1786 John Gibson and John Dyson built a navigable waterway across the Earl of Fortescue’s land near Tattershall in Lincolnshire although they did not seek the usual Act of Parliament. The cut was just a couple of miles long and ran north from the River Witham Navigation, close to Dogdyke, into Tattershall. On the route there was just one lock (near the entrance of the canal) and one warehouse (which straddled the canal near the terminus). The cut was named the Tattershall Canal though it was also known as Gibson’s Canal. The canal was virtually a private route carrying goods between Tattershall and Boston (which lies to the south east on the River Witham).
1791 A proposal for a new waterway was put together by a Mr. Bullivant who headed a group of traders in Horncastle, some 10 miles north of Tattershall. For some time they had wished to link their town to the growing waterways network. The relative success of the nearby Tattershall Canal gave them the inspiration to put their plan into action. A meeting was held at Sleaford involving the promoters of the Horncastle Canal, the promoters of another canal planned by businessmen in Sleaford and the River Witham commissioners. It was decided that each body would help to promote the other as the success of all 3 was advantageous to all of them. In fact, in the case of the Horncastle and Sleaford navigations, good relations with the River Witham commissioners was absolutely vital.
The biggest worry for the Horncastle and Sleaford navigations was the River Witham’s route through Lincoln. If their routes were to be of any use at all they needed to reach the main waterways network to the west but in Lincoln there was a major stumbling block. The owners of the Fossdyke Canal, along with Lincoln city council, did not “get on” with the commissioners of the River Witham Navigation. This caused a long running dispute over the navigable height of High Bridge in Lincoln city centre. The bridge was (and still is) an ancient Norman structure with buildings on it. It also carried the main street over the river but it was very low and narrow, allowing only small Lighters to pass beneath it. Lincoln council steadfastly refused to permit the River Witham commissioners to alter the bridge to allow larger canal barges to pass through. Alternative routes were looked into with the intention of completely bypassing Lincoln.
A route was surveyed by William Jessop on behalf of the Horncastle promoters but many local landowners were unhappy about the likelihood of losing precious farmland. In the end it was Sir Joseph Banks, a strong supporter of the Horncastle project, who persuaded Lincoln council that there was more to be gained than to be lost if they upgraded High Bridge and allowed larger boats to pass. Around this same time, Richard Ellison II, the owner of the Fossdyke Canal (which linked the River Witham to the River Trent) was also persuaded to upgrade his waterway in Lincoln. The Horncastle committee decided that the best way to ensure that Lincoln and Ellison kept their word was to include the agreed improvements in the Horncastle Navigation’s Bill. Also included in the Bill was the purchase of the small Tattershall Canal who’s owners knew there was no point in trying to compete against the much larger Horncastle venture.
William Jessop was asked to survey a possible line and in June his report was complete. He suggested two possibilities though surprisingly neither made use of Gibson’s Tattershall Canal. The first suggestion was to use the Old River Bain, making it navigable from Horncastle, via Coningsby, to the River Witham near Dogdyke. The second suggestion was to build a completely artificial waterway heading south west across country to Kirkstead. This line would be the shorter of the two and would make a junction with the river some 4 miles nearer to Lincoln – but take it 4 miles further away from Boston. Jessop’s estimates for each of these lines was just over £12,000, and both schemes would need 12 locks so there was little to chose between the two. In the end, the projectors of the scheme decided to take the Old River Bain route though no immediate work was done.
1792 The committee employed Robert Stickney and Samuel Dickenson to re-survey Jessop’s Old River Bain route (though only minor adjustments were made) and then, in March, they sent their Bill to Parliament. In June William Jessop gave evidence in support of the route and the Act for the Horncastle Canal Company was authorised.Immediately the new company began to prepare for work to begin. They made an agreement with the neighbouring Sleaford Navigation to use the same engineer on both waterways but the first man that they approached, Henry Eastburn, declined the offer. The job eventually went to William Cawley of Mickle Trafford in Cheshire.
The committee were keen to keep close control over the whole project.Too many other canals had suffered through allowing contractors and sub-contractors to do as they wished. The Horncastle committee decided they would stay in charge of everything. Where as this may have meant they were “in control” it also meant they had no specialist “expertise” to look after the work. For instance, they demanded that all bricks should be made locally from local clay, they instructed their brick maker to search the proposed line of the canal for the clay and they then instructed him to make the bricks in a mould much bigger than standard bricks of the day. Because the committee did not allow for this, the bricks turned out uneven. They also didn’t allow for the actions of one local mill owner who discharged his water straight into an uncompleted section of the route!
