1893 Towpath repair & maintenance

From the Swindon Evening Advertiser 7th April 1893.
A letter to the Swindon Board from the Canal Office.

The Secretary of the Canal Company sends us for publication the following copy of his letter read at the last meeting of the New Swindon Local Board, with reference to the towing paths:


Without prejudice.

Dear Sir.

The suggestions made at the last meeting of the two Committees were yesterday again considered by the Directors of the Canal Company.

My letter on the subject of the 10th, seems from the tenor of your reply, to have been taken by your Board to indicate a policy of postponement on the part of the Canal Company.

Such an impression was entirely erroneous, and was not justified by the terms of my letter, which merely suggested a method of dealing with the matter simpler, in the opinion of my directors, than the method previously proposed.

They were therefore, disappointed that the Local Board should adopt a resolution, the tone of which seems discordant with the friendly exchange of views proceeding between the two committees.

Continuing the discussion of the subject in the same spirit of compromise in which the Canal Company has hitherto approached it, I am instructed to submit the following facts and proposals for the consideration of your Board.

The tow-paths in question were made some 80 years ago, and have since been maintained exclusively by the Canal Company, who have thus provided a convenient footway for many years entirely free of cost to the ratepayers, to whose continual use far more than to the canal traffic, the present condition of the Swindon towpaths is, in the opinion of the directors, due.

Although from this long use a public right of way has been claimed and admitted over certain parts of the Swindon tow-paths, the Canal Company does not admit that the fact gives your Board any locus standi whatever with reference to the repair of these paths, and in that position they are sustained by their council.

Notwithstanding these facts the Canal directors will be willing to repair the banks of the towpaths in accordance with your Surveyor's letter of the 17th February, and to undertake to pay the Local Board the sum of £60 on the 29th September 1894.

The repairs are to be done as follows.

New camp shedding, 1 mile and 13 yards; old ditto repaired, 21 yards; banking up 640 yards, masonry raised one foot, 32 yards. The Local Board thereupon to metal the towpaths through their district, and to keep them metalled at their sole expense. This proposal varies the original one to the extent of £40 being about the extra cost involved in making up the 648 yards of banks and 32 yards of walling, which was not taken into consideration when the committee last met.

The arrangement would necessarily be subject to the following provisions to protect the present rights of the canal company, viz, it must not prejudice the Canal Company's rights to quit rents now payable; the Local Board must not erect any bridge or other structure or towpath, or occupy any part of it in any way, except for the purpose of this agreement, without the Company's consent; the right of the Company to any land now abutting on the towpath or to any which may be created by the narrowing of the canal must not be prejudiced; the Local Board must repair, erect, and maintain such fences as they deem necessary for the protection of the paths; there are many cases in which for the purpose of the canal company no fence is required, and where the contrary is the case, the fences usually erected by the canal company in compliance with their Acts would be of a different character from those needed for the protection of the towpaths; the rights and obligations of the Canal Company under their Acts of Parliament shall not be affected in any way, except so far as they are specifically varied by this agreement.

In making the above proposal the directors of the Canal Company are undertaking an expenditure far beyond any to which they are liable under their Acts of Parliament, but they do so in order that the friendly relations established between the Canal management and the local authorities may not be impaired, and in order to facilitate an arrangement which, if carried out, will effect a vast improvement in the appearance of the town and the convenience of the inhabitants.

I am dear sir,

Yours faithfully,

Secretary and Manager.