Today Friday 5th May, is the 211th anniversary of the passing of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Act of 1812.

That Act of Parliament is a Local Act, which provides the canal owners with special dispensations and privileges above and beyond General Law. That much can be ascertained by a simple online search of Government web sites. They had permission, for instance, to buy, by compulsory purchase, the route of the canal, to build and maintain the banks, locks and other structures and use any water found anywhere within 1000 yards of the canal route to feed it. There were also conditions, one of which was to ensure that mill owners didn’t suffer for want of water resulting from the creation of the canal. There were quite a number of other such conditions and privileges. The Act has never been repealed, but it may be arguable, by interested parties, whether some, all or any of it is enforceable and it would probably cost a great deal of money to prove the case either way, were those rights and privileges to be challenged. There was a subsequent Act relating to the 1812 Act passed in 1866, which altered some of the conditions, but did not repeal the original Act.

The canal cost £30,000 to build at the time, which the Bank of England Inflation Calculator records as being worth £1,720,960 in todays (2023) money. Frankly, that was really very good value by today’s standards, for a cut and fill canal 8.87 miles long and with 6 locks. The money was raised over a number of years from local businesses and land owners, by the sale of shares. At the time, inflation was either negative or around zero (varies a little from year to year). Because of that, it appears that the investments accrued in value both before and during construction. Thus is the nature of either inflation or deflation as it applies in such circumstances.

The preamble for this 1812 Act (all Local Acts have such a pre-amble) begins:-

“WHEREAS the making and maintaining of a Navigable Canal for Boats, Barges, and other Vessels, from the Rivers Ant and Bure at or near a certain Place called Wayford Bridge near Dilham, in the County of Norfolk, to the Towns of North Walsham and Antingham, in the said County, will greatly facilitate and. render more convenient and less expensive than at present the Conveyance of all Kinds of Commodities, not only to and from, the Town of North Walsham, and the several other Towns and Places near the Lines of such Canal, but also to and from the Ports of Great Yarmouth and London, and will likewise be of great public Utility,:”

So now we know why we have the privilege of there being a canal in North Norfolk.