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The North Walsham & Dilham Canal

Prior to the canal being built, the River Ant was navigable up to the tail of Dilham water mill, which was situated at the southern end of Dilham Broad (also known as Dilham Lake) and not far from the present day Honing (Dilham) Lock.
The River Ant was an ancient navigation, but northward from Wayford it took a somewhat roundabout course, including a big meander to the east of the present canal. This section was also probably fairly narrow and shallow, but its course can still be traced on the map today.

In 1810, the promoters decided instead of starting from the Navigatin at Dilham Mill, to bypass the loop, with a new cut running several hundred yards north of Wayford Brige, and improve theremainder of the route up to Honing Lock, which needed to bypass Dilham Water mill:

The 1812 Act contains a special provision preventing the original canal company from charging any tolls or dues "For any Boat, Barge , or Vessel which shall be navigated or pass upon any part of the river Ant which at the Time of passing this Act is navigable to Dilham:"
By 1825, Canal building in the UK was sophisticated, so much so it only took 100 Bedfordshire bankers 15 months to dig a canal that was:
  • Nine miles long, with 6 locks (50'x12'4"x3x draught) at:
    - Swafield (2)
    - Bacton Wood
    - Ebridge
    - Briggate
    - Dilham (Honing)

  • With branches were built to:
    - Bacton Mill
    - Meeting Hill
    - Briggate for Worstead
    - Honing Staithe
    - Dilham Mill
    - East Ruston

  • And with Mill Ponds at:
    - Ebridge
    - Briggate
    - Dilham
  • Coal traffic did not materilise as expected - however corn, flour, timber, cattle cake and animal feedstuffs were important cargoes - and included the cabbage Wherry from Antingham to Yarmouth market.
  • Sold in 1886 to a local miller Edward Press of Bacton Wood.
  • Johnathan Neville reports that in 1886 a scheme was introduced in ordervto encourage tourist traffic.
  • In 1893 the canal was abandoned from above Swafield lock to Antingham.
  • At Edwards death (1906) the canal was auctioned off to General Estates Ltd.
  • In turn, local Ebridge Millers E.G.Cubitt and G.Walker bought the canal and set up the the North Walsham Canal Co. (1921.)
  • In 1927 they dredged from Wayford Bridge to Bacton Wood, and dewatered the canal above Swafield.

  • Coal traffic did not materialise as expected - however corn, flour, timber, cattle cake, and animal feedstuffs were important cargoes - and included the cabbage Wherry from Antingham to Yarmouth Market.
  • Jonathan Neville reports that in 1886 a scheme was introduced to encourage tourist traffic!

  • In 1923 six wherries carried 2,300 tons corn, animal feed, fertilisers and oak bullet for treating kippers at Gt Yarmouth
  • By 1931, only the Ella was left, carrying 1,600 tons in 83 trips
  • In 1934 the motor Wherry Ella sailed from Bacton Wood Staithe, with a load of barley, for the last time And from then the canal has laid mainly dormant.


  • 1874 East Norfolk Railway Norwich to North Walsham - took trade from the canal

  • 1881 Yarmouth & North Norfolk Railway crossed canal upstream of Briggate Lock, closed 1959 (Weavers Way)

  • 1898 Norfolk & Suffolk Joint Committee Railway crossed canal at Swafield, closed 1964 (Paston Way)


16th March the Canal was sold to Edward Press for £600. The committee entrusted James Turner with the distributing the sale proceeds to the known holders of 446 shares out of the original 586. But he absconded with the money after paying out only 55 shares.


Pleasure Boating

  • 1874 Edward Press, a miller and corn merchant based at Muckle Hill Farm, Bacton Wood, established a boatyard at Ebridge and acquired five wherries, some of which were subsequently fitted out to take passengers

Pleasure Boating was always a feature on the canal - and was emphasised in the 1907 Sales Particulars.


  • 1926 North Walsham Urban District Council given permission to discharge purified sewage effluent below Bacton Wood Lock.

  • 1960's?? Royston Bridge lowered as road used for Bacton Gas Terminal Traffic. Water diverted into the east soke, under the road, then the culvert at Alder Carr was broken open so that the water crossed the bed of the canal to feed the sewage works, returning below Bacton Lock. Leaving this stretch of canal and lock dry.

  • Since 1980's sewage discharge was diverted to the coast


  • 1924 whole canal up to Bacton Wood was dredged with a small double-pontoon grab dredger.
  • 1957 Canal Company dredged the Ebridge reach
  • 1993 National Rivers Authority dredged Briggate to Honing
  • 2000 Dredging around Spa Common to alleviate flooding
December 31st, 1956.
What can be achieved if the will is present. These two photos were taken near Bacton Wood, on the North Walsham Canal.
Photo by Arthur Walker:


  • The War department, using half-yard draglines, dredged the unbanked sections of the canal below Swafield, Bacton Wood, Ebridge, Briggate and above Tonnage Bridges as a defensive measure. The spoil was deposited on adjoining land and not the banks.
  • Michael Willis (b 1939 at Briggate) recalls:
    During the war, the lock gates were mined. I can remember the army came and fitted a bar across to stop the bottom doors from opening, then slid big tubes of explosives in to the bottom of the gates - and after the war they removed them again.
Jonathan Neville - Norfolk Mills Website


  • August: Seven inches of rain fell in one day causing a major breach in the bank at Bacton Wood, whilst part of the road was washed into the canal at Ebridge. It seems that shortage of funds prevented the Bacton Wood breach from ever being satisfactorily repaired.

