North Walsham
& Dilham
River Ant


The North Walsham & Dilham Canal was built in 15 months after an Act of Parliament in 1812. Prior to building the canal the River Ant was navigable as far as Dilham_mill, which used Dilham Lake for its supply of water. When built, the canal was 8¾ miles long and had 6 locks. It ran from Wayford Bridge to Antingham Lower Bone Mill

The act for forming the canal; was obtained in 1812, under the title of An Act for making a navigable Canal from the Rivers Ant and Bure, at or near Wayford Bridge, near Dilham, to the towns of North Walsham and Antingham, in the county of Norfolk. The proprietors were incorporated as The Company of Proprietors of the North Waisham and Dilham Canal Navigation, and had the power to raise £30,000, in shares of £50 each; and in case this should be insufficient, they could obtain £10,000 in addition, by contributing amongst themselves, or by mortgaging the rates and dues. They could also demand tonnage rates on cargoes transported along the canal.
However, the 1812 Act contained 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.

Tonnage Rates
For all Lime-stone, Dung. Peat or Soap Ashes, Chalk, Marl, Clay, Sand and all Lime or other Articles used as Manure or for repairing Roads 2½d per Ton, per mile.
For all Coals, CuIm, Pig-iron, Iron-stone, Iron, Copper and Lead-ores, Lime not for Manure, Kelp, Ashes, Barilla, Tallow, Building-stone, Bricks, Tiles, Paving-stone and Pipe-clay 3d per Ton, per mile
For all Coke, Cinders, Charcoal, Corn and other Grain, Flour, Malt, Meal, Cider, Hay, Straw, Raw Hemp and Tanners' Bark, Porter and Beer, Timber, Ochre, Calamine, Bar-iron, Lead. Kelp, Sand except for Manure, Pitch, Tar, Turpentine and Rosin 4d per Ton, per mile
For all Wines and Spirituous Liquors 5d per Ton, per mile
For all Passengers in Boats or Barges 1d per per mile each
For all Cattle, Horses and Asses 1d per per mile each
For all Cattle, Horses and Asses 3d per per mile per Score
For all other Goods, Wares, Merchandize and Commodities 6d per Ton, per mile

No less Fraction than Half a Mile or a Quarter of a Ton to be paid, and Wharfage to be charged if Goods remain longer than Forty-eight Hours.
Lords of manors and occupiers of land may erect wharfs and quays, but if they refuse, the company have power to do so, charging rates according to their own discretion.
This work is highly beneficial to the district through which it passes, by affording a communication with Great Yarmouth and London, and thus connecting with most parts of the kingdom.

The Canal started at Wayford Bridge where a new cut was put in to the north of the River Ant.
Dilham_Mill was bypassed and the mill's head of water was accommodated by Honing Lock.

The six locks were at Honing, Briggate, Ebridge, Bacton Wood and Swafield, where there were two.

North Walsham and Dilham Canal: Table of distances



Navigable (N)

Grid ref

Smallburgh River Junction

Junction with River Ant Leading to Dilham Dyke





North Walsham Canal Junction

End of Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners jurisdiction





Tonnage Bridge





East Ruston Branch Junction





Honing Lock





Honnng Common Bridge

Junction with Honing Staithe Cut





Briggate Lock No 2

Briggate Mill





Meeting Hill Branch Junction





Ebridge Lock No 3

Ebridge Mill





Spa Common Bridge

North Walsham 1 mile





Bacton Wood Lock No 4





Austin Bridge





Swafield Bridge

Swafield Mills





Canal Map

Tithe map 1840
Tithe map 1840 - as redrawn by Harry Apling

Dilham staithe 1929
Dilham staithe 1929

Dilham mill & lake 1837 Dilham lake 19th October 2003
Dilham mill & lake 1837 - watercolour painting by Edmund Girling
Dilham lake 19th October 2003

The wherry in the above painting belonged to William Harrison Wells of Dilham_mill but the presence of the windmill was artistic licence.

O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

Honing lock 19th October 2003 Honing lock 19th October 2003
Honing lock 19th October 2003

Honing bridge c.1912 Honing bridge 19th October 2003
Honing bridge c.1912
Honing bridge 19th October 2003

Briggate Mill and bridge 1928 Briggate Lock 1928
Briggate Mill and bridge 1928
Briggate Lock 1928

Briggate lock downstream 6th April 2003 Briggate lock downstream 6th April 2003
Briggate lock downstream 6th April 2003

Briggate lock April 1967 Briggate Lock 12th October 2008
Briggate lock April 1967
Briggate Lock 12th October 2008

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.
East Anglian Waterways Association

In 1836, after only 10 years the canal began to silt up, partly because the head of water along the canal was very small and was only sufficient to operate the locks to allow three wherries to sail each way each day.
In 1874 the East Norfolk Railway opened from Norwich Thorpe to North Walsham. It was operated and soon taken over by the Great Eastern Railway.
The Midland & Great Northern Railway (M&GN) connection to North Walsham was completed on 2th April 1883.

