For a brief history of the Basingstoke Canal see Greywell Tunnel. Greywell Tunnel was the major engineering feature on the Basingstoke Canal in Hampshire but there was also a second, much shorter tunnel at Mapledurwell, one mile east of the Greywell Tunnel. The tunnel takes the canal through a chalk ridge that carries a bridleway known as Andwell Drove.
The tunnel which was built in about 1793, is 150 feet in length and is sometimes referred to as Little Tunnel Bridge. The short arched tunnel is constructed of red brick, each face having a recessed panel above the arch and circular panels on each side. The parapet was originally supported by a band of projecting brick on stepped corbels but this has now nearly all disappeared. There is a towpath running through the tunnel, its wall and cutwaters are also constructed of brick.
The tunnel is now partially filled in and is difficult to see because of undergrowth. It stands within a conservation area and is a Grade II listed building. The canal is dry on either side of the tunnel and the approach from the east has now been ploughed over.
Although much of the Basingstoke Canal has been restored to full navigation, the length between the Greywell Tunnel and Basingstoke was abandoned following a roof collapse in the Greywell Tunnel in 1932. Some sections of the cut have been filled in and there are no plans to restore this stretch of the canal to navigation.
The last boat to navigate through the Little Tunnel was probably the ‘Basingstoke’ owned by Mr. A. J. Harmsworth. Having left Ash Vale with 10 tons of sand on 16 November 1913, it finally arrived at Basingstoke Wharf in February 1914. The time taken indicates the poor state of the canal.
Tony Harmsworth has written an account of this last trip detailing the difficulty in obtaining a sufficient level of water to navigate the canal:
“It was not until around midday on the 19th that they were able to remove the stop planks at Penney Bridge and quickly move the boat up to Little Tunnel. Stop planks were then installed in the vicinity of the Frog Lane swing bridge and the next section was filled, but great difficult was experienced in filling these sections and stop planks were reinstalled at Brick Kiln Bridge, as the amount of water that was being used was beginning to lower the main pound back through Greywell Tunnel towards Odiham.”