The Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation was set up in 1774 to build a canal between Framilode and Stroud. The company was managed by a Clerk and a Surveyor who reported to a Committee of shareholders.
The image shows the Articles of Governance that each of the initial proprietors (shareholders) signed and sealed, setting out details of how the Company would be financed and managed. These included procedures for the initial sale and later transfer of shares, the conduct of general meetings and rules for the conduct of canal users.
The proprietors thought they were operating under the authority of a 1730 Act of Parliament that had authorised making the River Frome navigable. However, a court ruled against this, as the current proposal was to build a canal largely independent of the river. This forced the proprietors to obtain thieir own Act in 1776, and the agreed governance arrangements were incorporated into the new Act.
All proprietors were invited to General Meetings in April and October each year to receive a financial statement for the previous six months, to agree a dividend and to discuss matters of interest. The image shows the title page of the first minute book. At the April meeting each year, 13 shareholders were elected as a Committee for the coming year.
The Committee usually met each month to hear reports from the paid staff, to discuss policy and to order future actions. One meeting in the summer was usually held on a barge inspecting the canal. The semi-permanent positions of Clerk, Surveyor, Treasurer, Solicitor and Auditor were filled by election at a General Meeting.
Images of the minutes of all meetings. together with searchable summaries and, in many cases, verbatim text, are available in the Resources section of this website.
The day-to-day management of the company was nominally in the hands of a Clerk (responsible for administration and finance) and a Surveyor (responsible for operation and maintenance), although there were periods when the two posts were merged. The Clerk lived in the Company's headquarters at Wallbridge. A toll clerk was initially based at Framilode to record traffic and to collect tolls at that end of the canal, and from 1869 he was based at Saul Junction.
Legal documents, such as leases and bye-laws, were authorised by attaching the Company's seal. This shows an allegorical figure with symbols of transport and of the local woollen cloth industry.
To encourage traffic in the early days, a group of shareholders started trading in coal, and when they got into difficulties, the Stroudwater Company took over their business, using agents to sell coal to the public at prices fixed by the Committee. The agents received an allowance for every ton sold, and each gave a bond for duly accounting for the money they received. However, this came to an end in 1832 after one agent defaulted and the Committee were unable to enforce his bond because it turned out the Company had no legal authority to trade at all.
Information about Company Management during the operational period up to 1941 can be found by searching the Minute Book and Letter Book pages in the Archives section of this website. Additionally, a list of relevant documents that can be consulted at Gloucestershire Archives can be found in the Subject Listings page under the heading Company Management.
Found in the Archive
When the Great Western Railway reached Stroud in 1845, clock maker John Vick adjusted his public clock to London time, but the Stroudwater Committee did not want their long-established time changed to suit this new-fangled form of transport, and they agreed that 'our time of meeting in future shall be nine minutes later than that at Mr Vick's'. (D1180/1/4 p382)