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London & Cambridge Junction Canal

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A while ago now I had cause to look up the River Cam on Wikipedia. On that page there's a map of the river in the style of a London Underground map showing all the branches and things that cross it.

Section of Wikipedia map of the Cam And what caught my eye was this: between Baits Bite lock at Milton and Bottisham Lock at Waterbeach a branch is show for the "London & Cambridge Junction Canal (never built)".

Unsurprisingly I was intrigued but the text on Wikipedia wasn't a link so it was off onto the Web to do a bit of Googling about.

Jim Shead's web site has a page on the canal. He says that was proposed as a means of linking the River Stort (which is ultimately a tributary of the Thames via the River Lea) to the Cam and hence provide a navigation from London to King's Lynn. I suppose at the time there would have been a lot of sense in that as it would have avoided boats having to negotiate the East Anglian coast.

He goes into more detail quoting from Priestley's Navigable Rivers and Canals by Joseph Priestley which was published in April 1831. Priestly says that the original proposal came in 1778 and routes were investigated in 1779 and 1780 before authorising acts of Parliament were applied for in 1812 and 1814.

As to the proposed route the Wikipedia page has the canal heading east out of the Cam which implies it would pass to the east of Cambridge. This ties up with Priestley where he talks about it passing through places like Saffron Waldon, Sawston and Shelford.

But then a gold mine, on the web site of the history of the Lee and Stort Navigation there is a page on the London & Cambridge Junction Canal and in part 3 it's got maps (although they're hard to read) and, more usefully, the text of a document from the Herts Record Office of the "Estimate of the probable Expence of the proposed London and Cambridge Junction Canal". Through the costs on page seven you can deduce a lot about its course. It clearly is following the Granta at Pampisford and from there the items listed are:

Cutting to the River at Pampisford Mill
Banks and Aqueducts below the Mill
Cutting to Sawston Brook with Bank and Culvert
Do to the vale of the Linton Stream
Banks and Aqueduct at Do
Cutting and Banking to the Road from Cambridge to Cherryhinton with a Culvert
Cutting and Banking from Do to the Road from Cambridge to Newmarket including culverts
Cutting and Banking to the road north of Ditton
Do to the Cam below Clayhithe including Culverts

All of which clearly outline a route east of Cambridge via Cherry Hinton, under Newmarket Road, and then on to meet up with the Cam "below Clayhithe".

If I'm in the mood then at some point I shall have to try tracing this on a map as I have access to exact height profiles for the whole of the UK tucked away in a database for our mapping software.

Tags: Milton Written 02/02/14

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