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Horncastle Canal

Now derelict, the Horncastle Canal linked the River Witham to the Lincolnshire market town of Horncastle

Things to do nearby

Facts & Stats

11 miles


Length of the Horncastle Canal.

11 locks

Number of locks on the Horncastle Canal


Year opened

Historical Notes

The Tattershall Canal, also known as Gibson’s Cut was a short 1 mile (1.5km) privately built waterway, with one lock, constructed in the 1780s and linked the village of Tattershall to the Witham Navigation.  This gave rise to proposals to make the River Bain, a tributary of the Witham that flows through both Horncastle and Tattershall, navigable.  In the event, an entirely artificial waterway, the Horncastle Canal was built and opened in 1802.  The Tattershall Canal was purchased as part of the project and incorporated into the Horncastle Canal.  There were eleven locks (for boats maximum size 54′ x 14’4″ ad 3′ 6″ draught).  Initially, the canal was a moderate success, but trade evaporated to railway competition in the 1850s and 1860s, and the last boat to arrive at Horncastle left in 1878, and by 1889 the canal was reported as defunct.

Most of the line of the Canal remains remarkably intact and in water, with few obstructions, and public footpaths along parts.  IWA Lincolnshire Branch proposed restoration in the 1990s and there was some local authority support with Lincolnshire County Council offering funding towards a feasibility study.  After some delay in raising the matching funding, the study was produced in 2005 and showed that restoration was feasible, but would cost between about £20 to £25 million (at 2005 prices).  With restoration emphasis in the county on the Fenland Link, no further progress of substance appears to have been made, and hopes of restoration have now faded.  The photo shows the remains of the town wharf in Horncastle.

Waterway notes

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.

Sustainable Boating

We want boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable and – even though the current overall contribution to UK carbon emissions is very small – we want to help reduce emissions on the waterways.

Waterways Heritage at Risk

Britain’s canals and rivers are a unique, living heritage. But that heritage is at risk – from urban development, lack of protection, loss of skills and knowledge and climate change.

You can help Save Waterways Heritage.

Waterway restoration

Restoring the UK’s blue infrastructure – our inherited network of navigable canals and rivers – is good for people and places.