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Stratford-upon-Avon Canal

Stratford-upon-Avon Canal runs from the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at King’s Norton Junction to the river Avon at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Map showing the Stratford upon Avon Canal and nearby waterways

Facts & Stats

25.5 miles


The length of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal.

55 locks


Official opening

A flotilla of boats descended the canal to assemble for the official opening by Her Majesty the Queen Mother.

From the Worcester& Birmingham Canal to the river Avon

The Canal also links with the Grand Union Canal at Kingswood via the short Kingswood Branch which is 0.25 miles (0.4km) long with 1 lock.

The canal was promoted by Acts of Parliament in 1793 and 1796 but the southern section was not completed until 1816. Initially, it was profitable but the railways soon began to attract traffic away from the canal. By the Second World War the canal was almost impassable.  

In 1947, Tom Rolt journeyed along the canal and required the Great Western Railway to raise Lifford Bridge, which was blocking a statutory right of navigation. In 1958, Warwickshire County Council announced its intent to block the southern part of the canal with lowered bridges, but two members of the newly formed Stratford-upon-Avon Canal Society were able to show that they had made a recent journey by canoe and that therefore the canal was still used.  

The National Trust took over responsibility for the Southern Stratford-upon-Avon Canal and a restoration plan was put into action. Following work by volunteers, army personnel and prison groups, the canal was reopened by her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1964. In 1988, the canal was returned to British Waterways. 


Re-opening the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal

The lock structures were rapidly deteriorating when the IWA started a restoration campaign.  Led and directed by David Hutchings, dedicated volunteers, prisoners, Army and Air Force work groups descended to clear and restore the waterway.  By 1964 the canal was deemed navigable although there was still some further work required. Importantly, the political point was made that canal restoration was feasible and wanted by an increasing fleet of boaters.

In July 1964, IWA held its annual National Rally of Boats to coincide with the Canal’s formal re-opening.  A flotilla of boats descended the canal to assemble for the official opening by Her Majesty the Queen Mother. Before some 20,000 spectators, she sailed across the Bancroft Basin into the River Lock to cut the tape. The City of Birmingham Orchestra concert performed on a pontoon raft which kept breaking away, and the 1812 Overture was saluted by Royal Artillery cannons. 

Waterway notes

Maximum boat sizes

  • Length: 70′ 11″ (21.62 metres)
  • Beam: 7′ (2.1 metres)
  • Height: 6′ (1.9 metres)
  • Draught: 3′ 6″ (1.05 metres)

Navigation authority

Canal & River Trust

Useful info

  • A number of locks (especially lock 47 on the Wilmcote Flight) are particularly narrow and require care. Some locks are also shorter than others (particularly lock 15 at Lapworth).
  • Bridge 8 requires a Sanitary Station key for operation
  • Bridges 26 and 28 require a windlass (hydraulic operation).

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.