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Milestones of the Thames & Severn Canal

A feature of the Thames & Severn Canal that does not appear on the Stroudwater Navigation is the milestone.

It is believed that 52 milestones were originally positioned at half-mile intervals along the canal. However, the first one appears to have been at Bowbridge which is in fact one mile from the start of the Thames & Severn at Wallbridge in Stroud. (See photo 1)

Thames & Severn milestones are made of stone and come in two distinct styles: 'square top' and 'round top' as illustrated in photos 2 & 3.

This article focuses mainly on milestones on sections of the canal towpath between Wallbridge in Stroud and Eisey near Cricklade where a public right of way exists.

Where have the Plates gone?

Originally, each milestone would have had a cast iron plate attached stating the distance from 'Walbridge' and 'Inglesham' in miles. The total distance should add up to 28¾ miles, the length of the canal. (Note the use of a single 'L' on all plates in the spelling of Wallbridge.)

Unfortunately, none of the milestones that can be seen today have their original plates in situ, and so far only one has a replica plate. (Photo 3)

A number of original and replica plates are in museum collections including the Museum in the Park (Stroud), Corinium Museum (Cirencester) and Gloucester Waterways Museum. However, only some of these are on display. The Cotswold Canals Trust are also custodians of several plates.

Milestone Plate

Original Daneway Milestone Plate
(Courtesy Cotswold Canals Trust)

Surviving Milestones

Locating surviving milestones can make for an interesting aside whilst walking the canal towpath.

Wallbridge to Sapperton Tunnel (Daneway)

Between Wallbridge and Sapperton Tunnel at Daneway there are 11 surviving milestones, with the first being just east of Bowbridge Lock (Walbridge 1 Inglesham 27¾).

There are several missing stones in this section:

The last milestone on this section is right up against the Daneway Portal of Sapperton Tunnel (Walbridge 7½ Inglesham 21¼). The plate from this stone is in the care of the Cotswold Canals Trust - see main picture above.

There were no milestones either inside or on the route over Sapperton Tunnel. This accounts for Walbridge 8, 8½, 9 & 9½ in the numbering sequence.

Coates

At Coates there are 2 milestones between Sapperton Tunnel and Trewsbury Bridge. These would have been the Walbridge 10 and Walbridge 10½ stones. 

The canal between Trewsbury Bridge and Siddington Bridge is private, except for a 300m infilled section approaching Blue House Bridge, near Ewen.

Siddington to Eisey (near Cricklade)

Between Siddington and Eisey there are a further 8 milestones. Here again a number of these are missing:

The last milestone on this section is between the A419 and Ampney Brook Aqueduct, which is the furthest point east that the public has a right of access over the canal route (Walbridge 21½ Inglesham 7¼).

The Final Milestone

Fortunately, the last milestone in the sequence between Walbridge and Inglesham (Walbridge 28½ Inglesham ¼) has been preserved with its original plate intact. This is now in private ownership, although no longer in its original location. (Photo 7)

The Future

It is hoped that other replica plates, similar to the one near Valley Lock, can be manufactured and fitted at other locations in due course. If anyone would like to sponsor a plate, Jon Pontefract from the Cotswold Canals Trust would very much like to hear from you.

If anyone knows what happened to any of the other missing milestones or plates, whether bulldozed into the canal during infilling or now privately owned, Jon would also like to hear from you. This all helps to build the historical record.

Jon Pontefract can be contacted by email at jonpontefract@gmail.com.

The Milestone Society

For those with a wider interest in milestones, The Milestone Society website is well worth a visit. (www.milestonesociety.co.uk)

 


Acknowledgements:
Jon Pontefract, Cotswold Canals Trust Milestone Specialist.
David J. Viner, Local historian and author of a number of books on the Thames & Severn Canal and founder chairman of the Milestone Society.
Corinium Museum, Cirencester (Walbridge 16 Inglesham 12¾ photo: 1971-33.jpg).

References:
The Thames & Severn Canal History & Guide by David Viner, Tempus Publishing 2002, pp.68-69