Also, the Act had authorised the payment of interest during the
construction of the Canal. Such clauses were common in Canal Acts
to encourage subscribers to part with money which would otherwise
be earning interest elsewhere. They were a frequent cause of undoing.
In the case of the Basingstoke Canal, the authorised capital had
been spent by 1793, and with the work uncompleted and debts outstanding,
the Company had to obtain a second Act which allowed a further £60,000
to be raised.
The Act of 1793 stipulated that no further interest should be paid until
the objects of the original Act had been carried out. However, George
Stubbs, Chairman of the Committee of Accounts, continued to pay the
interest by issuing bonds, part of the value of which represented arrears
of interest on the original capital. In addition, in order to pay interest
on the bonds, he had by 1797 run up a debt of £7,500.
Stubbs was dismissed in 1797, and Dr Robert Bland, the Chairman
took over the task of running the Company, and contrived to salvage its
finances. The Company struggled first to pay its debts and then to pay
interest on the bonds for the rest of its days, and the shareholders never
received a dividend.
THE DEAD END
Another reason for the Canal's failure was that none of the plans to continue
it to the coast was ever carried out. There were plans for a link with
Southampton via both the Andover and Itchen Navigation, but although a
canal linking London with the south coast would have been useful in wartime,
it was not until after the Napoleonic Wars that one was made, and then
it was by the Wey & Arun Canal opened in 1816.
It was rising prices and the problems of supplying water to the
summit pounds that caused the plans to be abandoned. The scheme
for the Portsmouth, Southampton and London Junction Canal included
either a railway or tunnel at the summit to solve the problem of
In 1825 it was planned to build the Berks & Hants Canal, linking
the Basingstoke with the Kennet & Avon, which had opened in 1810.
Both committees and the Somersetshire Coal Canal Committee were
in favour, but when the Bill had its first reading it was defeated
by opposition from landowners and parties with interests in the
Thames. By this time, interest was returning towards railways.
TURGIS GREEN AND BAGSHOT
The cut to Turgis Green had been one of
the objects of the Act, and in the early plan to take the Canal
round Lord Tylney's estates, it had involved an extension of only
1 1/4 miles. With the Greywell Tunnel route adopted, it involved
6 miles. In the financial crises of the early years, the plan was
never fulfilled. The last attempt to build it in 1799 failed through
inability to raise the necessary funds.
There followed a scheme for a cut to Bagshot, 4 1/2 miles in length,
which would capture some of the waggon trade from Staines, and improve
the water supply of the Canal. Prince William of Gloucester, who
lived at Bagshot Park, was one of the subscribers. The plan fell through
when a second survey produced a greatly increased estimate of cost, from
£5,500 to £8,125.
The scheme is of particular interest however because relatively recently
a collection of letters has been found, written by Robert Bland
in 1801, to Henry Halsey, a landowner who lived at Henley Park.
The proposed cut would have passed through Mr Halsey's land, and the letters
are concerned with obtaining his consent. Whether or not he gave it the
letters do not tell, but he expressed the view that "the failure of the
Basingstoke Company affords sufficient warning of the necessity of having
correct and accurate statements of the expense of the works under distinct
heads", with which opinion Robert Bland agreed.
A postscript of one of the letters reads: "I should have said,
it was proposed the canal should be 34 feet water surface, 18 feet
wide at the bottom and 5 feet deep. The length four miles and a
half. The expense of cutting, with banking benching and making the
whole watertight, £4,150. One lock, £750. Four road bridges £400,
the weirs, tunnels, stop gates, wharf walls etc. about £300, together
£5,500. The meeting proposed raising £6,000, yet it was thought
probable that by advertising persons might be found who might engage
to perform the whole for £5,500".