If you search around England and Wales you can still discover historic canal company offices, although few are now owned by the Trust or other waterway bodies. They were occupied by the officers and trustees of their respective companies.
One example is the Oxford Canal Company office of 1829, a Classically-detailed building designed by Daniel Harris, which is now part of St Peter’s College. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal office in Bradford is now a bank, while the Aire & Calder Navigation office at Dock Street, Leeds, built in 1906 was sold by British Waterways a while ago and converted to apartments.
Many company offices built in the period 1760 – 1830 were designed in a provincial Neo-Classical style, like Cleveland House, the Kennet & Avon Canal office in Bath. This is plain at the back but posh at the front, in common with so many Georgian buildings. Equally imposing is the former Bridgewater Canal office at Runcorn, originally built in 1771 for the Duke of Bridgewater and subsequently used for company business. You can glimpse it from the train as you pass Runcorn Station on the way to Liverpool.
Other offices were more modest, like the one designed by Telford at Ellesmere, and yet others have disappeared altogether. The 1959 demolition of the Coventry Canal Company office, with its fine Ionic portico, was a tragedy. It would be unthinkable today.
As national heritage manager, Nigel’s role is to lead the Canal & River Trust’s team of regional heritage advisers in England and Wales. He has over 25 years’ experience of working in the conservation, archaeology and interpretation of historic buildings and places. He is a member of the editorial board of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. He has written numerous articles concerning heritage conservation and is the author of several longer published works, including the English Heritage Book of Canals.See more blogs from Nigel Crowe