- Hits: 745
The Chichester Canal runs 6km from the sea at Birdham Chichester Harbour to Chichester through two locks.
The canal (originally part of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal) was opened in 1822 having taken three years to build.
When completed the canal could take ships of up to 100 tons. Dimensions were limited to 85 feet long 18 feet wide and a draft of up to 7 feet.
Proposals for a canal linking Chichester directly to the sea got back as least as far as 1585 when an act of parliament was passed allowing a cut linking Chichester with the sea.
Further proposals were made in the early 19th century with schemes being proposed in 1801, 1802, 1803 and 1811 but none of these came to pass and as a result the first link to the sea was via the branch of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal opened in 1822.
In 1817 it had been decided that unlike the rest of the canal the section between Chichester and Chichester Harbour would be built large enough to carry boats of 100 tons.
The Portsmouth and Arundel Canal was not a success with the canal other than the Chichester section, falling into disuse by 1847.
The canal was transferred to the Corporation of Chichester in 1892. In November of that year the City Surveyor gave a figure of £1000 to put the canal back into full working order. Work required included the repair of locks bridges and the removal of weeds and mud from the channel.
By 1898 only 704 tons of goods were carried and tolls for the year stood at £18.
The last recorded commercial traffic was in 1906 when a load of shingle was carried from Chichester Harbour to the basin at Southgate.
In the same year it was found that the swing bridges at Donnington and Birdham needed to be repaired or replaced.
Westhampnett Rural District Council wanted to replace them with fixed bridges (which would have blocked the canal) but the Corporation of Chichester wanted to keep the canal open to traffic.
By 1923 the Corporation appears to have accepted that there would be no further traffic and allowed the swing bridges to be replaced by fixed bridges.
The canal survived until June 1928 before being formally abandoned.
In 1932 the section of the canal between Cutfield Bridge and Salterns lock was reopened to allow yachts to be berthed there.
During WW2 the canal was converted into an anti tank obstacle by the 4th infantry division as part of the preparations against a German invasion. These conversions included dismantling 4 swing bridges and building a dam above Cutfield bridge to raise the water level by 3 feet.
In 1953 the canal and surrounding lands were sold to west Sussex County Council who later leased it to the Chichester Canal Angling Association.
The canal is now undergoing restoration. As of 2007 the sea lock is in working order however the other lock is not. The canal is in water along its entire length. The canal trust hopes to make the two lowered bridges passable by 2010.
In 2009 the restoration was halted due to the presence of water voles.