Full circle after 200 years

Published: Thursday, 08 March 2012

JUST over 200 years ago Samuel Whitbread, Member of Parliament for Bedford, was the driving force behind the plan to create a waterway linking the Grand Junction Canal (now the Grand Union) at Milton Keynes with the River Great Ouse at Bedford.

Today his descendant and great-great-great grandson is named as the first Patron of the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust which is campaigning to create the same project. The photograph shows Graham Mabbutt (left) welcoming Sir Samuel Whitbread.

Outstanding record

Sir Samuel Whitbread was, for over 20 years, the Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, providing an outstanding record of service and achievement to the county.

Sir Samuel commented:

"200 years ago, a 14 miles long canal linking Bedford with the then Grand Junction Canal was proposed at a cost of over £100,000. In spite of the support of the Duke of Bedford and Samuel Whitbread, there was some doubt as to whether the amount of traffic forthcoming could justify the expense and the canal never materialised.

"At that time the income to the proposed canal would have been derived from the transport of corn to Birmingham and Manchester, with the ‘back carriage' providing the county with coal, iron and manufactured goods. Today, instead of corn and coal, canals depend on leisure, sport and recreation and home-buyers are often keen to acquire waterside properties.

"I very much hope that the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust will be able to complete what my ancestor supported but failed to bring to fruition. It is indeed a very exciting project which I am glad to support."

The Trust was formed just over a decade ago to resurrect the scheme to create the missing 16 miles link from the Ouse to the Grand Union Canal.