Above the modern footbridge on the right bank largely hidden by trees is first the mouth of the River Coln.
This river sometimes produces as much water as the Thames coming from Cricklade.
And then 20 yards above it is the entrance to the Thames and Severn Canal:
The Roundhouse and, under the bridge, the first lock on the Thames and Severn Canal, full of scaffolding, 2018
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
The Thames and Severn Canal
was commenced in 1782, and opened
in 1789; but, so far back as the time
of Charles II., the scheme of thus
uniting the two great rivers of England had been entertained; and Pope
mentions that to effect this object
was a cherished thought of Lord
Bathurst, "when he had finer dreams
than ordinary." In 1782 Mr. Robert
Whitworth, an eminent engineer,
"formed plans and estimates", and,
in the following year, an act was
passed for carrying them into operation; it was completed within seven
years, the first boat passing through on the 19th of November, 1789.
"This navigable canal (we quote from Boydell) begins at Wallbridge, where the Stroud navigation ends, and proceeds to the immediate vicinity of Lechlade, where it joins the Thames, taking a course of thirty miles seven chains and a half. From Stroud to Sapperton comprehends a length of seven miles and three furlongs, with a rise of two hundred and forty-one feet three inches; from Sapperton to Upper Siddington, including the branch to Cirencester, nine miles eight chains and a half, and is perfectly level; and from Upper Siddington to the Thames near Lechlade. it continues a course of thirteen miles four furlongs and nine chains, with a fall of one hundred and thirty feet six inches; the general breadth of the canal is forty two feet at the top, and thirty feet at the bottom."
Map of Round House Lock, junction of Thames, Thames & Severn Canal and River Coln:
The River Thames is the right hand channel; the River Coln joins from the west (left) downstream of the canal junction (above in the map); the Thames and Severn Canal is quite broad (left, bottom) and then narrows into the lock; the canal towpath continues past the lock, over the bridge and then to the right of the the Thames.
Map of Round House Lock, junction of Thames, Thames & Severn Canal and River Coln, 1876
The old footbridge in the map above was from the left of the modern bridge, over to the downstream side of the Round House.
There was also a bridge over the canal at the tail of the lock
Lechlade Footbridge, Most boats should turn before the bridge
The modern wooden footbridge marks the
limit of navigation for most powered craft.
Most powered boats should turn below the footbridge.
Above here the river slowly becomes its natural self without the benefit of weirs and locks. It becomes shallower, less well maintained, weedy and swifter. In a powered boat above here you are much more at risk of grounding, and tangling in branches and thorn bushes and finding swift currents than you are below here. Even in an unpowered boat you may have problems.
1690: Baskervile - Coln Flu [Flu = Flumen = River] -
Here conjunctions, famous prove,
On the score of united love,
Ffor here about Cown River wends,
Its waters into little Temes,
And so these pleasing bankes they wash,
And help the boats, down with a flash.
1789: November 14th, the Thames and Severn Canal was opened. The Gentleman's Magazine -
A boat, with the union flag at her masthead, passed laden for the first time to St John's Bridge, below Lechlade, in the presence of great numbers of people, who answered a salute of twelve pieces of cannon from Buscot Park by loud huzzas. A dinner was given at five of the principal inns at Lechlade, and the day ended with ringing of bells, a bonfire, and a ball.
1793: Thames & Severn Canal, Lechlade Lock -
Junction of the Thames and Canal near Lechlade. June 1, 1793. J. Farington R.A. delt. J.C. Stadler sculpt.
(Published) by J. & J.Boydell, Shakespeare Gally. Pall Mall & (No. 90) Cheapside (London)
The 1793 print of the canal first lock shows no trees around here. The spire of St John's Church Lechlade is visible in the distance.
1811: The Thames, or Graphic Illustrations of seat, villas, public buildings ...
The Round House, 1811
1821: William Cobbett, Rural Rides
The land here and all around Cricklade is very fine.
