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Oxford Canal

The Oxford Canal runs from Hawkesbury Junction to Oxford, connecting the Coventry Canal with the River Thames.

Oxford Canal Map

Facts & Stats

75 miles


The length of the Oxford Canal that is navigable.

46 locks


Locks 2 to 7 at Hillmorton are in pairs.



The canal was shortened in the 1830s meaning there are occasional missing bridge numbers.

From Hawkesbury Junction to Oxford

This contour canal was one of the earliest canals to be built, with the purpose of transporting coal from the Coventry coalfields to Banbury, Oxford and the River Thames. It was completed in 1790 but soon experienced competition from the Grand Junction Canal (Grand Union Canal), which offered a shorter route to London.  The section between Braunston Junction and Napton Junction is often considered part of the Grand Union Canal

There is one branch (Duke’s Cut Branch), which runs from just below Duke’s Lock No 44 to the Thames. Duke’s Cut Branch is 0.8 miles (1.3 km) long and has one lock. 

The northern section of the Oxford Canal was shortened in the 1830s, hence the occasional missing bridge numbers. Commercial carrying waned after the First World War but, nevertheless, continued into the 1960s. 

When the southern section was in danger of closure in the 1950s, IWA won one of its first campaigns and the canal was designated a Cruiseway in the 1968 Transport Act.

Waterway notes

Maximum boat sizes

  • Length: 71′ 10″ (21.9 metres) – Hawkesbury Lock
  • Beam: 6′ 11″ (2.11 metres) – Lock 16, Napton
  • Height: 6′ 9″ (2.07 metres) – Bridge 131a on the summit
  • Draught: 4′ 5″ (1.34 metres) – cill of Lock 16, Napton

Navigation authority


Local Events

Waterways in Progress Grant: Wilts & Berks Canal

£13,960 was awarded the Shrivenham Canal Park Project as part of IWA’s Waterways in Progress Grants.