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1793 As work continued, so did the problems. Lawsuits were threatened due to damage of adjacent land during construction, the company blamed Jessop for all their problems, accusing him of recommending an incompetent surveyor. In October William Cawley resigned.
1794 The committee appointed John Dyson as the replacement for Cawley. Dyson had worked on the construction of the Tattershall Canal and had just completed his job of contractor on the Sleaford Navigation. However, he had had something of a falling out with the Sleaford company and he was also soon replaced by the Horncastle company though I have no information on why this happened. His replacement was (said to be) Thomas Hudson.
- THOMAS Hudson is listed as the engineer on the Horncastle Canal which had a hefty influence from William Jessop. Meanwhile, the surveyors on the Sleaford Navigation (and some other local schemes) were said to have been William Jessop and JOHN Hudson. Although I have nothing to back it up, I suspect the person listed as THOMAS Hudson in my reference book, may really be JOHN Hudson. *
As the year went on, the canal opened bit by bit as each section was completed. This allowed tolls to be charged right from the start, gaining income even while the canal was still under construction. However, despite this extra income, finances were running very low and, in October, the company was forced to borrow more cash in order to continue the line.
1795 The company was still in big financial trouble even after receiving their new loan. They decided to lease out the canal’s tolls to raise more cash even though the full route was far from complete.
1796 In January, Thomas Coltman of Hagnaby took the tolls lease for a loan of £4,035 plus interest but this did very little to help the committee’s money problems. In October they were forced to appeal to each of the shareholders to raise more funds. Nine of the shareholders came forward and saved the canal from being taken over by the River Witham Drainage Commissioners.
1797 The canal was completed and opened to Dalderby Ford, still 2 miles from Horncastle, but work stopped there until the company could sort out its finances. For the next 2 years the canal lay unfinished with goods from Horncastle having to be carried across land to the head of navigation.
1799 Feeling a little more confident, the Horncastle company asked John Rennie to re-survey the line from Dalderby into Horncastle.Rennie, of course, was one of the country’s most revered engineers, he was already in the area doing work for the River Witham. When he brought his report to the Horncastle Canal committee he did not cheer them up.Far from giving the news of a cheap route into Horncastle, he reported that on the previous day he had travelled along the completed section of the canal from the River Witham to Dalderby and found it in a crooked and far from perfect state! His recommendations were estimated at £8,291, the company knew this meant that a new Act of Parliament would have to be authorised. They put their plan together but during that winter, while the Bill was being prepared, Lincolnshire suffered some of the worst floods that the area has ever known. Many parts of the completed work on the canal were destroyed and the over all damage put the whole route in jeopardy.
1800 In March, with ever increasing urgency, the committee took their Bill to Parliament. Unfortunately they were too urgent and broke some of the rules pertaining to the length of time which a Bill must wait to allow objections etc to be made. Parliament decided to let the Bill “lie on the table” (wait a while). In May it was brought before Parliament again and the company pleaded that the reason they had brought the Bill to them earlier than permitted had been because of the urgency necessary to save the canal from destruction after the winter floods. It was decided that the breaking of the rules was condonable under the circumstances and the Act was then assisted through Parliament very quickly, taking just 5 weeks. In fact, it would appear that Parliament were very helpful indeed, they authorised the raising of a further £20,000 and the lifting of the usual maximum limit on dividends.
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1801 It took 15 months to raise the necessary capital but once this was achieved a meeting was held and one of the shareholders, William Walker, was appointed superintendent in charge of “the execution of works necessary to complete the canal”.
1802 Ten years after the original Act was passed, the 11 mile Horncastle Canal reached its goal, it was opened throughout on September 17th.
The completed canal had 2 basins in Horncastle and there were 11 locks on the final route – one less than had been originally expected. The canal’s success was gradual, taking 10 years before a profit was made and the first dividend was paid. After this though, the profits and dividends continued to increase for over 40 years. The main cargo was coal, fertiliser (known as manure) and general goods (groceries etc) bound for Horncastle. Mainly agricultural goods went the other way towards Lincoln and Boston. Cargoes from much further afield were also seen from time to time. In 1847, for instance, a barge full of general goods arrived from St. Katherine’s dock on the River Thames in London. People were also carried of course and this included the committee themselves who used to make an annual inspection of the whole route culminating with a dinner presented at Tattershall Lock by the toll collector or lock keeper. This trip was made in a normal cargo boat for the first 2 decades but later the company built their own “yacht”. This served them until 1876 when it was too old to continue the job, they hired a steam barge instead.
