Royal Military Canal
The Royal Military Canal is a canal running for 28 miles (45 km) between Seabrook near Folkestone and Cliff End near Hastings, following the old cliff line bordering Romney Marsh, which was constructed as a defence against the possible invasion of England during the Napoleonic Wars.
Construction was started at Seabrook, near Hythe in Kent on 30 October 1804. The canal was completed in April 1809 at a total cost of £234,000. It was constructed in two sections: the longer section starts at Hythe and ends at Iden Lock in East Sussex; the second, smaller section, runs from the foot of Winchelsea Hill to Cliff End. Both sections are linked by the Rivers Rother and River Brede. Gun positions along the canal were generally located every 500 yards (460 m). Any troops stationed or moving along the Military Road would have been protected by the earthen bank of the parapet, which was piled up during construction.
It was conceived by Lt-Col Brown of the Royal Staff Corps of field engineers in 1804, the time of the Napoleonic Wars, as a way to ensure that an invasion by the French could not use the marsh as a bridgehead. John Rennie acted as consultant engineer. A military road was built on the inland side of the canal. Despite the fact that the canal never saw military action, it was used to try to control smuggling from Romney Marsh. Guard houses were constructed at each bridge along its length. This met with limited success because of corrupt guards. Although a barge service was established from Hythe to Rye, the canal was abandoned in 1877 and leased to the Lords of the Level of Romney Marsh.
The Canal today
The canal is now an important environmental site. The Environment Agency is the navigation authority and uses the waterway to manage water levels on Romney Marsh and Walland Marsh. It is important for fish and other wildlife, including kingfishers, dragonflies and marsh frogs, and it passes through several Sites of Special Scientific Interest. There is now a public footpath for the entire length of the canal via Hythe, West Hythe, Bonnington, Bilsington, Ruckinge, Hamstreet, Warehorne, Kenardington, Appledore, Rye and Winchelsea.
- Canals of the United Kingdom
- History of the British canal system
- British anti-invasion preparations of 1803–1805
- Hadfield 1969, pp. 38-42.
- Foot (2006), p. 227–234.
- Foot, William (2006). Beaches, fields, streets, and hills… : the anti-invasion landscapes of England, 1940. York: Council for British Archaeology. ISBN 1-902771-53-2.
Media related to Royal Military Canal at Wikimedia Commons