The Eighteenth Century was a time of 'canal mania'. As the industrial and agricultural revolution developed rapidly, canals were considered to be a cheaper and more efficient means of transporting goods in bulk than by using waggons on the poor roads of that era.
Hampshire had a thriving agicultural trade and Basingstoke was a well established market town. It was decided to build a canal from Basingstoke to transport the agricultural produce of North East Hampshire to the markets of London. The canal would link with the Thames via Byfleet and so create a 70-mile waterway to the Pool of London. Construction began in 1778 and took six years.
The Canal was moderately successful in its early years, due to the Napoleonic Wars. Because of French naval action in the Channel, coastal traffic was disrupted and it was safer to send those goods that used to go by sailing ship, along the canal.
In In All Honour, however, the road network has been improved and the canal, always over budget and needing a lot of maintenance, is not profitable. Sir Thomas Thatcham has decided to sell his share in the Canal but is waiting for the market to improve before he can make a decent return on his investment.