Just as the proprietors of the Kennet & Avon Canal named the Dundas Aqueduct at Limpley Stoke after the company chairman, Charles Dundas, 1st Baron Amesbury, so they named the tunnel at Savernake after the local landowner Thomas Brudenell-Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury (1729-1814).
Bruce Tunnel wasn’t in fact needed. It was built solely because the Earl declined to have a deep cutting splitting his estate.
It’s 502 yards long, with a wide bore to take Newbury barges, and has no towpath.
Above the west entrance portal is a stone panel carved with an elaborate dedication by Benjamin Lloyd, the canal company’s mason:
The Kennet and Avon Canal Company
Inscribe this TUNNEL with the Name of
In Testimony of the Gratitude
for the uniform and effectual Support of
The Right honourable THOMAS BRUCE EARL of AILESBURY
and CHARLES LORD BRUCE his Son
through the whole Progress of this great National Work
by which a direct communication by Water was opened
between the cities of LONDON and BRISTOL
ANNO DOMINI 1810
The inscription is almost illegible, so a modern duplicate, smaller and in a different stone, stands to the side of the tunnel arch, with a pendant:
“This monument was erected by the Kennet & Avon Canal Partnership and John Lloyd, seventh generation mason of Bedwyn, as a replica of that erected by his ancestor, Benjamin Lloyd, mason of Bedwyn to the Kennet & Avon Canal Company, AD 2003.”
John Lloyd delivered the new inscriptions, appropriately, by boat.
The 72-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Waterways and Railways between Thames and Severn tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.