The opening of the final 2 miles in 1802 coincided with the start of almost 2 decades of bickering with the Honourable Lewis Dymoke. At the start of this he was a member of the canal committee though it would appear that he was only there to get a first hand view of what was coming his way. He owned an estate through which the final part of the canal ran. He was also the “King’s Champion”, a hereditary office which had continued since ancient times, its sole purpose being to provide a challenge to the King’s “enemies” at his coronation! Dymoke clearly took this role very seriously – especially when the canal was headed in his direction! His first “challenge” had come while the final 2 miles were still being constructed, he had made a claim of £600 in compensation for the loss of a stream which had been on the planned route. The company offered him £200 and he agreed to this but only if it were paid in advance of the canal reaching his land. He had also threatened lawsuits because he claimed the canal was “deviating from its original line”. The company responded by saying that as a committee member himself, he knew fine well that there was no “original line” other than the one they were about to follow. In 1802 Dymoke was thrown off the committee, in 1803 he made numerous small claims, in 1804 he demanded £403 12s 9½d for loss of land and a new bridge and a further £240 for damage to a mill. In 1806 he demanded culverts to be built “immediately”, in 1807 he complained about the dykes and drains which the company built to prevent land flooding. Next he wrote to the company demanding expenses for all of his claims so far – including the numerous ones he’d withdrawn! The company thanked him kindly for his communications but said they could not comply with his wishes.
In 1810 he complained that the offer made to him for compensation of land (used for the building of a towpath) was not enough. In 1813 he made his biggest claim of all – £1,000 for alleged (by him) damage to the surrounding land due to leakage from the waterway. In 1814 the one and only quarrel which seems to have been fully resolved was settled when the company gave him £4 to cover his land losses used in the building of the towpath. Just to keep the company on their toes he immediately made a new claim, demanding the repair of an unsafe bridge. The happy soul died in 1820 and left his title to the Honourable and Reverent “Champion” Henry Dymoke – his son presumably. Relations with the new Champion were obviously a lot better as he was soon appointed chairman of the canal committee and he later became president.
All canals have stories to tell about their staff or navvies and the Horncastle Canal was no different. The book “Lost Canals Of England And Wales” notes the problems the company had in employing a satisfactory superintendent. William Walker, a shareholder, had taken over this job when the company got the go-ahead to construct the final 2 miles in 1801. The company later had to ask him to resign because of his ill-health. His replacement was George Douthwaite but in the minutes of a meeting held in 1809 it was reported that instead of attending to the interests of the company, Mr. Douthwaite spent most of his time in various public houses around the town. Douthwaite died the following year and the company gave his widow just 5 guineas to allow her to “get back to her friends”!
The book “Canals of Eastern England” tells of problems for a later superintendent and the various lock keepers on Tattershall (or Low) Lock, the most important on the canal. Being the first up from the River Witham it was the place where weights were gauged and tolls were charged. In 1819 the lock keeper, John Crow, got into trouble with the company when it was discovered that he was allowing boats into the canal which were too large and could cause damage to the locks. At the hearing it was decided that it was the canal’s latest superintendent, Mr.Frankland, to blame as he was Crow’s superior and was responsible for making checks of this sort. Crow was given a ticking off on the basis that he had been a long and loyal servant – poor Mr. Frankland was sacked. Just 12 months later Crow was up before the company for a second time.This time he was accused of allowing vessels to pass carrying greater tonnage’s than were registered and charged for – the company had been defrauded of over £200. Crow’s loyal service couldn’t save him this time and he was dismissed.
Over 70 people applied for Crow’s job of lock keeper at Tattershall Lock.The lucky applicant was Ben Sharpe from Hull but Mr. Sharpe clearly celebrated his appointment a little too long as he was often noted as being “intoxicated”. On September 20th 1821 he was summoned to Horncastle Magistrates Court to give evidence against a boatman named John Taylor.In court Sharpe was found to be so drunk that he was ordered out of the room – the canal company sacked him. One of the unsuccessful applicants when Sharpe was appointed had been William Flower, he was only too willing to plant himself in the lock keeper’s cottage and he started his employment on October 18th. Flower was a bit of an entrepreneur and didn’t feel he should just limit his income to lock keeping. He bought a horse which he hired out to boatmen but this did not please the company. They required their lock keepers to keep their distance from canal users because over friendliness or binding business agreements could “lead to bad consequences”. He was ordered to get rid of the horse. In 1838, after 17 years of “loyal service”, Flower reckoned it was high time he received a rise in salary! He wrote to the company, sounding very apologetic, mentioning his gratitude for all their help. He explained he now had 9 children (lock keeping obviously didn’t take up all of his time) and he and his wife were finding it increasingly difficult to bring up and educate his offspring on his current wage. Loyalty was clearly the biggest quality that any employee could give – the company gave Mr. Flower a rise of £10 per year (over 16%) and back-dated it by one year. William Flower’s loyalty continued for another 10 years until his death in august 1848. Meanwhile.
