The Stratford on Avon Canal from Kings Norton Birmingham to Lapworth (next to the Grand Union Canal) and then on to Stratford on Avon

Researched and written by Jeannette Briggs

Above: An idyllic scene on the Stratford on Avon Canal - photo by Stephen McKay and reproduced by kind permission

This canal begins at Kings Norton, a leafy suburb of Birmingham and ends at the lovely old town of Stratford on Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.  It is almost as though the reason for the canal's existence at all is for leisure and pleasure boating, but - believe it or not ! - there were hard commercial reasons for the building of the canal in the first place. The original plan was for the transportation of coal from the River Severn up to Birmingham, and the canal was built between 1793 and 1803 from the junction with the Worcester and Birmingham at Kings Norton, then right through to Lapworth and Kingswood which are very close to the Grand Union main line.  By 1815 the canal had reached Stratford on Avon, from where it was linked to the River Avon, which was then navigable all the way to the confluence with the River Severn. 

Inevitably, with the advent of competition from the railways, trade declined rapidly, and by 1890 the amount of commodities carried on the canal was less than 25% of that when the canal first opened.  By 1950 the canal section at the Lapworth end had badly silted up, and several of the lock gates were leaking and in dire need of repair. There was a move to close the canal altogether, but these proposals were met with loud protests from canal societies and a campaign was mounted to "save the Stratford Canal".  In 1959 the National Trust were successful in leasing the canal, and restoration then commenced in earnest.  Much for the work was done by prison labourers, and volunteers who belonged to the National Trust and other bodies like the Inland Waterways Association Waterways Recovery Group. The formal re-opening ceremony was in 1964, and the canal and River Avon have proved to be one of the most popular of all the canals among leisure boat owners and users.  A journey along this canal is a delight from start to finish.