The Dean and Canons’ interest in areas outside Windsor was prompted by their property holdings, including Ansty in Warwickshire. As well as material directly related to their property, the archives also hold plans of proposed new railways and canal lines which touched areas that they owned. In 1845, the Dean and Canons sold some of their land around Ansty to the Oxford Canal Company. The eighteenth and nineteenth century saw a large growth in canal-building, particularly in areas rich in coal and other natural resources. A plan of the proposed canal line from Ashby de la Zouch (Leicestershire) to Griff (Warwickshire, near Bedworth) attaches some ‘Observations’, that:
‘The very great and increasing Consumption of Coal in the populous Towns and extensive Districts that are supplied principally from the Collieries in Staffordshire and Warwickshire, and the certain great additional Demand that must follow the Execution of the Canals now in Agitation, make it more than probable that unless other Sources for the Supply of this necessary Article are laid open, such an Advance will eventually take place in the Price, as well tend to the Injury of Manufactures, and disappoint the Expectations of Thousands, who hope for much Benefit, which these Extensions shall promise them.’
The proposed canal would link the rich coalfields of Leicestershire with the existing Coventry Canal. Before the Ashby de la Zouch canal, this coal had to be transported by land, which was considerably more expensive. The land around the area was very flat, and therefore ideal for building a canal. Once the coal had reached the Coventry Canal, it could be transported to Birmingham and London via other waterways including the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, the Oxford Canal and the Grand Union Canal. The exact route changed over time. The initial plan was formulated in 1781, and involved the canal joining the Coventry Canal at Griff, and terminating in a series of branch canals to different collieries and quarries around Ashby. However, a revised plan led the current junction with the Coventry Canal at Marston. The branch canals were too expensive, and instead a series of horse-drawn tramways were built. These reached the nearby brickyards, lime quarries and lime yards of Ticknall, as well as other collieries and quarries. Tramways allowed horses to pull far heavier loads than carts operated on the roads, and these tramways were still in use until 1913. As traffic moved to the railways, the tramways and some sections of the canal were closed.
The map at the top of the page is slightly later (1830), and shows proposed alterations to the Oxford Canal. The Ashby Canal is visible in the top left where it joins the Coventry Canal at Marston. Ansty is in the middle of the green section.
Anne Courtney, Assistant Archivist