The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) History

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Back to 1969


The future of the Basingstoke Canal was an issue again as the New Basingstoke Canal Co Ltd, who had bought the canal in 1949 had difficulties in maintaining the waterway and were looking to close it to navigation. The Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society and IWA were pressing for it to be taken into public ownership.

IWA offered 10,000 and unlimited voluntary labour towards the restoration of the Ashton Canal. Lack of dredging on many canals was a cause of complaint for many IWA members. Many working parties were now in action including one to clear rubbish from Parkhead locks on the Dudley Canal (see photograph). This was also the year that these voluteers became the Waterway Recovery Group (WRG).

Captain Munk resigned as IWA Chairman and was replaced by John A C Humphries.

IWA National Rally was held at Guildford on the River Wey partly to give a boost to the campaign to restore the nearby Basingstoke Canal. 380 boats attended and 50,000 people visited the site prodicing good TV and press coverage.

The official reopening of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal (previously called the Brecon Abergavenny Canal) from Pontypool to Brecon took place on 16 October.


Campaigns and restoration work continued on many waterways and IWA paid the legal costs for setting-up the Yorkshire Derwent Trust with the aim os resoring the River Derwent.

The Upper Avon from Evesham to Bidford was reopened and the IWA gave Robert Aickman, as Chairman of the Upper Avon Navigation Trust, a cheque for 3,500 as a final contribution to the restoration. The new Department for the Environment gave a grant of 25,000 for the restoration. The project manager for the restoration was David Hutchings, whose task it now was to open the river to Stratford.

Not for the first time the issue of pollution of the waterways was raised (see photograph of the River Trent) as well as other long running issues that were always of concern such as commercial carrying, waterside buildings, the environment, etc.

In this IWA Silver Jubilee year membership rose to 7,000 and the National Rally was held at Northampton on the River Nene. As part of the campaign to save the "remainder" waterways rallies were also held at the Tame Valley Canal on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, the Rochdale Canal in Manchester, the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, Caldon Canal, River Ouse (Yorkshire), Erewash Canal, Bidford on the Upper Avon, Bristol Docks and at Sheffield on the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation.


Government proposals to split the management of the waterways (including all British Waterways (BW) navigations) between ten Regional Water Authorities was opposed by IWA. After gathering much support from various bodies and the public IWA responded with the Waterways Junction report arguing their case in detail.

in March John A C Humphries resigned as IWA Chairman to become a Government advisor and Captain Munk returned to his former post until John C Heap took over in October.

Following agreement on funding from the local authorities, IWA, BW and other voluteers were mobilised to take part in the restoration of the Ashton Canal. Working parties started work on the Stroudwater and Thames & Severn canals following the formation of the Stroudwater Canal Society.

Over 500 boats attended IWA National Rally at Lymm on the Bridgewater Canal. Membership rose to over 9,500.


Bedford Corporation gave a grant of 100,000 towards the restoration of the River Great Ouse. IWA and the Grantham Canal Society went from towpath clearing to a campaign for full restoration of the navigaion. The Droitwich Canal Trust was setup with help from Worcester County Council and Droitwich Town Development Committee and in October 500 volunteers took part in a big dig (see Photograph). Support for the Montgomery Canal restoration came from the Prince of Wales Committee.

At Easter on the Dudley Canal 320 boats and nearly 5,000 people gathered to mark the reopening of Dudley Tunnel. On the Erewash Canal the restored Great Northern Basin at Langley Mill was opened in May.

With the Kennet & Avon Canal still not restored after more than 10 years some IWA members were now suggesting that the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Rochdale Canal should be considered next for restoration. Others said that this was too ambitious, an argument history would refute some thirty years later.

The Water Bill was published without any proposal to split up British Waterways - a success for IWA's campaign.

IWA National Rally at Ely on the River Great Ouse was attended by 255 boats and visited by about 30,000 people.


Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal was closed all year due to repairs being carried out on roof lining falls. The Huddersfield Canal Society was formed to promote the restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

The Branch structure of IWA was changed into one of 7 Regions and 18 branches with the idea of growing the number of branches further. IWA Membership reached 12,000.

In May the restored Ashton and Peak Forest canals were reopened as well as further stretches of the Kennet & Avon Canal.

