But I thinke, Jo. Collins sayes in his papers, that the cutt from Ashton-Kains to Charleton may bee made for three thousand pounds.
[Some of the above facts are more briefly stated by Aubrey in his “Description of North Wiltshire” (printed by Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart.) They are however sufficiently interesting to be inserted here; and they clearly shew that, notwithstanding Aubrey’s credulity and love of theory, he was fully sensible of the beneficial results to be expected from increased facilities of conveyance and locomotion. On this point indeed he and his friends, Mr. Mathew and Mr. Collins, were more than a century in advance of their contemporaries, for it was not till after the year 1783 that Wiltshire began to profit by the formation of canals.
Sanctioned by the approval of King Charles the Second, for which, as above stated, he was indebted to Aubrey, Francis Mathew published an explanation of his project for the junction of the Thames with the Bristol Avon. This work, which advocated similar canals in other parts of the country, bears the following title: “A Mediterranean Passage by water from London to Bristol, and from Lynn to Yarmouth, and so consequently to the city of York, for the great advancement of trade.” (Lond. 1670, 4to.) An extract from this scarce volume is transcribed by Aubrey into the Royal Society’s Ms. of his own work; and a copy of Mr. Mathew’s map, which illustrated it, is also there inserted.
The liberality of Sir James Shaen in the purchase of Mathew’s papers, and the apathy of the London aldermen, until too late to secure them, are amusingly described. Similar instances of civic meanness are not wanting in the present day; indeed the indifference of corporate authorities to scientific topics is strikingly illustrated by the fact that the Royal Society has not at present enrolled upon its list of Fellows a single member of the corporation of London; whereas in Aubrey’s time there were no less than three.
The short canal projected in the seventeenth century
to connect the Thames and Avon has never been executed:
subsequent speculators having found that the wants
and necessities of the country could be better supplied
by other and longer lines of water communication.
Hence we have the Thames and Severn Canal, from Lechlade
to Stroud, commenced in 1783; the Kennet and Avon
Canal, from Newbury to Bath, begun in 1796; and the
Wilts and Berks Canal (1801), from Abingdon to a point
on the last mentioned canal between Devizes and Bradford.-
Mdm.-The best and cheapest way of making a canal is by ploughing; which method ought to be applied for the cheaper making the cutt between the two rivers of Thames and Avon. The same way serves for making descents in a garden on the side of a hill.- See ...... Castello della Currenti del Acquo, 4to; which may be of use for this undertaking.
Consider the scheme in Captain Yarrington’s book, entitled “England’s Improvement”, as to the establishing of granaries at severall townes on the Thames and Avon; e. g. at Lechlade, Cricklade, &c. See also Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. vi. c. 11.