Another lock for the Wey & Arun

Published: Wednesday, 24 March 2010

ANOTHER lock is to be reopened on the Wey & Arun Canal next month—Devils Hole Lock, near Loxwood in West Sussex.

This will be formally reopened on Saturday 17th April, and at the same time the latest addition to the Trust's fleet of trip boats is to be named.

Devils Hole Lock has had an interesting history. When the canal was originally built in the early 19th century, the adjacent River Lox was straightened to ease the building of the lock, resulting in an oxbow lake and a steep cliff—the ‘Devil's Hole'. (The photograph below shows the bottom gate going in a few days ago.)

Then, in the 1940s, some 70 years after the canal had been abandoned, the lock was used for practice in laying explosives by Canadian Army Engineers. The Canadians, stationed in the locality, were practising before taking part in the 1942 WWII Dieppe raid. This destroyed much of the top end of the stone-built lock.

Following the start of the restoration project in the 1970s, the bridge at the foot of the lock was rebuilt by a job creation programme in 1982. This was followed by work by WACT on the chamber that began in 1996. Problems including a landslip on the non-towpath side delayed further rebuilding, then the opening in 2009 of the Loxwood road crossing and the desire to extend the operating section of the canal focused attention again on Devils Hole. During 2009/2010 the chamber restoration was completed, the opportunity being seized to lengthen the lock from the original measurements, and the new gates and back-pumps were installed.

Canadian connection

To mark the Canadian connection, the Trust is pleased to welcome a party from the Canadian High Commission, including: Col Paul Rutherford, Senior Army Adviser; Lt-Col Pal Mann, Engineer Liaison Officer, and Lt-Col Denis Janelle, Assistant Army Adviser. A special welcome will be extended to a number of Canadian veterans who settled in Sussex and Surrey after the war.

The celebrations on 17th April get under way at 11.30 am when the new 12 person trip boat will be named at Loxwood Lock by Lady Egremont, wife of WACT President Lord Egremont of Petworth House. The 3rd Earl of Egremont was the main driving force behind the Wey & Arun Junction Canal in the early 19th century. The boat will be named Josias Jessop, after the engineer who designed the original canal.

Travel by boat

The VIP party will then travel to Devils Hole Lock by boat, and Col Rutherford, as the senior Canadian present, will cut the ribbon to open the lock at 12 noon.

The formal part of the proceedings will be followed by refreshments and entertainment at Devils Hole and the Onslow Arms in Loxwood, and an informal rally of small boats on the canal, plus public boat trips running from the Onslow Arms

Further information about the Wey & Arun Canal Trust is available from the Trust's office, on 01403 752403.