Dunnington Aqueduct, 1995 and onwards
Hidden away on private land, Dunnington Aqueduct is the largest single structure on our canal system now that the tunnels in Chippenham and Cricklade are filled in. It is approached from both east and west by embankments which are visible from the Lyneham Road and from the railway because over the years, trees have been removed from the Aqueduct and its approaches.
In 1995 there was a Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) Canal Camp from 23rd to 30th July; the task was to repair the inside, that is, the river culvert and to take down and re-build about a third of the southwest portal. It involved building a dam at each end of the culvert and putting a pipe through to carry the water, so that the volunteers could then pump out the culvert to do repairs below the water line. Finding a pipe was a problem – not many people have 40 metres of 18” pipe spare – but in the end Thames Water found some in one of their yards, and very kindly paid for the transport to the site. It was drawn steel pipe, heavy but just about manageable with the number of bodies available. It was dragged down to the aqueduct with a dumper and man-handled into the culvert. Dams were built with sandbags which the local team had spent several previous weekends filling, and using the group’s Honda pump and a Johnson mud pump on loan from WRG, the site was drained and repaired the bottom of the tunnel walls.
A large section of the wall was demolished and a large quantity of the bricks were salvaged, cleaned and re-laid. It was expected that the project would not be completed within a week, but the local work-party led by Ron Robertson continued the work as planned. The portal wall was rebuilt to full height and was back-filled with concrete.
Ron took some photos of the work carried out, as seen here.
There was another WRG work-camp over the 1997 May Day weekend. Members of North West WRG and Essex WRG completed clearance and removal of unsound brickwork from the south portal. Vic Miller took a photo.
Permission was given in 1997 to start work on the two Dunnington locks. With the help of a small visiting party from Avon & Wilts Branch of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), the head of the lower lock has been partially cleared.
The aqueduct doesn’t seem to have foundations and the land does move slightly, so when the weekly work parties perform their winter maintenance work, the structure is monitored; the most recent check took place in March 2020 by John Bower.
If you would like to see the Aqueduct, the best way to do so is to join the work parties that are granted a licence to be on-site during the winter months.