The Stroudwater Navigation was financed by local people to meet local needs.
To raise the £20,000 needed to build the canal, 200 shares were offered for sale at £100 each. Almost three-quarters of the money was raised in the Stroud area, with nearly half of the total coming from people involved in the cloth trade and another 20% from local landowners.
The management of the scheme to build and operate the canal was in the hands of a small group of shareholders called the 'undertakers'. On 29th December 1774, they signed a document accepting their appointment. Their occupations can be identified in Bailey's British Directory of 1784.
As Bailey's British Directory of 1784 details, six of the nine undertakers were clothiers (cloth manufacturers). Three of them, together with the son of a fourth, joined together to found the Stroud Bank in 1779.
Of the others, John Hollings and Richard Aldridge were prominent local shopkeepers. Benjamin Grazebrook, a building contractor, was the only undertaker with any relevant engineering experience. He was appointed 'Senior Clerk' and was responsible for the day-to-day running of the company as well as keeping the books. In 1778, he took over all engineering responsibilities for finishing the canal.