Canal Restoration at Oxenhall


Oxenhall lies between Ledbury and Newent, not far south of the M50 motorway.

This section of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal is of particular interest, featuring a tunnel, a length of branch canal, a series of locks, an original and unaltered lock keepers cottage and an aqueduct , all within a short distance.

Oxenhall Tunnel and the “Legger’s Rest”

At the north end of the section is the south portal of the Oxenhall Tunnel. The tunnel, completed in 1798, extends northwards 2192 yards from here towards Ledbury, and passes under the M50 motorway, constructed between 1958 and 1960, and a high pressure gas transmission pipeline, constructed more recently in 2008.

Immediately south of the tunnel is the “Legger’s Rest”, a unique, arched recess built into the bank alongside the tunnel portal, where, history has it, the gang of men retained to assist passage of narrow boats through the tunnel, would await their next job.

20 years ago, the structures of the Legger’s Rest and the tunnel portal where in very poor condition, but both have been fully restored by the Canal Society, and more recently by the Trust.

A short way from the tunnel is Cold Harbour Bridge. As part of some of the first restoration work undertaken by Trust volunteers on the canal, the walls of the Canal beneath the bridge were strengthened with concrete and then re-faced with masonry.

Oxenhall tunnel south portal

North of Cold Harbour Lane bridge

The Legger’s Rest

The restored South Portal of the tunnel

The Coal Branch, Oxenhall House Lock and Cottage, and Ell Brook Aqueduct

Beyond Cold Harbour Bridge, the Canal continues to the junction with the Coal Branch, built to serve the former collieries that once operated around the town of Newent. The Coal Branch was never a success, as the coal was of very poor quality, and it quickly fell into disuse. Here, the Top Lock has completely disappeared, but the pound above is kept in water by a dam across the Canal.

This section of the Canal, between Cold Harbour Lane and Top Lock, close to Winters Lane Bridge, was extensively dredged and the canal channel fully restored by the Trust in 1992. As a result of this work, a significant length of canal remains fully in water, providing an attractive walk much enjoyed by the local population.

Scenic towpath upstream of Oxenhall House Lock

The Canal continues to House Lock, complete with an original Hereford and Gloucester Canal lock keepers cottage. Before restoration of the Canal had been considered, the lock chamber, overspill weir and the cottage were virtually derelict. By dint of hard work on the part of the Trust and the property owner respectively, these grade II listed structures have now been fully restored to as close to their original condition as possible.

Upstream end of Oxenhall House Lock

Plenty of willing hands…

Upstream end of Oxenhall House Lock

Downstream end of Oxenhall House Lock

Below House Lock the canal continues through No 2 lock (no longer in existence), where a temporary dam has been built to create a pound, and then shortly crosses the Ell Brook on a stone built, single arch aqueduct. Here the weather and the scouring of the water since the canal closed have caused serious deterioration to both spandrel walls which had collapsed into the brook. Once again, a not inconsiderable effort by the Trust volunteers has seen both walls rebuilt to their original height and minor repairs underneath the arch have now completed the restoration of the whole structure (2009).

Ell Brook Aqueduct before restoration

Work in progress on rebuilding the downstream parapet face

Bespoke steel centering fabricated to assist re-construction

Restored face of Ell Brook Aqueduct

Oxenhall Updates Past and Present…

Oxenhall – Restoration of Ell Brook Aqueduct

Following completion of the restoration work on House Lock during the summer in 2003, the Trust’s Oxenhall team was able to turn their attention to restoration of the Ell Brook […]

Restoration of Oxenhall House Lock

In 2000, a small team of Trust Volunteers commenced work on restoring the Oxenhall lock chamber itself. Much of the original wall masonry had fallen into the chamber, and had […]

Early restoration work – Towards Oxenhall Tunnel

Oxenhall Canal Tunnel, completed in 1798, extends northwards 2192 yards from here towards Dymock. Most of the original structure of the tunnel is still in standing but will need extensive […]