Ebridge site 5th April 2007 Ebrifdge mill & lock 7th March 2011
Ebridge site 5th April 2007
Ebrifdge mill & lock 7th March 2011

Ebridge lock 27th July 2006
Ebridge lock 27th July 2006

Swafield survey map 1832
Swafield survey map 1832

Antingham mill & basin 1946 Antingham basin 30th June 2004
Antingham Lower Bone Mill & basin 1946
Antingham basin site in the forefround with Antingham Upper Bone Mill
at the head of the lake 30th June 2004

O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

Enthusiasts are hoping to re-introduce water to a dry section of Norfolk's only canal.

They have sent a plan to the Environment Agency for re-watering a section of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal above Bacton Wood lock, which is itself above Bacton Wood Mill.
If the re-watering was permitted, supporters - including the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust and East Anglian Waterways Association (EAWA) - say it would provide benefits to farmers and wildlife, together with residents and visitors who could use it for leisure and pleasure.
But opponents believe dredging and clearance work already carried out on the canal have destroyed habitats and damaged wildlife.
The nine-mile canalisation of the River Ant, from Antingham to just above Wayford Bridge, at Smallburgh, was opened in 1826. The final wherry sailed it in 1934 and it fell into neglect.
Bacton Wood lock, one of six on the canal, has been virtually rebuilt by Laurie Ashton, whose Old Canal Company owns the waterway between Ebridge Mill lock and Swafield Bridge.
Mr Ashton hopes to restore Bacton Wood Mill to working order and re-establish the waterway as a sailing canal used by wherries.
But he lost an appeal last year against an Environment Agency "stop notice" banning him from further work on the canal between Ebridge Mill and Bacton Wood Mill.
David Revill, spokesman for the EAWA, said the canal was dry above Bacton Wood lock to the far side of Royston Bridge.
He claimed clearance work by EAWA volunteer work parties since 1998 had halted the destruction by nature of locks and other man-made structures on the canal.
Removing vegetation had also allowed water to run freely again in previously-choked sections, attracting more wildlife.
At the canal trust's recent annual meeting members had heard that goldfinches, wagtails, reed warblers, swallows, marsh harriers, kingfishers, a marsh harrier, otter, water voles, water snails and dragonflies now visited, or lived in, the Ebridge section.
And at the trust's Ebridge Mill lock island open day in the summer, nearly 200 extra people had signed an existing petition supporting work on the canal.
"Our first aim had been to alleviate flooding in North Walsham and its environs, which had become quite a big concern, and we have achieved that," said Mr Revill.
They had also given wildlife a big boost and opened up walkways which were well used by the public.
"I'm pleased with the way things are going but I'm not pleased with the Environment Agency stop order," Mr Revill added.
An agency spokesman said: "We appreciate that there is support for the aim of re-establishing navigation on the canal but there is also opposition.
"Over the last few months we have met with several interested parties to try to find a way forward that meets the needs of everyone in the community as well as the needs of the environment."

Eastern Daily Press - 20th September 2013

Canal restoration ends in a spot of hot water

Restoration work on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal has proved controversial.
Vegetation clearance has seen water reintroduced into the mill ponds at Briggate and Ebridge.
While the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust claims to have nearly 2,000 signatures on a petition supporting the project - including some collected at a packed meeting in North Walsham last month - some local residents, backed by the Environment Agency, believe enthusiasts have gone too far.
Opponents, including Peter Bowles, of Spa Common, North Walsham, believe extensive tree removal and dredging have damaged the habitats and feeding grounds of birds and mammals, some of which have since disappeared.
But supporters claim new and healthier habitats have been created, attracting a wider diversity of wildlife.
The Environment Agency issued a "Stop" notice against Laurie Ashton in April 2012, banning him from dredging between Ebridge Mill and Bacton Wood Mill. It was upheld on appeal in January. Mr Ashton challenges the Agency's right to impose European law above 19th-century Acts of parliament covering the canal. He also claims that he was "desilting", not dredging.
And he said the Agency, which supported canal restoration elsewhere, seemed determined to obstruct improvements in Norfolk.
An Agency spokesman said they were looking for a way forward to meet everyone's needs, and those of the environment.
She added: "To reach such an agreement will take time but we are committed to the process and are talking to people now to get things moving."

Norwich Evening News - Thursday 14th November 2013

January & September 1811: John Millington carried out two surveys re building of a canal

1812: Act of Parliament passed to allow the canal to be built

5th April 1825: Canal constructioin started and overseen by John Millington using 100 Bedfordshire navvies

January 1826: Canal completed

June 1826: Wherries started sailing as far as Ebridge_mill

August 1826: Canal officially opened

January 1827: John Millington resigned as engineer

16th March 1886: Canal sold to Edward Press of Bacton Wood mill

1886: James Turner absconded with the majority of the sale proceeds

1886: Scheme introduced to encourage tourist traffic

1893: Canal section above Swafield Lock taken out of service

1921: Canal sold to E. G. Cubitt and G. Walker of Ebridge_mill who set up the the North Walsham Canal Co.

1927: Canal dredged from Wayford Bridge to Bacton Wood and water drained above Swafield Lock

1934: Motor Wherry Ella carried the last load, barley from Bacton Wood Staithe

30th January 2008: North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust formed

April 2012: Environment Agency issued a
STOP notice against Laurie Ashton of Bacton Wood Mill

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. By all means telephone 07836 675369 or

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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2012