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1826 The first steam passenger boats began to run on the canal. They ran from Horncastle to Lincoln and Boston.
1833 The Horncastle Gas Light and Coke Company opened thanks to goods being delivered by boat from distant areas. In fact, during these years of growing success for the waterway, Horncastle itself had become a mini boom-town.
1845 The first railway threat came from the London & York Railway Company who’s planned route needed to cross the canal. “No chance” said the company and they said much the same one year later when a more serious threat came from Great Northern Railway who wanted to build a line from Horncastle to Tattershall. The company realised the railway threat was not going to go away and plans to negotiate with the railway company were put forward. However, this particular railway project did go away and was not built though others were soon to take its place.
1848 The Lincoln & Boston railway (bought out by GNR) opened along the banks of the River Witham Navigation. This actually aided the Horncastle Canal at first because it carried goods to and from Dogdyke station near the canal’s junction with the River Witham.
1853 Despite continued objections from the canal company – and all who sailed on her – Great Northern Railway obtained an Act of Parliament and the construction of a line into Horncastle began. Worse still, it was decided that the canal was not due any compensation.
1854 The man who had worked so hard to successfully keep the railways at bay for nearly a decade – King’s Champion, the Right Honourable and Reverent Sir Henry Dymoke – suddenly resigned from his post as president of the Horncastle Canal after 25 years of service.He announced that he had done this “as he wished to give the proposed railway from Horncastle to Kirkstead all the support in his power”! It has been noted that many of the surnames of those who sponsored the new railways were much the same as the surnames of those who had originally sponsored the canal – though of course these were descendants rather than the same men. Canal books make this point, often with a snub or jibe – insinuating betrayal – but lets face it, our great grannies used carts, our dads used trams, we use buses – is this betrayal??
1855 The railway opened and the canal’s dividends took an instant nose dive. This was aided at the opening of the line by Champion Dymoke who was now chairman of the railway! He made a speech in which he said “it is perfectly absurd and monstrous that they (canal carriers) should be trusting a canal with old tug boats when they could get more expeditious and convenient means of communication”. Most of the carriers agreed with him and off they went! The canal company reduced its tolls while the government forced the railway to increase its tolls to the same level, this kept enough carriers on the waterway to maintain profits for about another decade.
1865 Although the railway hurt the canal a lot, there was still a fair amount of cargo continuing to be carried on the waterway though this was steadily declining each year.
1866 Carriage off the Horncastle Canal came to a complete stop when the River Witham commissioners closed down their navigation for several months while repairs were made to the river. The Horncastle company were furious but there was little they could do. Three years later exactly the same thing happened with both closures causing the Horncastle Canal to suffer substantial losses.
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1870 Despite the canal’s steady decline, the company refused an offer of £4,000 to sell the waterway. Income continued to fall and the company also had its hands full with other problems. One of these was a battle over the use of a wharf which led to lawsuits and court cases. The company won in the end but the damage and expense had cost them dearly.
1873 A dividend of just 1½% was paid to shareholders, it turned out to be the last.
1874 Traffic had declined so badly that it was described as “trifling”. Matters weren’t helped during this year when the company’s late treasurer, Mr. Gilliat, was found to be insolvent.
1875 Indicating the canal’s lack of boats at the northern end in particular, the company sold their dry dock at Horncastle. A swimming pool (which survives today) was built in its place. Selling off unused parts of the canal became necessary to avoid having to make essential repairs on them or to raise money to perform essential repairs on other things.
1876 Coal traffic bound for Horncastle came to a complete end. Surprisingly though – considering the general decline in canal use – a private extension was made at Tumby Basin to serve Swan’s Granaries.The extension became known as Tumby Cut.
