We found out in the previous blog that the stretch of the canal from Hunston pontoon to the canal basin in Chichester was built to a larger scale and equipped with iron swing bridges, to enable coastal ships weighing up to 100 tons to reach Chichester. The swing bridges history lives on and can still be seen today; as you paddle board up to the canal basin, there is a restored red bridge, called the Poyntz/Padwick bridge.
The original Padwick swing bridge was removed in 1982 and restored by the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society. It was then relocated South of the Canal basin in 1997, to celebrate Chichester Canal’s 175th anniversary. Swing bridges were used on the stretch from the basin to the junction with main line of Portsmouth and Arundel Canal and finally to the sea.
The Canal’s principal trade was coal for the Local Gasworks, making this the most successful part of the canal. It also bought in building materials as well as coal, while taking away manure. It carried on trade until 1906, outlasting the rest of the canal which had been left derelict and unused since the 1840s.
The canal was given to the City Council in 1892 to maintain Chichesters connection with the sea, who then sold it to West Sussex County Council in 1957, the surviving miles being abandoned in 1928. The last commercial cargo of six tons of shingle was carried in 1906, from Birdham to Chichester Basin.
The entrance lock and a short length at Salterns have remained as yacht moorings before the building of Chichester Marina alongside. The lock is capable of operation and beautiful houseboats are now moored along its length. The remaining canal of the route to Chichester was leased to the local angling club.
In the 1970s the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal Society came together to restore the canal. They later changed their name to Chichester Canal Society and more recently to Chichester Ship Canal Trust to reflect their concentration on the length from Chichester to Salterns.
The society took over the lease from anglers in 1984 and began dredging Chichester Basin. Assisted by the Waterway Recovery Group volunteers, they began to work back down the branch towards the main line, using a floating dredger with Bantam tugs and hopper barges to shift the silt. By the late 90s they had reached the junction at Hunston and worked westwards along the main line towards Salterns. Apparently as work progressed further, the silting became worse and by the time the volunteers had reached Crosbie Bridge at Donnington in 2002, it was said to be beyond the capabilities of the volunteers.