The favourable reception which the previous editions of this work
have received, and the steady demand for it which has arisen, have
called for a new edition, and the following pages have been fully
and completely revised up to the present date.
The appointment of the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways in
1906, and the taking over of the principal canals by the Government
Canal Control Committee during the European War, with a view to
utilising them to the utmost to relieve the Railways, has been the
cause of directing renewed attention to the subject of Inland
Navigation and its possibilities.
Previous to 1761, when the Bridgewater Canal was opened from Worsley
to Manchester, the internal trade of England was chiefly conveyed by
pack horse, the few roads which existed were in a very bad
condition, and inland navigation was almost entirely restricted to
the naturally navigable rivers.
The success of the Bridgewater Canal inaugurated what may be called
the Canal Era, which attained its height during the latter part of
the eighteenth century. Then came the Railway Era, which commenced
with the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830,
and at length, in 1845, 6, and 7, completely destroyed any chance
which there might have been at that time of a homogeneous system of
inland navigation by placing during those three years no less than
948 miles of waterways under railway control.
Whatever may be said on the question of the unfair starving and
stifling of canals by railways, there is no doubt that in the first
place the canals had largely to thank themselves for it. In many
cases the canal companies forced the railways to purchase or lease
their undertakings at substantial prices before constructing their
Canals in their day reached a far greater pitch of prosperity than
the railways have ever attained to, but they suffered fatally, and
do so now, from the want of any serious movement towards their
becoming a united system of communication. Each navigation was
constructed purely as a local concern, and the gauge of locks and
depth of water was generally decided by local circumstances or the
fancy of the constructors without any regard for uniformity. The
same ideas of exclusiveness appear to have become perpetuated in the
system of canal management; there is no Canal Clearing House, and
with few exceptions every boat-owner has to deal separately with the
management of every navigation over which he trades. No doubt, to
some extent, profiting by the experience of canals, the railways
have avoided such errors; had they not done so they could never have
reached their present high standard of efficiency.
The production of this work was originally undertaken by the Author
after a survey of the whole of the navigable inland waterways of
England and Wales, extending over eleven years, carried out in all
seasons and all weathers, and amounting to a mileage travelled over
the navigations of over 14,000 miles.
The Author tenders his grateful thanks to numerous Directors,
Secretaries, Managers, and Engineers of Navigations for much
assistance rendered, and is especially mindful of his indebtedness
to his late friend Mr. W. H. Wheeler, M.I.C.E., of Boston, who,
having made commencement of a similar Work, gave to the Author the
result of his labour in that direction.
The greatest care has been taken to insure the accuracy of the
information contained in this Work, and no responsibility can be
accepted for any errors contained therein.
(1) — EXPLANATION OF TERMS USED IN THIS WORK.
A The expression “navigable” in this Work means navigable for
the purposes of trade; waterways which can only be used by rowing
boats, &c., for pleasure purposes are not dealt with.
Indented places in distance tables. — Where names of places
appearing in tables of distances are indented, as Wards Mill, thus
Thornes Flood Lock
it signifies that the names of the places so indented are situated
on a short branch, dock, or backwater off the direct line of the
In the lists of locks, locks whose numbers are bracketed together
form a flight of locks, that is to say, they are not more than 400
In the dimensions of the maximum size of vessels that can use the
various navigations, the expression “not limited” when applied
to the figures of length and width signifies not limited by the
length or width of any locks or works of the navigation. In some
cases where the maximum length of vessels is determined by bends in
the navigation, these figures are also given separately.
The figures of the times of high water and the rise of the tides at
places frequented by sea-going vessels are mostly taken from the
Admiralty Tide Tables; the figures relating to places more inland
have been specially obtained for this Work. The figures of the rise
of the tides are the heights above the Mean Low Water Level of
Spring Tides‘ unless otherwise stated.
(2) — CANAL NAVIGATIONS AND RIVER A NAVIGATIONS.
Inland navigations may be divided into two classes — canal
navigations and river navigations; and there are also navigations
composed of varying amounts of both of these classes.
