A public meeting was held in Woking, and a Purchase Committee was
formed. At the auction on 1st March 1949, the winning bid of £10,000
was made by a member of the Purchase Committee, Mrs Joan Marshall.
There were reports at first that the Canal had been bought for the
IWA by public subscription, but in fact, the appeal for funds had
been unsuccessful, and the purchase had been independently financed.
It was eventually taken in the name of the New Basingstoke Canal
Company Ltd., whose Managing Director, Mr S.E.Cooke,
an engineer and inventor of the Duracast fishing reel, had financed
the purchase. Mrs Marshall was General Manager of the Company until
her resignation in 1964.
The new management put the locks in working order, and employed
a staff of 12 to maintain the Canal, together with a large number
of Honorary Bailiffs. They were unable to re-establish commercial
traffic, and most of the Canal's income came from sales of water,
mainly to the National Gas Turbine Establishment at Pyestock,
and to the Gas and Electricity Boards.
In 1957 some troops returning from an evening exercise blew up
Lock 22 at Frimley, causing the pound above to be drained. The condition
of the Canal deteriorated rapidly from then onwards. In the Autumn
of 1968, floods breached the bank above Ash Lock, and a concrete
dam was placed across the Canal to prevent water pouring over Ash
Embankment. This stopped the supply of water to the lower reaches
of the Canal, which deteriorated still more rapidly.
The New Basingstoke Canal Company had published proposals for the
Canal in 1967 which aimed to eliminate the nuisance value of the
Canal as a barrier to development, and to retain separate sections
for amenity and conservation purposes, culverting the water between
these and replacing the locks with weirs. This policy would therefore
have ended the possibility of through navigation.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR RESTORATION
Public opinion, official policies
and new legislation greatly altered the picture after the failure
of the attempt to save the Canal in 1949. After the late 1940s when
the National Parks Commission and the Nature Conservancy
were formed, and the Town and Country Planning Act was passed,
the increasing pressures of population and affluence led to further
legislation for the administration of the countryside, and to more
comprehensive planning on a wider regional basis.
The Countryside Act of 1968 gave authorities the power to
establish Country Parks, to provide recreational facilities
within easy reach of centres of population. The Strategic Plan
for the South East, published in 1970, divided the region into planning
areas and designated some of them as centres of growth. The Basingstoke
Canal passed through important development areas and with its linear
shape was clearly accessible to a large public.
The Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society was formed in 1966
to campaign for the full restoration of the Canal as an amenity
under public ownership. The Surrey and Hampshire County
Councils began negotiations to purchase the Canal in 1970. In
February 1972 an official announcement revealed that the negotiations
had broken down, and both County Councils therefore applied for
Compulsory Purchase Orders. These were confirmed in February
1975 but in the event, Hampshire County Council had taken possession
of the western end of the Canal in November 1973, and Surrey acquired
the eastern half by negotiation in March 1976.