A lost tunnel or is it a bridge?

The dictionary definition of a tunnel is:

"an artificial underground passage, especially one built through a hill or under a building, road, or river"

The definition of a bridge is:

"a structure carrying a road, path, railway, etc. across a river, road, or other obstacle"

When the Grand Junction Company built the Old Stratford and Buckingham Arms around 1801 the London to Holyhead Road (Roman Watling Street) was an important highway. There was therefore a commercial need to link with the trunk road but there was also need to cross it without causing too many difficulties. Thus, the canal passed under Watling Street at Old Stratford on its way towards Buckingham by means of a bridge, or at least that was what the company named it - Bridge 2.

Old Stratford Tunnel under repairs in 1926 
from Britain's Lost Waterways Vol 1, 1979 by Michael E Ware
The scene is looking east, the building to the right still exits and Watling Street is directly above the tunnel. There is a bridge number (2) on the portal.

It was however from the navigators perspective an usual bridge and it looked more like a tunnel. If it looked like a tunnel they would call it a tunnel, so to working boatmen it became the "Old Stratford Tunnel". I must admit that looking at the photograph it is clearly an underground passage and is therefore is more like a tunnel than a bridge. From our definitions above I suppose that viewed from the road it could be called a bridge and from the canal perspective it could be called a tunnel.There was no towpath through the tunnel so horses must have been led over the road to rejoin the towpath.

I was prompted to post about this minor lost feature of the waterways when I read Halfie's recent post. He was wondering where the tunnel was. As a local, we live only a couple of miles further north, I thought I would point out its location; more correctly its former location.

Watling Street Old Stratford

Nowadays what remains of the tunnel lies under the road adjacent to the traffic lights in the centre of Old Stratford. The line of the canal along this section is obscured but you can detect it. A particular giveaway to its general location is Wharf Close which is just north of the road junction. The line of the tunnel is under the road just where traffic waits for the lights going south. To the east are two substantial stone buildings. The smaller was located alongside the canal and features in the photo above. 
Former canalside buildings 
- the car is sitting on top of the eastern portal of the tunnel

The canal ran along the back of this garage beyond the fence 
- the eastern portal can just be seen to the right of the bush

The eastern portal of the bridge, built in stone remains. The road was re-profiled long ago so little of the tunnel itself can exist under the road. There is a brick portal on the west side of the road now covered in ivy and probably not original. Further west a house now sits along the line of the canal. 

The line of the arm is recorded on the excellent Buckingham Canal Society web site using Google Maps. The difficulties the society faces restoring the arm in Deanshanger and Old Stratford, and the crossing of the now dual-carriage way A5 trunk road can be clearly seen.

Google Maps view of the Canal Route through Old Stratford

I recommend reading Steve Miles short history of the arm and walking the Cosgrove to Old Stratford section.