1877 The last coal boat to use the northern end of the Horncastle Canal did so on October 11th with 17 tons bound for Kirkby-on-Bain. Some members of the committee were all for winding up the business but a unanimous decision was not made and the canal was kept open. Yet more “essential” repairs were needed and the company received a quote of £3,500 for the work. The committee felt it could be done cheaper than this so they borrowed…. £400! The repairs were started but – not surprisingly – didn’t get very far before the money ran out.
1878 The last recorded cargo from Horncastle basin was 150 quarters of wheat on May 7th, bound for Boston. The last loaded boat into Horncastle basin was recorded just 4 days later – 31 tons of guano (fertiliser/manure). There were however, a number of boats still carrying (coal in particular) nearer the River Witham end of the route though even this was threatened at one point when the River Witham Drainage Commissioners put a Bill together which would have allowed them to lower the level of the River Witham. If this had gone ahead it would have made access to the Horncastle Canal impossible. In the end it did not go ahead though by this time it hardly mattered.
1880 There were virtually no boats whatsoever on the canal though the company continued to hold regular committee meetings! In August they managed – in their busy schedule – to include a report on the only remaining users of the waterway – swans!! Apparently there were 13 old birds (of which 4 had paired since the report of 1879) and there were 8 new cygnets. However, old rivalries die hard and the committee were forced to report that some swans were venturing onto the River Witham Navigation and Sleaford Navigation. Unfortunately they did not mention whether the swans flew there or used the locks.
Not surprisingly, it was during this year that once again it was proposed that the company might just think about winding itself up – though it sounds like they’d been winding themselves up for quite some time!!
1884 In November, the last annual general meeting was held but sadly there is no report on the progress of the swans.
1889 On September 23rd the company’s solicitor wrote to the Board of Trade informing them that the canal was now “a defunct undertaking”. From this time on the waterway was left to its own devices. This was not the complete end to commercial traffic however.On the lower reaches of the canal, up to Coningsby, cargoes were still brought up from the River Witham for many years to come.
1910 The last commercial traffic to use the canal was recorded some 21 years after the official closing. These were coal boats delivering to Coningsby. Since then no boats have used the Horncastle Canal.
1996 Horncastle’s warehouses have virtually all disappeared and the 2 basins have been converted into drainage channels and a car park. The railway’s passenger service ended on September 13th 1954 and the last goods train ran on April 1st 1971. The railway line has now gone but the canal survives, albeit predominantly (and fittingly) used only by swans!
It was said some years ago that the Horncastle Canal could easily be fully restored for pleasure craft if only the spirit were willing. Rest assured – the spirit is willing a plans are being put together to restore the route.
1998 I visited Horncastle this year and found that the area around the north basin has now been redeveloped. The channel of the canal has been made to look ornamental and a walkway and footbridge has been added.
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The Tattershall Canal left the River Witham at Tattershall Ferry – about ¾ of a mile north of Tattershall Bridge which now carries the A153. The Horncastle Canal company bought the Tattershall Canal when they began to construct their own line, this causes a little confusion in some books over whether the Horncastle Canal ever used the Tattershall line. I cannot clarify this one way or the other but I do know that most of the line survives today, over 200 years after being built. However the entrance to the canal from the Witham has not survived.It has been completely wiped out by a grassy flood embankment, people travelling along the River Witham will struggle to spot the former junction. The only lock on the Tattershall Canal was about 300 yards east of the Witham. A 1971 reference book said its site could still be found though later books say it has been filled in. The 1971 reference book also said the line of the canal could be seen though it was completely dry throughout. However, more recent books report that it is in water and kept as an irrigation reservoir for neighbouring fields. It is easy to view the Tattershall Canal, a lane leads west off the A153 about ½ way between Tattershall Bridge and Tattershall village. This lane ends at a car park beside a picnic bar. The old canal is just a few yards to the north west.
In Tattershall the line crosses under the A153 a little way south of the road junction with the minor road which heads north west to the B1192.On the east side of the A153 the old canal joins the Old River Bain (Horncastle Canal). A footpath leads south from the above mentioned road junction to the canal/river junction.
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The Horncastle Canal could just as easily be called the Bain Navigation as it follows and/or uses the river for most of its route. The area around the confluence of the Old River Bain and the River Witham at Dogdyke is very pretty. There is a mill, marina and pub, it is a quiet spot today but was once a busy canal/rail interchange.