Canal navigations have the advantage of providing still water for
the passage of craft, the only movement of the water which takes
place being due to lockage or the entrance of water feeders, which
is generally insignificant.
On river navigations, the advantage given by the current to vessels
going down stream does not compensate for the disadvantage they
encounter from the same cause when going up stream. The strength of
the current in our navigable rivers above the tideway varies
considerably, the chief cause in general being the amount of water
coming down the river at the time, and, locally, the area of the
channel of the river and the slope or inclination of the surface of
the water, due to the fall of the river bed. The velocity of the
current in the non-tidal portion of any of the navigable rivers in
England as a rule Ends its maximum at between three to four miles an
hour; the flow of the River Severn from Stourport to Gloucester has
never been measured to exceed four miles an hour.
The traffic on river navigations is more liable to be interrupted by
floods and drought than that on canal navigations. When the banks of
a river overflow, although there is plenty of water in the channel,
the surrounding country being submerged, it becomes a trackless
waste, where risk of the navigator losing his way is great, and
headroom under bridges is much diminished.
Weeds also exercise an effect on the depth of water at the top of
reaches in rivers according to the season. Given a river with a
moderate flow which is the same throughout the year, and that
consequently maintains the same level of water at the bottom of a
reach, the water at the top of that reach would be higher in summer
than in winter because of its retardation by the full-grown weeds,
which in winter will have died down.
The traffic on river navigations is not stopped by frost as soon as
it is on canals, running water of course freezing less quickly than
still water. Although the course of some of the canals is extremely
tortuous, river navigations, following as they do in great part
natural channels, generally have a longer course from point to point
On rivers having weirs in which there is removable tackle,
navigation is often assisted by the system of “flashing,” or, as it
is sometimes called, “flushing.” A head of water is allowed to
accumulate in a reach, and it is then used to replenish successive
lower reaches by keeping the weir at the bottom of each reach shut
in and drawing tackle in the weir at the top of the reaches, such
operation keeping pace with the movements of the boats so assisted.
Canal navigations have also the advantage over most river
navigations in the matter of pilotage. Any ordinary canal boatman
can find his way in safety over a canal on which he has never
travelled before, but if his journey extend over rivers the extra
cost of a man with local knowledge to pilot him is often incurred.
For instance, it would not be advisable to send a man over the Upper
Thames, or down the Trent below Nottingham, who was a stranger to
the navigation. So convinced was James Brindley, the early Canal
Engineer, of the superiority of canal over river navigations that on
one occasion, when under examination by a committee of the House of
Commons concerning one of his schemes, to a member who enquired of
him of what use he considered navigable rivers, he is said to have
answered “to supply canals with water.”
Again, there are navigations and portions of navigations which may
be described as intermittent, that is, those on which the passage of
the trade is confined to spring tides owing to there not being
sufficient depth of water on neap tides to navigate a paying load,
as, for example, the River Dee to Chester, to which city paying
loads can only be navigated during about one week in the month. The
Louth navigation in Lincolnshire, now closed for navigation, was
also another instance. The entrance to it from the North Sea through
the sands of Tetney Haven had only sufficient water for loaded
Yorkshire keels trading from Hull for about two weeks during the
(a) Haulage by Horses.
Haulage by horses is still the system most in use on the general
body of the inland waterways, and in it must be included hauling by
mules, which is rare, and by pairs of donkeys, or, as they are
termed, “animals,” which are much used for boats on the
Stroudwater Canal and the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, and on
some parts of the Shropshire Union system. Horse towing-paths are,
as a rule, provided on all canals, and on rivers above the region of
the strong ebb and flow of the tide.
Canal towing-paths vary considerably, from the well-appointed and
well-metalled way to the neglected track —often in winter nothing
but a slough of mire, and bounded by a hedge so overgrown as
seriously to curtail the width necessary for the passage of the
River towing-paths, unlike those belonging to canals, are usually
not fenced off from the adjacent land, being provided with gates set
to close automatically by their own weight at the points of passage
through the various boundary fences. In the large group of waterways
of the Bedford Level and district an antiquated substitute for these
gates is in general use in the shape of stiles, some of them as high
as 2ft. 7in., over which horses towing have to jump, giving
themselves frequently nasty knocks in so doing.
