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13 November 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > History > Local History > Restoring Swindon's Canal

Fleet Street, Swindon's Canal route?

Fleet Street, Swindon's Canal route?

Restoring Swindon's Canal

Not only could it be Swindon's biggest water feature but could bring boats back to the town centre...

It's been over a century since boating traffic has made its way through the centre of Swindon… but canal buffs are hoping to change all that.

It was in 1819 that the North Wilts Canal was officially opened.  Cutting through the heart of Swindon, it was the canal version of a bypass for boating traffic wanting to give the Thames a wide berth between Lechlade and Abingdon.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map

For 30 years the canal prospered but when the Great Western Railway finally reached Swindon, the canal quickly became obsolete and finally ended up as an expensive embarrassment.

With the last of the boating traffic making its way through the centre of town in 1906, Swindon's canal quickly became weed choked and silted up and by 1914 was officially abandoned.

Soon after the Great War, a mile and a quarter of the urban stretch of waterway was filled in and largely forgotten.

Almost, but not quite....

Ninety odd years on and the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, has not forgotten and is hoping to bring boating traffic back to the centre of Swindon. 

Roderick Bluh & Ken Oliver at Station Road

Roderick Bluh and Ken Oliver at Station Road

They've already restored short lengths of the original canal at Kingshill, for instance, but have their eyes firmly fixed on a route from the Thames through to the Kennet and Avon Canal.

But to restore watery links to the Cotswold Canal would mean bringing the canal back to Swindon.  The question is, though, should the canal take it's original route through the town centre?

Roderick Bluh, Deputy Leader of Swindon Borough Council, met up with Ken Oliver from the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust to walk the route of Swindon’s canal to find out just where Swindon’s new water feature could go…

last updated: 04/12/2008 at 11:38
created: 10/03/2006

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Denice Creek, Cirencester
The canal is a lovely idea, but should Swindon not clean up it's act with other areas such as the state of the bus station, and the cigarette dog ends all over the place.I have returned to driving into work every day, after I have become too scared to get the bus home every night. All approaches to the bus station are very badly lit and I have never once seen a policeperson anywhere in the area. The amount of drunks and beggars that hang around the area is scarey.

I think this is a wonderful idea. It would bring new life to Swindon.

i need to get info for homework on good points about swindon so people will set up their business here

it will be nice like lechlade but then again it will probily be like bath and bristol with lods of tramps and troleys being dumped in a make it nice

Best news for some time. Come to France and see what can be done with old canals. They are beautiful and offer a wonderful enviroment for all comers, including many tourists.The town of Mortagis has many canals through its centre and is almost like a little Venice. I beleive that Swindon will enjoy the benefits of the canal once completed.

ray gorringe
great idea. would give a heart to Swindon

I can see both sides of it. On one hand it will bring tourists to the town. It will make us stand out from other places and bring life back into the town. On the other hand, will it be properly maintained in the long term, our town centre already smells of sewage. Add a festering beer cans, drunk chavs toilet, druggies needle depositry canal to the mix and imagine the smell then.What about space, safety, flooding.... there are so many things to take into consideration.

Swindon Commuter
I am totally against the idea of the canal. My council tax bill has just risen 3.5% and the public services in the town are poor to say the least. With another expensive ‘feature’ to maintain I can only see services getting worse. I also have concerns over safety and cleanliness – a stagnant, dirty canal smells dreadful. The only reason that the existing stretch behind Wootton Bassett Road is clean is because it is full of plant-life, making it unnavigable.My main objection however is a logistical one. I live on Albion street. There are currently 4 ways in and 2 ways out of the street, which is at the bottom end of the one way system. Those 2 ways out currently join onto the proposed canal route – Marlborough street (the only 2 way access) onto Westcott Place and Cambria Bridge Road onto Farringdon road. Tell me how exactly I’m going to get in and out of my own street if this monstrosity is built? That, and you only have to look at Westcott Place and Farringdon Road on a Saturday morning to see that they form a major route from J16 of the M4 into the town centre.The money would be better spent improving policing in town to get rid of the nasty little chav kids that cause the vandalism. Maybe THEN we might have a town worth giving a monkey’s about.

wow and about time. Swindon needs something like this at the moment no one I speak to wants to even visit Swindon. They want to visit Cheltenham, Marlmesbry or Bath. but not Swindon. The canal will bring hundreds of visitors a year and that has got to benefit everybody in Swindon. Liam has got it all wrong. The canals have become a frithing holiday industry and is not reliant on trade. So the sooner we geta canal in Swindon the better.

patrick dominey
could you pass my name and telephone number to jen dominey as we might be related 01425 620010

What's the point? fair enough it would look good (if it's done properly) but everyone knows it's going to turn to crap after a few months with all the drunks and chavs finding a new toy to break and mess up. The reason it ended up being filled in last time was because it became obsolete and embarrasing, the same thing's blatently going to happen again! hich will cost even more money to keep in a half decent condition. Finally the amount of time spent doing nothing with the recent rennovations to the town taking ages, we'll see the whole of fleet street dug up for years at this rate!