In Tattershall village the Keep of the medieval Tattershall Castle stands on the west side of the canal. The A153 crosses the canal, separating Tattershall (west side) from Coningsby (east side). A towpath runs south (on the east bank) to the old Tattershall Canal junction. To the east of Coningsby is a famous RAF base from where historic planes fly on summer weekends. The village has a church tower containing a rare one-handed clock face.
From Coningsby the Horncastle Canal heads north with the A153 over to the east. There is a towpath from the A153 road bridge to just below Coningsby Lock (a walk of about 1200 yards).
I have no specific details of the route to the north of Coningsby Lock though it runs north easterly just west of the A153. There is a lock (Tumby) on this stretch though it appears to have no public access.There is a footpath running to the canal off the A153 about 1½ miles south of Haltham. This path crosses Fulsby Lock and then continues west to the parallel minor road. A similar path leaves the A153 about ¾ of a mile south of Haltham. This path crosses Haltham Beck and then crosses the canal at Kirkby on Bain. At least one of the roads in Kirkby runs to the side of the canal. At this point the waterway is heading north west having turned sharply left at its confluence with Haltham Beck. Kirkby Lock, mill and staunch are in the village with a towpath on the east bank. The canal curves back round to the north as it leaves the village.
The minor road heading west from the A153 at Haltham crosses the waterway.Haltham Lock is a short walk north. The towpath ends at the next bridge north with access back to the A153. The canal and Old River Bain parted company at Haltham Lock but they are reunited just above Roughton Lock (no apparent access) a little further north. In Dalderby a path leaves the A153 and heads south west to Dalderby Lock. River and canal part for the last time here and it was at this point that the route terminated for a number years until the company raised more cash.
The next lock north is Martin Lock, from here to the end of the route the canal can be followed via the neighbouring Viking Way Walk on the west side. This is the former bed of the railway which caused the canal’s demise. Canal lovers can proudly smirk as they ponder over which route has survived best!
From Lodge Hill Lock the canal can be walked along either bank. In fact, a circular walk to Horncastle and back could easily be planned. Lodge Hill Lock is situated on the minor road which runs from the A153 to the B1191 at Thornton.
On the southern outskirts of Horncastle the canal passes up through Horncastle Lock and is then crossed by a footbridge. Just past here the route splits into two at the confluence of the Old River Bain and the River Waring. There have been many floods caused by this confluence over the centuries. This continues to the present day with houses suffering from flood damage in the mid 1990’s.
River Waring (South Basin) Section
To the right, a canalised section of the River Waring heads east and enters the centre of Horncastle. A footpath runs along the southern bank as the canal passes Horncastle swimming pool, standing on the site of the canal company’s dry dock. Near the pool is a relatively new weir and a little further east, past the pool, is a staunch (sluice) which was used to control water levels in the canal. Beyond the staunch is South Ings Drain which was constructed to replace a rather convoluted stretch of the Old River Bain. The canal crosses this drain and then the new Jubilee Way bypass crosses the canal. A little further east Wharf Road comes alongside the waterway on the north side. The site of Horncastle south basin is on Wharf Road. The inclusion of Jubilee Way appears to have blocked a continuous walk along this stretch.Walkers may have to leave the canal and cross the new road to reach Wharf Road.
North Basin Section
Back at the junction of the River Waring the main line of the canal continues north under Jubilee Way (the new A158). However, there is no riverside path to the north basin so it is necessary to “navigate” through the streets. From the River Waring junction take a footpath on the west bank which heads north west onto the B1191. Heading north east into Horncastle this road crosses Jubilee Way into West Street. It then Becomes Bridge Street which, naturally, leads to a bridge! However, there is no access to the canal here. Bridge Street runs to the centre of town from where St. Lawrence Street can be found. This leads to Watermill Road where Horncastle north basin was situated. There is no longer a wharf – just a car park. In Ray Quinlan’s “Canal Walks: North” the author lists dozens of businesses which once stood around the basin. These included a water mill, two windmills, malt kilns, a tannery, a currier’s workshop, a boot and shoe factory, a saddler, a basket maker, a coal merchant, a cutler, a gas fitter, an ironmonger, a steel merchant, a chandler, a nail maker, a blacksmith, a coach builder, a pipe maker, a glover, a plumber and a beer house – a busy place indeed – probably the “real” centre of old Horncastle in its heyday. However, Quinlan reports that the busiest “business” of them all was probably the wharf side brothel, run by a Mr. Daft!
Addendum: The area around the north basin has now been redeveloped. The channel of the canal has been made to look ornamental and a walkway and footbridge has been added. The whole area looks attractive and is worth a visit if you are in the area.