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River Wey Navigation

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Title: River Wey Navigation  
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Subject: River Thames, History of the British canal system, Shalford, Surrey, Josias Jessop
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River Wey Navigation

River Wey and Godalming Navigations
Catteshall Lock, the southernmost lock on the Navigations at Farncombe, Surrey.
Construction began 1651
Date of first use 1653
Date extended 1764
Start point River Thames
End point Godalming

(originally Guildford)

Connects to Basingstoke Canal
Wey and Arun Junction Canal
Locks 16
Status open
Navigation authority National Trust
Wey and Godalming Navigation

The River Wey Navigation and Godalming Navigation are two continuous waterways which provide a 20-mile (32 km) navigable route from the River Thames near Weybridge via Guildford to Godalming. Both waterways are entirely located within the county of Surrey and are currently owned by the National Trust. The River Wey Navigation is joined by the Basingstoke Canal at West Byfleet, and the Godalming Navigation by the Wey and Arun Canal near Shalford. The Navigations consist of both man-made canal cuts and adapted (dredged and straightened) parts of the River Wey.

The Wey was one of the first rivers in England to be made navigable; the River Wey Navigation opened in 1653 with 12 locks between Weybridge and Guildford and construction of the Godalming Navigation with a further four locks was completed in 1764. Commercial traffic ceased as late as 1983 and the Wey Navigation and the Godalming Navigations were donated to the National Trust in 1964 and 1968 respectively.


The River Wey was one of the first rivers in England to be made navigable.[1] The canal was built by Sir Richard Weston, beginning in 1635. The 25 km from Weybridge to Guildford were made navigable by an Act of 1651, with work completed in 1653, allowing barges to transport goods to London. Further improvements were made under another Act of 1671.

Originally the Wey Navigations were used for transporting barge loads of heavy goods via the Thames to London. Timber, corn, flour, wood and gunpowder from the Chilworth Mills were moved up the canal to London whilst coal was brought back.

In 1760, another Act authorised the Godalming Navigation, taking navigation a further 7 km upstream to Godalming. Work was completed in 1764.[2]

The Basingstoke Canal and Wey and Arun Junction Canal were later dug to connect with the Wey and Godalming Navigation.

From 1900 to 1963, the Wey Navigation was owned by the Stevens family, who were commercial carriers on the canal. It was then donated to the National Trust in 1964 which operates a visitor centre at Dapdune Wharf, a former boatyard in Guildford. The Godalming Navigation was donated to the Trust in 1968. Commercial traffic ceased in 1983.

Recent developments

The railway line between Guildford and Horsham crossed the Wey just south of the entrance to the Wey and Arun Canal. The line was in direct competition with that canal and accelerated its demise. However, the railway itself also closed in 1965, as a result of the Beeching Axe, and the bridge across the river was subsequently demolished, leaving just the supporting abutments.

In more recent times a footbridge has been constructed at the same location, utilising the existing abutments, to link the public footpaths which run along the trackbed of the line on both sides of the river. Opened on the 7th July 2006, the Unstead Woods Downslink Bridge, a single-span metal structure provided a cycle and pedestrian connection across the river.[3]

Features along the canal

Moving upstream from the River Thames, there are various features. Between the Town Lock and Coxes Lock is the Blackboys footbridge and Coxes Mill. Coxes Lock is the deepest unmanned lock on the Navigation with a rise of 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m). Between New Haw Lock and Pyrford Lock is the Woodham footbridge,Byfleet boat club, the boat club has been on the site for over a hundred years, Grist Mill, Parvis Wharf, Murray's footbridge and Dodds footbridge.

Between Pyrford Lock and Newark Lock are the Walsham Gates and the ruins of Newark Priory. Between Papercourt Lock and Triggs Lock are the Tanyard footbridge, High Bridge (foot), Cartbridge Wharf, Cart Bridge and Worsford Gates. Between Triggs Lock and Bowers Lock are the Send Church footbridge and Broad Oak Bridge. Between Stoke Lock and Millmead Lock are Stoke Mill, Dapdune Wharf and Guildford Town Wharf. Finally between Millmead Lock and Unstead Lock are the Guildford boathouse, a footbridge carrying the North Downs Way and Broadford Bridge.

Towpath and Footpath Links

The towpath is open throughout and is a popular walking route. As well as linking with the Basingstoke Canal towpath at Byfleet, it has links with many public footpaths and with two National Trails. These are the Thames Path at Weybridge and the North Downs Way at St. Catherines. Due to this convenient connection, and its mostly traffic free route through a densely built-up part of South-East England, that part of the towpath has been designated part of European long-distance path E2. This runs from Galway in Ireland to Nice on the Mediterranean coast of France.


Further reading

  • Inland Waterways Association (South-East Region) The River Wey and Godalming Navigation: Weybridge to Godalming Inland Waterways Association 1976

See also


External links

  • National Trust – Dapdune Wharf and River Wey Navigations
  • Environment Agency – River Wey Catchment Flood Warnings
  • Guildford Rowing Club
  • Wey Kayak Club
  • The River Wey and Wey Navigations Community Site
Next confluence upstream River Thames Next confluence downstream

River Bourne, Addlestone
River Bourne, Chertsey (south)
Wey and Godalming Navigations River Wey (south)

Coordinates: 51°19′54.69″N 0°29′15.8″W / 51.3318583°N 0.487722°W / 51.3318583; -0.487722

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