Thames and Medway Canal

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The Thames and Medway Canal is a disused canal in Kent, south east England, also known as the Gravesend and Rochester Canal. It was originally some 11 km (7 miles) long and cut across the neck of the Hoo peninsula, linking the River Thames at Gravesend with the River Medway at Strood. The canal was first mooted in 1778 as a shortcut for military craft from Deptford and Woolwich Dockyards on the Thames to Chatham Dockyard on the Medway, avoiding the 74-km (47-mile) journey round the peninsula and through the Thames estuary.[citation needed] The canal was also intended to take commercial traffic between the two rivers.



The first practical attempt to build the canal began in 1799, when an engineer named Ralph Dodd published a pamphlet and began to solicit investment for the scheme.[1] Dodd's plan was for a six-mile canal with locks and basins, taking two years to build and costing £24,576, part of the cost to be defrayed by selling the excavated chalk as agricultural lime. Dodd was confident that the canal would be useful to the government but would also attract commercial vessels.[2]

In 1800 the canal company received the necessary Act of Parliament and work began at the Gravesend end. The estimated cost had now risen to £57,433.

From the Gravesend basin, the canal began with a straight section aligned with New Tavern Fort, Gravesend. By 1801 it ran six and a half kilometres (four miles) to Higham. A new engineer, Ralph Walker, arrived and announced that the whole canal would cost significantly more than the revised estimate. Work halted, and by 1804 Dodd had probably left the project. Over the next few years, Walker suggested two new routes for the Higham to Strood stretch, for which Acts of Parliament were obtained and money raised. His second route was decided on but required a tunnel through the chalk hills; work on this did not start until 1819. The canal finally opened on 14 October 1824, by which time the Napoleonic wars were long over and the military need had greatly diminished. The canal had taken five Acts of Parliament and cost some £260,000.[3]

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