River towing-paths are sometimes not the property of the navigation,
but consist merely of the right of passage for the purpose of
towing, an annual rent in some cases being paid for the privilege.
The towing-path of the River Severn was constructed as a separate
undertaking from the navigation, the portions above and below
Worcester being owned by two different independent companies.
When the towing-path changes from one side of the navigation to the
other, means for transferring horses to the opposite bank are
necessary. ln the case of canals, bridges are always provided for
this purpose, and are known as “roving” bridges. On rivers,
bridges are not always so conveniently placed; for instance,
lighters coming out of the Middle Level, bound, say, for Ely, on
arrival at Salters Lode Sluice, the junction of Well Creek with the
River Ouse (Great), have to send their horses two miles round by
Downham Bridge to get them to the opposite side of the river. In the
absence of bridges, ferry boats, which are in some cases owned and
worked by the navigation, as on the Upper Thames, take their place.
In the Bedford Level and district the gangs of lighters often take
with them, in tow behind the last lighter, a special small boat for
ferrying over the horses, known as the “horse boat.” Horses
are sometimes ferried over on the boat or barge itself, as on the
River Trent and River Stour (Suffolk), but this latter river is not
now navigable above Dedham.
The following are about the average speeds attained by a narrow or
monkey boat hauled by a horse in a narrow boat canal in fair order:―
|1 narrow boat loaded,
||hauled by one horse, about
||2 miles per hour.
In Section XI. of this Work the existence of a towing-path or not to
a navigation is always noted, as also, in the event of the
towing-path not being continuous throughout the navigation, the
points of commencement and termination.
(b) Bow-hauling, or Hauling by Men.
There is but little bow-hauling done now, and what there is is
restricted to occasional use for quite short distances. It may, for
example, sometimes be seen on the Bungay Navigation, North Walsham
and Dilham Canal, and Aylsham Navigation — non-tidal waterways of
the Norfolk Broad District — when the wind is unfavourable for
sailing, as there are no horse towing-paths, and the navigations are
When a pair of narrow boats are worked through a narrow boat canal
by one horse, on arriving at locks the horse usually takes the first
boat, leaving the second one to be bow-hauled through the locks by
In the early days of canals the bow-hauling interest must have been
very strong, as we find clauses inserted in Acts of Parliament
enacting that barges on certain navigations shall be “haled“ by men
only. Traffic on the River Trent was thus restricted until the year
1783, when two Acts of Parliament were passed containing clauses
which permitted horse haulage throughout the navigation from Burton
In a paper on the past and present condition of the River Thames
read before the Institution of Civil Engineers, January, 1856, by
Mr. Henry Robinson (Minutes of Proceedings, Inst. C. E., vol. 15, p.
198), we read:— “The traffic on the Upper Thames was in the last
century principally conducted by large barges carrying as much as
200 tons each, and hauled against the stream by 12 or 14 horses, or
50 or 80 men; these men were usually of the worst possible
character, and a terror to the whole neighbourhood of the river.”
The River Avon Navigation (Warwickshire) from Stratford-on-Avon to
Tewkesbury was constructed without a horse towing-path, and must
have been worked by bow-haulage. At the present time the upper
navigation from Evesham to Stratford-on-Avon is derelict.
Sailing is suitable for districts where the country is flat, with
long reaches of water without locks, and where there are few trees
to break the wind; it is also a valuable assistance to drifting with
the tide or stream when the wind is favourable. Traffic in the
Norfolk Broad District, consisting of the Rivers Yare, Waveney, and
Bure, and their communicating Dikes and Breads, is conducted
entirely by sailing vessels, termed “wherries”; haulage by horses is
quite unknown, and in no case are there any horse towing-paths
Sailing is also extensively practised on the large expanse of
waterways navigated by the Yorkshire keels.
