THE WAGGON TRADE
Road transport began to present serious competition
to the Canal in the 1820s. In 1810 it was about twice as expensive
to send goods by waggon as by barge, but by 1822 the Canal proprietors
were stating that the difference in price was so slight that waggons
were preferred for their greater speed, and the advantages of door-to-door
transport. The labour of transporting goods by barge is vividly
illustrated by George Sturt in his biography of his grandfather
William Smith, a potter of Farnborough who gratefully acquired
a waggon and horses in 1821.
"The Basingstoke Canal had to be used, though it was a mile or
two from the pottery and involved cartage and precious time at the
home end, and must have cost further cartage and time in London.
There was no help for it, but packing the ware on the barges was
a business in itself - a business so arduous that its details left
an indelible mark on the potter's mind. What it had meant to him,
his family - unborn as yet - realised years afterwards, when, on
his deathbed, his wandering wits harked back and he was heard giving
orders as he packed an imaginary barge. "Come on! Let's have 'em
along!" he would shout impatiently, as if at laggard labourers.
During 10 days of illness many hours were troubled in such a way.
The crazy speech was so vivid that the watchers could almost see
their father as a young man, sweating and toiling to get another
load of pottery stowed properly on a barge for London".
The London & Southampton Railway Act was passed
in 1834, and work began near Winchfield in October of that
year. The Canal Company appears to have taken a neutral attitude
to the railway, and probably hoped that the railway company would
take over the Canal, as happened in many cases.
As work on the railway progressed, the Canal's trade increased,
and reached an all-time peak in 1838-9 with 39,000 tons. However,
once the railway was completed, trade on the Canal slumped. Price-cutting
by both companies continued through the 1840s, and the railway had
the advantage that the goods trade could be subsidised by the proceeds
from passenger traffic.
Very heavy bulk goods such as timber, coal and chalk continued
to be moved by canal, and local traffic continued on the upper reaches
which were remote from the railway, but tolls became greatly reduced.
When the Guildford-Farnham railway opened with a branch
to Farnborough in 1849, much of the traffic of Ash Wharf
The building of the camp between 1854 and 1859 brought
a reprieve for the Canal. In 3 years, 20,000 tons of building materials
and commodities were carried by barge to Aldershot. The Wey Navigation
ledgers of the barges show the changing pattern of cargoes as the work
proceeded. Bricks for foundations, timber and deal boarding, slates, paving
stones and iron pipes were followed by oats for the stables, then door-frames,
glass, soap and beer.
Pleasure boating developed, summer regattas were held on the Canal, bathing
places were established, an angling club was formed and the Canal became
a centre of social life.
Although the amount of trade had increased, tolls had been reduced from
3s 2d a ton in 1835 to 1s 9d in 1848 and 10 1/2d in 1860. In 1862 the
Company found it necessary to increase them. Trade declined rapidly, and
in June 1866, it was resolved to go into liquidation.