A kink in the canal
Artist: John Cann
Iden Lock, artist: John Cann
Artist: John Cann
A Weekend Walk
28 Facts about the Royal Military Canal - one for each mile of its length.
The Royal Military Canal is 28 miles long, running from Seabrook in Kent to Cliff End in East Sussex.
It is the third longest defensive monument in the British Isles after Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke.
The canal was built in anticipation of a Napoleonic invasion. Napoleon had his armies massed on the shores of France waiting for the moment to invade. He also had some of his armies up his sleevies!!
The Royal Military Canal was the third line of defence after the British Navy and a line of Martello towers stretching from Folkestone to Eastbourne.
The canal has ‘kinks’ all along its length. This is a defensive measure, allowing troops to fire along the canal if invaders tried to cross.
The first sod of the canal was dug on 30 October 1804 at Seabrook.
The canal was originally designed to be 19 metres wide and 3 metres deep. But....
Due to pressures of time and spiralling costs the canal was dug to only half its intended width and depth in most places.
22.5 miles of the canal were dug by hand, the remaining 5.5 miles are made up of the River Rother and River Brede.
As well as stopping Napoleon it was hoped that the canal would hinder smuggling which was a serious problem on the Romney Marsh.
Iden Lock was completed in 1808 and linked the Royal Military Canal with the River Rother. The original buildings - the officer’s house and the soldier’s barracks - can still be seen today.
The canal took 4.5 years to complete.
Why has the canal never been stolen? Because it has Iden Lock!!!
The canal cost £234,310 to complete - a huge amount in Georgian England.
The Royal Military Canal is one of two canals that were entirely state funded, the other being the Caledonian Canal.
On his Rural Rides of 1823 William Cobbett dismissed the canal as a great military folly and a waste of public money; he was much more impressed by the Romney Marsh sheep.
In order to recoup some of the money spent on the canal, it was opened for public use and tolls were charged to take barges on the canal...
They also tried to sell the water as perfume - Canal Number 5!!!!
A favourite food of the men that worked the barges was the onion bahji!!
The last toll-paying barge travelled through Iden Lock on 15 December 1909.
The last barge was called ‘The Vulture’.
During particularly cold winters the canal would freeze, and it was possible to ice skate all the way from Iden Lock to Seabrook.
The canal is vital for irrigation and drainage on the Romney Marsh.
On the Romney Marsh, the canal was affectionately known as ‘Mr Pitt’s Ditch’.
It is still possible to take non-powered boats on the canal today.
The canal is a fantastic home to lots of wildlife, including Laughing frogs, emperor dragonflies, kingfishers and the majestic mute swan.
Parts of the canal are a Site of Special Scientifc Interest (SSSI). The remainder of the canal is a Local Wildlife Site.
Where do kingfishers keep their money? In the canal banks!!
© 2005 Romney Marsh Countryside Project