Here are some of the finest pastures in England, and some of the finest dairies of cows ...
I saw in one single farmyard here more food than enough for four times the inhabitants of the parish; and this yard did not contain a tenth, perhaps, of the produce of the parish; but while the poor creatures that raise the wheat and the barley and cheese and the mutton and the beef are living upon potatoes, an accursed Canal comes kindly through the parish to convey away the wheat and all the good food to the tax-eaters and their attendants in the Wen! [i.e. to London ] Is this an "improvement"? Is a nation richer for the carrying away of the food from those who raise it, and giving it to bayonet men and others, who are assembled in great masses? ... It is eaten, for the main part, by those who do not work.
William Cobbett was a man with an "attitude". Today he would be making much the same point fighting for fair trade with the third world - and hopefully might look a little more kindly on our waterways!
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
1859: The Canal and the Roundhouse. Now there are trees, though not as thickly as today -
Lechlade Roundhouse and Canal, 1859.
Notice in 1859 there was a footbridge over the main river just above the canal entry. The modern footbridge is 50 yards further downstream.
We have now arrived at that point in the Thames where it becomes navigable for boats of burthen; the canal conveys in barges, each from thirty to sixty tons, the produce of the four quarters of the globe into several parts of England; the port of Bristol is thus united with that of London; other canals are combined with this: and so an internal communication was formed, the value of which may be readily estimated before the introduction of steam. But the railways have placed this mode of traffic almost in abeyance, — the canals are comparatively idle, and ere long, perhaps, will be altogether deserted. The passage of a boat through the lock is now an event of rare occurrence: it is seldom opened more than once or twice in a week. Greater speed is obtained by the railway, of course, but the chief impediment arises from the cost incurred in passing through the locks and weirs along the Thames, — strange as it may seem, the expense hence arising to a laden boat of sixty tons burthen, between Teddington, where the locks begin, and Lechlade, where they terminate, is not less than thirty pounds. The natural consequence is, that steam absorbs all the traffic, except to places remote from stations; and then boats are in use only for heavy cargoes, chiefly timber and coal. The barges here used are necessarily long and narrow, — the appended engraving will convey an accurate notion of their form; — they are generally drawn up the river by two horses, and down the river by one, along the "towing-path" — a footpath by the river-side. The towing-paths between Lechlade and Oxford, in consequence of the causes we have observed upon, are so little disturbed as to be scarcely perceptible: they are for the most part so "grass-o'ergrown" as to be distinguished from the meadow only after a careful search. Indeed, all along the Thames bank to Lechlade, and much lower, almost until we approach Oxford, there is everywhere a singular and impressive solitude: of traffic there is little or none; the fields are almost exclusively pasture-land; the villages are usually distant; of gentlemen's seats there are few, and these are generally afar off; the mills are principally situated on "back-water"; and but for the pleasant cottages, nearly all of which are peasant hostelries, which, in their immediate relation to the locks and weirs, necessarily stand on the river-bank, with now and then a ferry-house, the whole of the landscape for nearly forty miles from the river source would seem as completely denuded of population as an African desert. Between Kemble and Lechlade we did not meet two boats of any kind, and only at the lock-houses did we encounter a dozen people — except at the few villages of which we have taken note. This loneliness has its peculiar charm to the wayfarer; — it will be long ere we lose remembrance of the enjoyment we derived from a reflective saunter beside the banks of the grand old river, where solitude invites to thought —
The blackbird's note comes mellower from the dale,
And sweeter from the sky the gladsome lark
Warbles his heaven-tuned song.
1885: Lechlade Roundhouse and Canal. The trees had grown a little more
Inglesham Round House, The Royal River, 1885.
1888: from " The Thames: Oxford to its Source" by Paul Blake -
Less than a mile from Lechlade stands the Round House,
as the lock-house is called which guards the entrance to the Severn and Thames Canal.
