After working well together initially, relations between the two canal companies became strained by increasing competition from the railways.
The Thames & Severn Canal Company was initially welcomed by the Stroudwater Company who agreed reduced tolls on their canal for goods passing through to Brimscombe and a bigger reduction for goods going further.
This led to good business for the Stroudwater as their toll income on through traffic amounted to about half of their total for many years. The Stroudwater Company also benefitted from advice about book keeping methods and help with the detection of under-declared cargoes.
Relations became more difficult in the 1840s when trading patterns began to change due to competition from the new railways. Both companies agreed that there was a need to reduce tonnage rates, but each wanted the other to take a larger share of the reductions, and it took lengthy negotiations to reach agreement. As the effects of railway competition increased, there were further difficult negotiations about reducing tonnage rates, and concern grew about inadequate maintenance leading to shortage of water in the summit level which restricted the loads that could be carried during dry periods.
By the 1890s, the Thames & Severn Canal had come under the control of the Great Western Railway Company, and they had little interest in trying to maintain water in the summit level. In December 1893, therefore, they formally closed the canal east of Chalford.
After much debate, a group of canal companies, including the Stroudwater, agreed to take over the canal in 1895. They manage to re-open the summit in 1899, but it still suffered from leakage.
After much further debate, the canal was taken over by Gloucestershire County Council in 1901, and they re-opened the summit in 1904. The Stroudwater Company allowed their manager also to be manager of the re-opened canal, reporting to the Stroudwater directors and the County Council Canal Committee independently.
In due course, the County Council found that income from traffic was not enough to cover basic maintenance, and the Stroudwater Company agreed to act as collector of donations from local organisations interested in keeping the canal open. This continued for a few years, but donations dwindled, and the canal was formally abandoned in 1933.
Information about the Thames & Severn Canal Co 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 Working with the Thames & Severn Canal Co.
Found in the Archive
When the Stroudwater Company appointed a new Clerk in 1814, they requested Mr Denyer, Clerk to the Thames & Severn Canal Co, to attend their office at Wallbridge and point out the method of bookkeeping adopted by his company. (1/3 p187)