Other vessels which use sails are principally Medway sailing barges,
Severn trows, the black flats of the River Weaver, and the barges
navigating the River Teign, Stover Canal, and Hackney Canal.
(d) Drifting with the Tide or Stream.
Drifting on the ebb or flow of the tide, or down stream in the
non-tidal portion of a river, is usually supplemented by sailing,
steam, or horse haulage, as otherwise progress would be needlessly
slow. Dumb barges and lighters, however, in spite of the increase in
the number of steam tugs, still continue on the Thames in the
neighbourhood of London, drifting with the tide and controlled as
far as they can be by sweeps or long oars, but always ready to
blunder into whatever may cross their path.
Vessels drifting must of necessity be very unmanageable, as a rudder
is practically useless unless the vessel is travelling faster than
the water in which it floats.
(e) Haulage by Mechanical Power.
Although successful installations of electrical haulage are in use
on portions of the continental waterways, they have not as yet been
established in this country. Oil engines have in recent years grown
considerably in favour, especially in the smaller craft, where the
reduction in machinery space and weight over steam sets is of great
Contrary to what is often supposed, mechanical haulage on the
ordinary narrow boat and barge canals does not add greatly to the
speed of vessels over horse haulage; whatever horse power may be
developed, the rate of progress is limited by the ease with which
the water can get past the vessel as it travels, which is governed
by the proportion of the cross section of the waterway to the
immersed section of the vessel, subject to the proviso that, with a
given immersed section of vessel and a given section of waterway,
the waterway which has the most water beneath the vessel and the
sides of which more closely approximate to the vertical will give
the best result. Any attempt to increase the speed beyond what the
section of the waterway permits merely causes a waste of power,
heaps up the water in front of the vessel, creates a breaking wave
highly injurious to the banks of the canal, and renders the vessel
more difficult to steer.
The question of injury caused to canal banks and works by the wash
of steamers is a very vexed one, opinions on the matter differing
widely. As a rule, steamers are allowed on all canals owned by
independent companies, those canals on which they are prohibited
being mostly owned by railway companies.
In 1859 some coal owners trading on the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal
proposed hauling boats by steam, the long level of thirty miles
without a lock constituting this canal being especially favourable
for the purpose. The Midland Railway Company, the owners of the
canal, however, refused to allow the boats to pass on the ground of
the damage which might be caused to the banks by the steamer, and
proceedings were instituted in Chancery to test the rights of the
case. The Master of the Rolls directed, with the consent of both
parties, that a series of experiments should be carried out by Mr.
Pole, an eminent engineer, to ascertain what effects were produced
by the use of the proposed steamer. The result of the experiments
showed that no wave of an injurious character appeared up to a speed
of three miles an hour, and that between three and three and a half
miles an hour a breaking wave appeared occasionally in curves and
shallows. Mr. Pole accordingly recommended that steamboats should be
admitted on the canal subject to such a limitation of their speed as
would avoid the production of an injurious wave; and this
recommendation was made an order of the Court of Chancery (Minutes
of Proceedings of the Inst. C. E., vol. 26, p. 17).
The Severn is the navigation where the greatest number of vessels
are towed together at one time. Between Gloucester and Worcester as
many as two dozen narrow boats are sometimes towed behind one tug,
the boats being in two parallel lines.
(4) — APPLIANCES FOR OVERCOMING CHANGES OF LEVEL.
A lock, as is generally known, consists of a pit or chamber built
usually in brick or masonry, and provided at both ends with a gate
or gates and suitable sluices, whereby the level of the water in the
lock chamber can be made to correspond as required with the level of
the navigation at either end.
Although locks were apparently known to the Venetians as far back as
1481, the first lock constructed in England seems to have been on
the Exeter Canal, some time between 1675 and 1697. This canal was
completed from Exeter to Topsham in 1566 by John Trew, a native of
Glamorganshire (Smiles’ “Lives of the Engineers”), and according to
an article on Inland Navigation written for the “Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia,” 1830, by the eminent engineer Thomas Telford, the
canal as originally constructed appears to have been an open cut,
the locks not having been added until over a century later. Mr.
