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Genesis of Cotswold Canals restoration honoured on 40th anniversary

Forty founder members of the Stroudwater Canal Society – the progenitor of the Cotswold Canals Trust – held a special reunion dinner on Saturday 5th May to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the public meeting that led to the founding of the society.  

In May 1972 Michael Ayland organised a meeting in the Subscriptions Rooms in Stroud. This meeting resulted in the birth of the Stroudwater Canal Society, which has now become The Cotswold Canal Trust.

The anniversary dinner was held in the Dockers Club in Sharpness, and original attendees of that first meeting travelled from around the country to greet old friends that in some cases they hadn't seen for over thirty years

A large amount of photographs, newspaper cuttings and memorabilia on display triggered long conversations on those early days, when a group of enthusiasts with no money and no experience of canal restoration set about restoring not only the Stroudwater but the Thames and Severn as well.

Phil Holland, a past chairman of the Society, presented Michael and Beryl Ayland with an engraved fruit bowl, in honour of their role in founding the society. In a speech Michael recalled the events which lead up to that meeting, and reminded the gathering that the multi-million pound restoration work now in progress stems directly from the enthusiasm of the founder members in that first meeting.

Profits raised from the evening will be spent on repairs to the circular weir at Bowbridge, which was an early restoration project but which has since been vandalised

On the Cotswold Canals Trust website Michael Ayland remembers that first meeting well: 

“To put it on to a sound footing we felt we needed a society and we called a public meeting at the Subscription Rooms in May 1972. I booked the George Room which would take fifty people as we thought there would be twenty or so likely to come.

“A couple of days before, we realised it may be more like one hundred so hastily the Subscription Rooms agreed to let us have the ballroom which was just as well as over three hundred people attended the meeting at which the Inland Waterways Association’s John Humphries wooed the assembly with tales of other restoration projects and the Stroudwater Canal Society was born. 

“Within the early months membership grew rapidly, but most of the early joiners had a bigger objective than the Stroudwater Canal – that of the jewel of restoring the Thames and Severn Canal.”

Above: Michael Ayland (centre) is honoured for his role in organising the founding meeting of the Stroudwater Canal Society in May 1972, by Phil Holland, a former chairman of the society. 

Below: 40 guests gathered at the Sharpness Dockers Club on 5th May 1972 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding meeting of the society.

Monday 14 May  | Andrew Denny  | 5.00pm, Monday 14 May 2012

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