Stratford upon Avon owes its existence to the necessity of transport. Its very name derives from the place where a minor Roman road crossed the River Avon by way of a ford. The Avon later became a navigable waterway and the Stratford Canal was built to link it to the industrial Black Country. The canal may seem today to be a fairly modest rural canal, typical of many in the Midlands, but underneath its placid waters there flows a turbulent history.
The canal formed part of the inspiration for the railway network and, later, when the railways and roads appeared to threaten the annihilation of the entire canal system it was the Stratford Canal that pioneered the movement to rescue this vital part of our industrial heritage.
The canal itself was very much a local venture; its genesis was inspired by Stratfordians keen to better their town, and the money came from people living along its route. As the newly opened canal joined the national network, new ideas and people came to the town, expanding and enhancing it. The tramway and later the railway system continued the process, but left the canal in a kind of limbo, frozen in its Victorian architecture and working practices. This timeless state lasted right up to the Second World War, leaving the Stratford Canal as a small fragment of the early industrial world plodding quietly on despite momentous changes in the nation.