Reputed picture of repair to North Walsham and Dilham Canal

Briggate Mill August 7th 1975

  • Briggate Mill was set alight by arsonists as part of an insurance scam.
  • In the following years, plans to convert the damaged Mill did not come to fruition.
  • In January 2008 a local new resident is alleged To have “land grabbed” the mill, surrounds and some of the area around the mill dam on the opposite side of the road. The Mill area was cleared and fences erected.
  • The East Anglian Waterways Association work parties were requested by the Canal Company to clear the Mill Pond to establish boundaries and three work parties have been held there during the year
  • For a full report see the Norfolk Mills site at Norfolkmills.co.uk

Tonnage Bridge

  • 1980 Tonnage Bridge Collapsed
  • 1981 15th October, the Canal Company sold the canal from its junction with the Smallburgh River to some 20 yards below Honing Lock, together with Tonnage Bridge to the local landowner, Mr Allington Stanford Mutimer, for £2,050 to enable him to proceed with rebuilding the bridge, to a width that would accommodate modern farm machinery
  • 1981 Norwich Branch of IWA with the Broads Authority and Mr Mutimer, started clearing the canal up to Tonnage Bridge
  • 1982 Bridge completed with the aid of a grant from the Broads Authority

North Walsham & Dilham Canal, Restoration.

July 1953, Arthur Walker met with Robert Aickman and L.A.Edwards (sec IWA)

In October, L.A.Edwards, then sec of the East Anglian Waterways Association wrote to the EDP
Circa1981 Norwich branch of the IWA started to clear the canal from the Smallburgh River up to Tonnage Bridge

1983 NNDC investigated possibility of Trust acquiring the canal, and then restore using MSC and voluntary labour. However they did not proceed as concerned about costs of having to restore what was still a statutory waterway

In 1992 the East Anglian Waterways Association initiated the current restoration proposals. Various meetings with various parties followed. Civil engineering lock and channel reports were produced in 1996, and an ecological report in 1998.
Late 1996 Norwich IWA became associated with the project.

Below Honing lock ,work parties involving the new owner, Mr A. Paterson, & the BA voluntary Sunday group worked on the canal.

1999 NNDC announced support for partial restoration project, but for canoes, sailing boats, angling and walking only, but not for powered craft.

1999 BA Officers recommended limited restoration up to Honing lock, but for restricted numbers of non-powered craft. BA Navigation Committee then queried legality of this policy

2000 IWA Norwich branch disbanded

To draw attention to the canal and to attempt to halt rampant deterioration to the lock structures, the East Anglian Waterways Association initiated voluntary working parties, first under the leadership of Graham Baker (2000/1), then Kevin Baker (2002/2006) and since 2006 with David Revill at the helm

The first was at Briggate in December 2000, followed by Bacton in 2001, Honing in 2002, and Ebridge in 2004

Sorry! Image temporarily unavailable January 25th 2004 - Ipswich Branch of the IWA help with the removal of tree roots at Honing Lock

Bacton Wood
There are two projects here:
To restore the lock, with stop planks at first, to allow water to once again run to the mill.
  • To reopen the towpath to the lock, hence connecting with footpath 19 to Royston

  • Ebridge Lock - clearance of surrounds and route to weir. Problem of collapsed soke culvert by weir
    Ebridge weir has been dug from beneath 2 foot of soke dredgings. Possibly built/refurbished as part of 2nd WW defences.

    Honing Briggate Pound
    • Following complaints that the stretch from Honing Lock to Dee Bridge was impassable (it had been cleared by Graham Baker's Groups in 2004, but access had since been denied by a local landowner), permission was granted to work along the south side of the canal to clear the channel, which was found to be filled with rooted fallen trees for about 200 metres. During 2008, work parties, including the work boat, enabled the length to once again be used. And in September the local canoe group were able to utilise the canal from Wayford Bridge to Honing Staithe Cut.

    Honing Lock - Work here has concentrated on the removal of the large trees and roots that were destroying the walls, general shrub clearance and making the structure safer for passing gongoozlers.

    The East Anglian Waterways Association is a believer in "Waterways for All" - promoting access to our navigations for the community - whether walkers, nature lovers, anglers, canoeists, boaters or gongoozlers.  We work with and support many local societies, trusts and other user bodies in the area  -  Please visit our LINKS page for more information.
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