On 1st June the Upper Avon was officially reopened by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In the photograph with her are Robert Aickman, David Hutchings and Crick Grundy.

In September the Caldon Canal restoration was complete and the navigation was declared open.

IWA National Rally held at Nottingham on the River Trent and attracted over 600 boats. Drawing attention to the nearby Grantham Canal restoration was one of its objectives.


Now that British Waterways were making a start to address the maintenance backlog some IWA members expressed concern at the length of some of the stoppages needed for the work. The condition of the towpaths and water shortages were also subjects increasingly coming to everyone's attention. Lack of moorings, hire boats and speeding craft featured in the expanding letters pages of the Bulletin.

The North West Region held the first IWA Regional Rally at which 280 boats attended and there was a large trade fair. The local Council Parks Department provided an appropriate floral display outside Middlewich Civic Hall (see photograph).

On the Kennet & Avon Canal traffic lights were installed in Reading at each end of the narrow and fast running brewery cutting. A substancial portion of the cost came from Captain Munk's testimonial collection, which he gave as a memorial to his late wife Marion.

The BACAT (Barge Aboard Catamaran) sevice came to an end due to the unofficial blacking of the service by Hull dockers.

IWA National Festival at York on the River Ouse was sponsored by Shell. The first year since 1964 that the event was called a Festival rather than a Rally.


The members magazine was changed from Bulletin to IWA Waterways and produced in A4 format. This was also the year of the big drought (see photograph of the Aylesbury Arm) made worse on the canals by the maintenance backlog.

IWA objected to the draft of the Anglian Water Authority Bill which would make it possible to extinguish navigation rights on the authority of the Secretary of State. A Select Committee of the House of Lords heard the objection and decided in favour of the IWA.

A downturn in the economy meant IWA National Rally at Peterborough on the River Nene did not have a sponsor and the drought caused an entry of 382 boats to translate to just 142 arrivals. Despite this 33,000 people attended the Rally.


The British Waterways maintenance backlog was made worse by several major structural failures including closure of Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line, which was opened again later in the year.

In the autumn a report by Peter Fraenkel and Partners dealing with The Costs of Operating and Maintaining the Waterways of the British Waterways Board was published. It was a detailed survey of all the waterways and identified that at least 60 million needed to be spent to bring BW navigations up to standard.

The East Midlands Region organised an IWE Waterways week culminating in CC77 a rally marking 200 years of the Chesterfield Canal. Some 4,000 people attended the Huddersfield Canal Featival on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. IWA National Festival at Reading on the River Thames had over 370 boat entries.


An Association sponsored walk (IWALK) was held all over the country and raised around 33,000 for IWA funds. Sir Geoffrey de Freitas became the second IWA President, a post left vacant since the death of Sir Alan P Herbert in 1971. IWA membership topped 15,000.

IWA National Rally was intended to be held at Windmill End on the Dudley Canal but at short notice was switched to Titford Pools (see photograph) on another part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations because of the Netherton Tunnel needed urgent repair works. Braunston Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line suffered similar problems, just two more indications that the maintenance backlog was having a major effect on the system.

Restoration of the Kennet & Avon Canal continues to progress with the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust claiming it was possible that it could be open by 1981 or 1982. On the River Great Ouse the Restoration Society reported the completion of Castle Mills lock on 28th April, thus fully restoring navigation to the river. After years of fighting the improvement scheme for the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation was finally approved. The much delayed restoration of the Montgomery Canal also started.


Stoppages of several months during occurred during the year including Foulridge Tunnel on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Tyrley Cutting on the Shropshire Union Canal, Retford Aqueduct on the Chesterfield Canal, Tardebigge and Kings Norton tunnels on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Braunston Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line, Crick Tunnel on the Grand Union - Leicester Section, the section from Hawkesbury to Coventry on the Coventry Canal and Netherton Tunnel on the Birmingham Canal Navigations which was still closed from the previous year.

Restoration work continued on numerous waterways including the Wiltshire & Berkshire Canal, the Wey & Arun Canal (see photograph of Pallingham Bridge), Cotswold Canals, Neath and Tennant Canals and the Montgomery Canal.

IWA National Rally was held on the River Weaver at Northwich attracting a record 622 boats and over 30,000 visitors. IWA membership at the end of the year was 17,728.

Forward to 1980

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