opening by Her Majesty the Queen Mother.

From the Worcester& Birmingham Canal to the river Avon

It links with the Grand Union Canal at Kingswood via the short Kingswood Branch which is 0.25 miles (0.4km) long with 1 lock.

The canal was promoted by Acts of Parliament in 1793 and 1796 but the southern section was not completed until 1816. Initially, it was profitable but the railways soon began to attract traffic away from the canal. By the Second World War the canal was almost impassable.  

In 1947, Tom Rolt journeyed along the canal and required GWR to raise Lifford Bridge, which was blocking a statutory right of navigation. In 1958, Warwickshire County Council intended to close the southern part of the canal but two members of the newly formed canal society made a journey by canoe and proved that the canal was used.  

The National Trust took over responsibility for the Southern Stratford-upon-Avon canal and a restoration plan was put into action. Following work by volunteers, army personnel and prison groups, the canal was reopened by her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1964. In 1988, the canal was returned to British Waterways, which now manages it. 

In the postwar years the Stratford Canal was neglected and started to be a candidate for abandonment. When a Parliamentary Act came up for consideration an IWA member’s passage ticket for his canoe was produced as evidence of use within the non use statutory time defeating the Bill.

Opening the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal

The lock structures were rapidly deteriorating when the IWA started a restoration campaign. Led and directed by David Hutchings, swarms of dedicated volunteers, prisoners from Hewel Grange, Army and Air Force work groups descended to clear and restore the waterway. David overcame large and minor problems one of which was when the prison work party could not go home as an inmate had ‘borrowed’ the bus to go to a football match. 

By 1964 the canal was navigable although there was still some further work required. Importantly David had made his political point that Canal restoration was feasible and wanted by an increasing fleet of boat users.

In July 1964 a flotilla of boats descended the canal to assemble for the official opening by Her Majesty the Queen Mother. Before some 20,000 spectators, she sailed across the Bancroft Basin into the River Lock to cut the tape. The City of Birmingham Orchestra concert performed on a pontoon raft which kept breaking away. The 1812 Overture was saluted by Royal Artillery cannons while many attended a Theatre performance of Richard 11nd. The celebration was concluded with a magnificent formal dinner at which the prize winners were announced.

Waterway notes

Maximum boat sizes

  • Length: 70′ 11″ (21.62 metres)
  • Beam: 7′ (2.1 metres)
  • Height: 6′ (1.9 metres)
  • Draught: 3′ 6″ (1.05 metres)

Navigation authority

Canal & River Trust

Useful info

  • A number of locks (especially lock 47 on the Wilmcote Flight) are particularly narrow and require care. Some locks are also shorter than others (particularly lock 15 at Lapworth).
  • Bridge 8 requires a Sanitary Station key for operation
  • Bridges 26 and 28 require a windlass (hydraulic operation).

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