Hilary Rundle (nee Taylor)
I lived in Taunton St 1947 to 1957 and attended Westcott St and College St Schools.I get to my old home town quite regularly,and although I love it,it could do with some brightening up.Among my happiest childhood memories are the walks to Rushy Platt station and feeding the ducks along the old canal.Reed beds, dragon flies,weeds and water birds, all a stone's throw from the engineering works.I'm sure at that time the canal passed under Milton Rd.Golden Lions?I now enjoy annual narrow boat holidays,the facination being very much related to my early memory of that 'marriage' of contrasts,nature and commerce. Swindon is thriving, canals have been reborn elsewhere and overall people have more leisure time and more money.Go for it.Enhance the town and capture it's history.

Carole Jones
I'm a Brummie and was well impressed returning to my home town last year to see the thriving and attractive canal development there. I see no reason why it can't work equally well in Swindon. As for vandalism, well, Brum's coped OK and I didn't see any signs of shopping trolleys littering the banks. Swindon town centre is the same dull clone as every other town centre in the UK - a canal would make it special, and hopefully attract tourists. Go for it, I say.

Heather Mapson
Strasbourg - that beautiful European town shows off its beautiful canal running through its centre - its bordered by walks and cafes so if Swindon can do something along the same lines it would certainly give Swindon more wow! It needs something....

amanda miles
i have read all the available information on this topic and i find that this is a total waste of money and resources. and if this hair braised scheme goes ahead what will become off our town as it is today there is not much space as it is when the streets are crowed with people when shopping. if this canal has its proposed route we will have even less space with a vast quantity of water getting in the way of the shops, and on noticing the fact the canl takes a path by fleet street which happens to have more pubs on it than any where else in town i feel that the death rate in swindon will rise as the people that will emerge from the pub's and clubs at night under the influence of alchol will most likely to end up swimming or drowning in the canal. there fore as a resident of swindon i feel this should not be allowed to go ahead and the funds ought to be put to good use ie more road repairs to reduce the number of fatalities on the road that involve motorcyclists.

Ami Laverick
I think its a great idea, not only will it provide jobs in the reconstruction of the canal, but will add an extra beauty feature to a town that has very few of those. In other towns and cities in the UK canal area's ahve become vibrant hotspots for social activity and family days out.

I think its a fantastic idea and would really help the regeneration of the town.

I think it's an utter waste of a large amount of money. Everyone seems to have an idylic view of what it's going to be like. This is Swindon. It's going to be dirty, smelly, full of rubbish and possibly full of drunks. Yeah, great idea.

Typical stupid Swindon idea! A ridiculous waste of (a huge amount) of money not to mention the nightmare effect it would have on traffic congestion. On the plus side fishing drunks out on Saturday nights could be become a new pastime!

John Kane
As i own a house on the proposed route (Tennyson st, backing on to Canal Walk) i am absolutely delighted! Fantastic idea, just what the town needs.

Clive Carter
In this present climate this idea is just crazy. The cost is said to be £50m lets face it lets call it at least £80m and it would be nearer to the truth. At the present time the Council are raising Council tax if we did not have the canal then we would not be looking at a rise, or would we.Oh by the way if it does go ahead will I get a Barge Pass?

yes to canal

Finally something attractive for the people and appearance of Swindon!(providing it's planned properly)

Swindon is a scruffy and drab place. The town does not reflect the prosperity of the area. It needs a big idea which could kick start the long overdue development. The canal is just the right idea. It could transform the place. You have to do it.

David C
This is a good idea cause swindon needs a bit of historical features, which the council have took away from us . plz give us back our canal

I think its a brilliant idea to reopen the canal and follow its original course. It would bring some excitment and pride back to swindon

Gareth, Swindon
Absolutely great idea - as long as there is no risk of flooding. I live in (or near the area of the proposed route for the canal (Westcott Pl), and the flooding would worry me. Other than that, I think its a no-brainer.

I've lived in Swindon for 20 years and in that time I've seen the best efforts of the council(s) destroyed by the very people who should benefit. Sapling trees reapeatedly ripped down, grafitti defacing buildings and artworks,rubbish/shopping trolleys/beer cans in any kind of water feature, chewing gum all over the nice brick pavements...sure, it's a wonderful idea, and in a town where people might actually take care of their environment it would be a wonderful tourist attraction.At it's best it will bring life and beauty to a drab urban sprawl and lift the spirits of the hard-working townspeople, but I predict money wasted on fishing drunks and other detritus out of stagnant water.

