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Oxford Canal

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

Map showing the Oxford Canal and surrounding waterways

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 in keeping it open.  The canal was designated a Cruiseway in the 1968 Transport Act.

[The photo shows the Oxford Canal above Hillmorton Locks  –  by Adam Porter]

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


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.