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.