An investigation of the changing nature of the western end of the Kennet and Avon canal since the early 19th century, and an evaluation of the evidence at the site and in other sources. 1790 Prospectus: The 1790 prospectus was created to show the importance of the canal and it’s mandatory construction. The prospectus basically said that the journey from Bristol to London was slow and tedious and often required the same amount of time as a trip to the West Indies.
There were also problems with the new French leader; Napoleon, who was using privateers in the channel to make sure that his continental system deprived Britain of trade and resources, by intercepting the British ships in hope of republicanism spreading to this part of Europe. The canal would therefore solve the problem of the long and dangerous journey. The authors of the prospectus produced it to show the importance of the canal and all of the problems that it would solve (i. e. advertising the canal). It was, maybe a chance to exaggerate the benefits of the canal and get different groups of people on their side.
There were a few major groups that the prospectus was aimed at to convince and persuade them and was the main reason that the prospectus was drawn up. They said that it would speed up trade and make it quicker and cheaper to transport goods such as coal from the Somerset Coalfields, slate, corn and American goods e. g. tobacco, rum and cotton. These attractions would bring in traders and thus more trade for the canal and more money from toll payments for cargo. They used the prospectus to persuade shareholders to invest in it and use it as a business.
Shareholders were enticed by the prospect of a revolutionary new idea that could give them a large dividend. This invested money would make sure that there was enough capital to build the canal and aid with other financial expenses such as labour (wages). This money would also ensure that parliament gave permission for the construction of the canal and this was important because many MPs were rich land owners at that time and the canal planners needed their permission so that the canal was able to pass through their land. Widcombe Flight:
There is not a lot of evidence to support the justification for the canal as put forward in the prospectus at Wicombe Flight. In general there is more evidence to suggest trade within Britain being a major reason for the canal’s construction i. e. Bristol to London (Tilbury) rather than trade from America to London via Bristol e. g. barley from Bradford-on-Avon, used in the malt house on the side of the canal. The only evidence that suggests this American trade link is the Sydney Wharf warehouses which may have been used to store some American goods e. g. sugar cane and cotton, in transit to London.
It’s difficult to find any more good evidence because warehouses have been converted and used for different purposes such as residential homes. The atmosphere has also changed with much less trade going on and more tourists on a quiet holiday, making it harder to imagine the trade that went on in the 19th century. The canal’s uses have changed dramatically since the early 1800’s mainly due to the introduction of new types of transport such as rail.
Narrow boats are being used now for holidays and people are walking dogs along the tow-path suggesting that the canal is used less for trade and more for tourism. I saw evidence of horses being used to pull boats in the 1800’s such as the tow-path, change line bridges and stables. These stables are now an architects house and show how horses are no longer Guillaume Wright 10C2 GCSE ‘History Around Us’ Coursework C/W 12/5/01 used to pull boats and how businesses have profited from the spare, cheap land on the bank of the canal.
The other architects house above Top lock had a large chimney and suggested that it used to be a maltsters and shows that agricultural (barley) and industrial (malt – breweries) uses have declined. Warehouses have been converted into restaurants and houses showing the change from trade to leisure and residential uses. There were people fishing on the banks which suggested the canal is also directly involved with leisure and is used for tourism.
This site was useful to a certain extent in understanding the 19th century canal uses because it gives evidence of old-fashioned trade and ways e. g. barley and the use of horses. It also has limitations as to it’s usefulness because the area gas changed so much. The whole atmosphere has changed and buildings have altered their uses. Thimble Mill is now a restaurant and wine bar and the Hilton Hotel used to be a pump house powered by steam, used to pump the 100,000 gallons of lost water flowing downhill at the locks.
It’s very hard to imagine all of this happening now. Sydney Gardens Print The Sydney Gardens print was made in 1812, only two years after the canal was built, and depicts a beautiful sunny day at the section of the canal that passes through Sydney Gardens in Bath. In the print, Cleveland House is not shown either because the owners of Sydney Gardens thought it degenerated the area’s appeal, or because it was not relevant to the canal at the time, as it did not become the canal’s headquarters until 1825.
There is an attractive oriental summer house included in this version, that is not there any more, so the area could gain credibility and attract the wealthier people to somewhere where they could sit in the shade so as to keep their skin white (the fashion and a necessity for people in a high-class society). A small decorative pleasure boat which would have been very rare in those days, is travelling along the canal whereas you were more likely to see coal-barges and narrow boats due to the trade industry’s heavy use of the canal.
There are also other small differences like the tow-path that ends at the bridge and wealthy stylish people walking along the tow-path instead of horses (to tow the boats) so as to attract people to Sydney Gardens and use the canal leisure activities. Other changes include subtle alterations in the decoration of the bridge, less foliage around the canal to give a more open atmosphere and the fact that it’s a sunny day to give the overall effect of a perfect venue for a visit or day-out.
The print is probably bot very accurate as it changes and alters some of the main features and distorts reality for the Sydney Gardens owner’s profit and gain. This is and artistic impression of the area and so is only the artists portrayal of it so details may have been altered, maybe so that the artist could impress the Sydney Garden’s owners and earn more money and respect. Overall, you cannot trust rely on a picture that has been changed so much and had a motive to be changed.
This interpretation was probably produced because it was specially commissioned by the owners of Sydney Gardens to increase profit from tourism because Sydney Gardens was privately run and needed to make a healthy profit to keep people such as the shareholders contented. Because of this and as they didn’t want the canal to be seen as an eyesore they applied conditions for the canal builders such as four ornamental bridge (costing 2,200 pounds) and the canal to be sunken down into a ditch and these features are predominant in the print so as to advertise the best parts of the canal.
It was produced to show a picturesque scene, set on a calm, sunny day with a beautiful canal which was a comparison to other fashionable cities such as Venice, which improved the area’s credibility, especially for the more wealthy as these would bring more money to the area. In the 1700’s Bath had built up a reputation of a beautiful Georgian town for the wealthy and offered luxurious attractions such as the