Paul S
The idea of a canal running through Swindon fills me with excitment for Swindon. This canal would link all the urban spaces and could be the major cycle/ footpath through the town. Please do this, bring us up the market

Josh Commenteyotcto
I think this would be a great idea as it could bring alot of tourism to the town and the canal would give a feature to the town also Swindon lacks character. The canal would be a tourist attraction possible bring more businesses into swindon. I vote, go for it.

Huge tourist attraction . Would bring life back to the Town.

Mike Ockwell
This is a must! Please lets get it together, redevelop the grey, drab town centre and lets give us something to be proud of.

Darren, Swindon
A lovely idea, it would be fantastic to work it close to it's original path, how feasible that is I don't know. Fleet street is packed with pubs, the image shows that room is tight and it would not be safe with the pubs so close. To really do it justice some major engineering and town planning will be needed and at a cost. If done right it would be superb.

Restoration of the Wilts and Berks Canal would really add to Swindon,possibly making it into a city of pride rather than a joked about town!

bill savage
WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA.It would bring Swindon back to life!

bob haskins
yeah go for it!!!!

Kevin Swindon
I think this would be a great idea as it could bring alot of tourism to the town and the canal would give a feature to the town

Lorraine Wadley
Swindon lacks character. The canal would be a tourist attraction possible bring more businesses into swindon. I vote, go for it.

Tracy Branson
I often cycle along the canal at the bottom of Kingshill, there are always lots of people walking along the canal enjoying the view, it would be so lovely for the canal to be reinstated through the town. Look what they did in Reading and how many new visitors that has attracted. I am from Reading and one the things I miss most is walking along the river in the town.

Hailey symonds
I think canals should be restored because they are peaceful and you can do fun things on them and some peole have great momories from bck then.!!!

hailey symonds
i think canals should be restored because it will give us memories of the old times

What a wonderful vision, what an achievement if it can be done.This would be fantastic.Go for it.

Marjorie Clapson nee Hiskins
The canal ran through my grandfather's land at Waite Hill Farm , Lyneham & then on to the lock at Dauntsey

It's got to be done. Swindon needs a feature. It will attract quality cafes and hopfully have a nice continental feel.

Isabel, Swindon
Good idea but could they solve my flooding problem first please!

Helen Reade
NO-one in their right mind would be against these plans. Bringing back the Canal now! Keep to the old Canal Walk route and bring some history and beauty back to Swindon as this is what Swindon lacks. It's the Councils chance to give something back to their loyal commnity. It would be a beautiful attribute to Swindon Town. I have lived here for 28 years and would love to see the rejuvination of the Canal. If this is agreed, the council will never regret it.

Bill Gates
Do it, i will give you the money. I promise :)

Jen Dominey
I hope they do restore the town centre canal. You can go through Newbury and Reading town centres on a narrowboat and it is great from both points of view. Ex Narrow-Boater

I think this is a wonderful idea, and would bring a whole different kind of person to Swindon, encouraging tourism, and all the fringe purchases that go with canals. Do it as soon as possible.

Mick Watson
Re opening the canal(s)around Swindon would be fantatic. Remember, If was not for the canal,Brunel would not accepted the recommondation of Gooch to build"our principle engine establishment" "It has also the great advantage of being on the side of a canal communicating with the whole of England, and by which we could get coal and coke," Brunel agreed . Thus Swindon came into being Ref. The rest of the tale, Vist STEAM

paul jones
i think its a wicked idea,bringing swindons history back.they should of never got rid of it.please bring it back.thank you

chris duell
I think that it is a wonderful idea and it is recreating the angelic wildlife of swindon

Jenny Black
I think its a lovely idea

Jim Fayers
We need more pleasure space and interests if we are going to attract peopel away from exotic travel and reduce avaiation pollution. Like wise to get people out of their TV lounges and into fresh air. I would be a willing volunteer.

Mark keen
I think the canal would be a great addition to the town, and would I hope attract more people here. My only concern is where the money is coming from. There would also be concerns over safety and how much room the Canal would take up if it actually went through the town. I don't think Fleet Street would be the answer, perhaps the old route along Canal Walk would be a more suitable choice.

royston cartwright
I used to live in the Milton Road Club, The great thing about having the two canals back is that the people of Swindon will be able to walk into the centre of the town from three directions without ever having to cross a road

mark bletsoe
If any commercial traffic could be encouraged to use the waterway, then I say "go for it Swindon!"

David Cummings
What a great Tourist attraction and would bring life back into Swindon. also less polution from traffic

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