IWA Timeline: 1953 - 1955


Concerns were expressed at the start of the year that the Docks & Inland Waterways Executive had plans to transfer canals that were not "required commercially" to local authorities or other bodies.  These included some legally abandoned waterways such as the Cromford Canal, Grantham Canal and Llangollen Canal.  Other canals included in the list were the Ashton Canal, Peak Forest Canal, Lancaster Canal, Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal and the southern section of the Oxford Canal.  In response to this, the Association continued to advocate full use and development of the whole waterways system for the benefit of all types of user and for the establishment of a National Waterways Commission covering all navigations as well as a public enquiry into the best ways of developing them.

Campaigns continued on many other canals and rivers and the previous high level of press interest was maintained.

Problems of getting goods transported on the Grand Union - Leicester Section, which had been raised in the previous year, continued, with The Docks & Inland Waterways Executive producing a list of excuses as to why goods could not be taken from Leicester to London by canal. Although generally cordial relationships with the Docks & Inland Waterways Executive had been maintained it has become increasingly apparent that their parent organisation, the British Transport Commission, was blocking investment and development of the waterways in favour of rail, and road transport.

Towards the end of the year the Barnsley Canal was abandoned.  The Docks & Inland Waterways Executive was replaced by a Board of Management to be called "British Waterways".


The prospect of the closure of the Forth & Clyde Canal and the southern section of the Oxford Canal occupied the minds of IWA Members.  An Act was passed ending navigation on the Stroudwater Navigation and the British Transport Commission Bill included the abandonment of the Wyrley & Essington Canal between Lichfield and Huddlesford Junction.

The Association's Annual Dinner was addressed by Captain Lionel Munk of Maid Line Cruisers, who spoke of the company's expansion from the Thames into canal boating and of their plans to build narrow beam hire cruisers for this purpose.  This was perhaps the first time many IWA Members became aware of a man who was to play a leading role in the Association.

A Board of Survey, under the Chairmanship of Lord Rusholme, was set up covering British Transport Commission waterways.  Evidence was given to this enquiry by IWA in August, including a call for tolls to be replaced.

An all-party group of Members of Parliament with interest in the waterways was formed.  IWA had a stand at the first London Boat Show, which opened at Olympia on 30th December.


The British Transport Commission Bill contained a measure to abandon Haddiscoe New Cut on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, as well as parts of the Lancaster Canal and other waterways.  A special interim Report was issued by the Board of Survey recommending that the Kennet & Avon Canal should be abandoned, except for the River Avon section.

In March, the Board of Survey reported and recommended the disposal of 771 miles of waterway including some canals like the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Barnsley Canal that had already been abandoned and closed to traffic.  These "Group 3" waterways also included the Ashton, Peak Forest, Macclesfield, Bridgwater and Taunton, Chesterfield, Cromford, Dearne and Dove, Erewash, Forth & Clyde, Grand Western, Grantham, Kennet & Avon, Lancaster, Manchester, Bolton & Bury, Monmouthshire & Brecon, Nottingham, Oxford (southern section), Pocklington, Ripon, Llangollen, Montgomery, Stratford-upon-Avon (southern section), Swansea and Edinburgh & Glasgow Union canals as well as the river Witham.

"Group 2" was 994 miles of waterways that were to be retained, but if traffic did not increase they were to be downgraded to Group 3.  Even within this group it was recommended that either the Staffordshire & Worcestershire or the Worcester & Birmingham Canal should be abandoned as two routes between the Severn and the Midlands were not required.

"Group 1", at just 336 miles, was the smallest group.  These were waterways to be developed and consisted of the Aire & Calder Navigation (including the Ouse Lower Improvement), Gloucester & Berkeley Canal and the River Severn, Grand Union Canal below Berkhamsted, Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation, River Lee (below Enfield Lock), River Trent and the River Weaver.

In response, IWA advocated a National Waterway Conservancy to look after all the waterways and pointed out that it was cheaper to restore and use waterways than to eliminate them.  By the end of the year, when the new Transport Commission Bill was published, the Kennet & Avon Canal was the only major waterway proposed for closure.

The Midlands Branch organised a Rally at Banbury and the North-Eastern Branch a Rally at Skipton.  New 'West of England' and 'North East Midland' branches were formed, bringing the total number of branches to six.

On the Lower Avon, it was decided to build a new deep lock at Pershore to replace the existing water gate.  It was estimated that this would cost £11,000 of which £2,000 was contributed by the Mrs Smith Trust, bringing its total contribution to the Lower Avon Trust to £6,500.

J Chuter Ede became an IWA Vice-president.  David Hutchings and four other Midland Branch Members formed a team to design and produce posters advocating the waterways cause.  He also won an award at the Banbury Rally for showing more than 2,000 visitors over his boat.