The River Colne chooses the same spot to effect a junction with the Thames, so that there are three streams meeting.
The tower-like erection has a novel appearance to strangers, and, backed by tall poplars, has a striking effect.
The river now turns sharply to the left under the towpath bridge, and the navigable part is over, at least as regards barges and large boats. Soon after a turn to the right brings the stream and canal nearly parallel.
1890: most of these trees had gone again; Inglesham Round House, Henry Taunt -
Inglesham Round House, Henry Taunt, 1890
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3770
1906: Henry Wellington Wack, In Thamesland -
The junction of the Thames, Coln, and Canal, is a picturesque spot.
A "Round House" stands in the shade of the slender alders, a sturdy bridge spans the canal, and the
locks and weirs seem stagnant from disuse.
The canal is in fact a thing of the past; the pudgy old barge of burthen is now a hulk
in a shipyard for wrecks, or in the coal service of the lower Thames;
the tow path is narrowed - almost obliterated - by an overgrowth of grass and osier,
gladdened here and there with the peeping violet and daisy.
For forty miles from its source the river's banks are asleep in solitude. Nothing but the hum of insects, the pipe of the moor-hen, or the rippling song of a jetty, enlivens the serenity of the scene.
Now and then a moss-grown mill creaks its rusty wheel in a backwater and, when the wind is right, the distant din of the toiling town may be faintly heard. The quiet evening is sweet with a loveliness that refreshes both the heart and the mind. You love England for her recreative repose.
1909: Fred Thacker in his Stripling Thames wrote -
Half a mile above Lechlade stands the Round House, two hundred and fifty feet above sea level.
This Martello tower-like structure, with its poplar group reminiscent of Iffley, but much more ragged, marks the junction of the Thames, the Thames and Severn Canal, and the Colne.
The Thames comes round from the southwest; and the canal is the midmost of the three, barred by lock gates.
It was opened under very high auspices and with golden hopes in 1799, its bed of thirty miles having taken seven years to excavate.
"The canal cutters," says Mr. Hutton, "must have been quite a colony in Lechlade; the registers for one year shew six deaths and four baptisms" amongst them.
It has always, however, been more or less unsuccessful, usually more.
The Great Western Railway bought it up in 1893 and forthwith closed it.
A trust formed by Act of Parliament then reopened it in 1895, with an annual guarantee of six hundred pounds for thirty years from various county and district councils.
But the constant repairs necessary from its long summit level in porous limestone have proved too expensive for its income, and it is still maintained at a heavy loss.
1911: Inglesham Round House, W Parker -
Inglesham Round House, W Parker, 1911
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230399a
1960: Inglesham Round House, Francis Frith -
1999: Inglesham Roundhouse. The trees are back with a vengeance. All the way down the Thames it seems to me the same story - there are now far more trees than ever there were in the last few centuries. Trees were free fuel for poor cottagers, every one of whom had an axe. Suddenly the world has changed and the trees are back -
Inglesham Roundhouse, 1999.
Inglesham, the Round House, Ashley Bryant
The top of the round house (canal lock house) is just visible in the above
two pictures. It has lost a storey or more.
The junction with the Severn and Thames canal is dry at this point (2003) and little sign of the canal is visible from the river. (It is under the Weeping Willow.)
The canal line is not far from the river all the way to Cricklade. It was said that the intention was to restore this section of the canal by 2008 (funding permitting). Needless to say - funding did not permit - but it might just yet happen
Of which the bards have sung in visionary dreams,
The union of Sabrina's floods with silver Thames.
[ Silver teams? - pity about the rhyme! - or alternatively maybe they were "visionary drams"? ]
Sabrina is supposedly the goddess of the Severn - though one somehow doubts that anyone who lived near the Severn was ever consulted.
One day soon, we hope, there will be a reference here to where to turn for going on up the Canal
We for now however (if our boat is suitable, or on foot) continue on up the river.