Bruce Tunnel


Burbage, Wiltshire KAC36.32 & KAC36.55

part of: Kennet and Avon Canal
KandAC mile 37
599 yards long, the other is visible if you lean out from the towpath, from the west portal.
The tunnel has massive red brick portals, capped with Bath stone, each with a decorative stone plaque of Bristol pennant limestone. The tunnel was begun 1806, finished 1809. Inside the tunnel is lined with english bond brickwork; the bore is generous to cope with the 'Newbury barges' used on this canal. The summit pound is 450ft above sea level.
The 2 million bricks came, along the canal, from Devizes Brick and Tile Works, beside Caen Hill Locks.
John Rennie first proposed to have a longer tunnel at a lower level. It was cheaper to build more locks and a pumping station, and excavate a shorter tunnel.
Plaque on the east portal of Bruce Tunnel; hardly readable anymore.
The Kennet and Avon Canal Company / Inscribe this TUNNEL with the Name of / BRUCE / In Testimony of the Gratitude / for the uniform and effectual Support of / The Right honourable THOMAS BRUCE EARL of AILESBURY / and CHARLES LORD BRUCE his Son / through the whole Progress of this great National Work / by which a direct communication by Water was opened / between the Cities of LONDON and BRISTOL / ANNO DOMINI 1810
East portal.
West portal.
West portal, the towpath ends.
The towpath is carried over the hill. The Great Western Railway which has been on the northerly side of the canal to the eastwards, crosses over the hill in a cutting and crosses the canal diagonally as well, coming down on the southerly side westwards. Savernake Low Level Station was up above, and a junction where a branch to Marlborough from the Berks and Hants Extension Railway (GWR) left the main route. A minor road from the Savernake area to the north towards Burbage on the south, crosses the canal over the tunnel.
The railway crossing diagonally above the canal, view looking towards the west portal from above; notice the pillbox.
length 1499ft
headroom 13ft11ins
depth of water 5ft4ins
width 17ft0ins
There are regulations for boats using the tunnel: take care, obey. There was/is a chain on the southern wall by which to pull a boat along.
The tunnel was begun 1806, finished 1809.

Kennet and Avon Scrapbook 2000