Friday, 10 April 2009

The Basingstoke Canal

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.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Lines of Torres Vedras

The Lines of Torres Vedras were a series of defensive walls and forts constructed to defend Lisbon against the French during the Peninsular War. They were ordered by Lord Wellington - and built in secrecy by Portuguese workers between September 1809 and November 1810.

It was the only way to prevent the larger French army from reaching Lisbon. The rapid construction of these three defensive walls was a complete success. When Masséna brought the French army up to the lines, he knew at once that he could not win a battle here. He asked his Staff why they had not known about them in advance.

'Wellington made them,' was the reply.

It was to get more funds for this building work that Greg Thatcham was sent to London in The Wild Card. Wellington had entrusted him with letters for several ministers as well as the Prince Regent.