Telford goes on to say that Misterton Soss on the River Idle,
constructed by Vermuyden about 1630, was probably the first lock
with a chamber built in England; but Misterton Soss has not now, and
so far as the Author can ascertain never has had, more than one pair
of navigation gates, and consequently hardly comes within the
definition of a lock, but is merely a sluice or staunch to maintain
the level of the water in the river above the Soss when the tide is
low, the passage of vessels only taking place on the levels of the
Lock chambers, as already stated, are generally constructed in brick
or masonry, but there are some few exceptions to be met with. The
two locks on the Shropshire Union Canal at Beeston, near Chester,
have their sides formed of cast-iron plates bolted together, owing
to their being built on a stratum of quicksand. Some locks, mostly
on old river navigations, are to be found constructed of timber, and
another old type of lock not yet totally extinct has sloping turf
sides, with a few piles or old railway metals driven vertically
along the foot of the slope to confine the vessels when locking down
to their proper limits, so as they do not settle down on to the turf
slope. This latter type of lock takes a long time to fill, and
consumes a great deal of water, especially in dry weather, as there
is considerable soakage into the sides. Lock gates are almost
invariably constructed of timber, having the back of the heel post
of semi-circular form so as to work in a hollow quoin when opening
and shutting. Occasionally, however, cast-iron gates are found, as
in the case of some of the bottom gates of locks on the Oxford
Lock gates of the portcullis or guillotine type, made to open by
being raised vertically, are to be seen at Kings Norton, near
Birmingham, where the stop lock of the Stratford-on-Avon Canal,
close to its junction with the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, has
both top and bottom gates of this pattern, the fall of the lock
being only about four inches. Similar gates are also in use for the
bottom gates only of the nine small locks on the Old Shropshire
Canal Section of the Shropshire Union Canals, between Wappenshall
Junction and Trench. The above are the only examples of this type of
gate in the country.
The ordinary shape of a lock is naturally rectangular, so as to
consume no more water than is necessary, and exceptions to this
shape are very rare. Wyre Lock on the Lower Avon (Warwickshire)
Navigation is formed of a diamond shape; on the Upper Avon
(Warwickshire) Navigation, now derelict, Cleeve Lock was of a
diamond shape and Luddington Upper Lock was circular. Cherry Ground
Lock, or, as it is locally termed, “sluice,” six miles below Bury
St. Edmunds, on the portion of the River Lark now closed for
traffic, was built somewhat in the form of a crescent moon.
Examples of a large number of locks per mile are 58 in 16 miles
between Worcester and Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham
Canal, in which are included the famous flight of 30 at Tardebigge,
which is the greatest number in one flight in the United Kingdom.
There are also 74 locks in 20 miles between Huddersfield and Ashton
on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, and 92 in 32 miles between
Manchester and Sowerby Bridge on the Rochdale Canal.
The largest canal lock in the United Kingdom is the large entrance
lock to the Manchester Ship Canal at Eastham, which measures 600ft.
by 80ft. The smallest locks in use in the country for trade are the
nine locks on the Old Shropshire Canal between Wappenshall Junction
and Trench, referred to above, and which measure 81ft. by 6ft. 4in.
Locks, as a rule, are not constructed to give a greater fall each
than from 6 to 8 feet, as otherwise they would use an excessive
amount of water, and the bottom gates would become of abnormal size.
Excluding for the moment the locks of the Manchester Ship Canal, the
single canal lock having the greatest fall in the country, so far as
the Author has observed, is Tardebigge top lock on the Worcester and
Birmingham Canal, which has a fall of 14ft.
The provision of an adequate supply of water to canals is often an
expensive matter. Each time a vessel passes through a summit level
or highest pound of a canal it consumes two locks of water, that is
to say, a lock full at each end, which has to be replaced, but which
amount of water will, theoretically at any rate, suffice for working
all the locks for the passage of that vessel below the highest lock
on each side of the summit level. To maintain the supply of water to
the summit level of a canal impounding reservoirs are generally
provided to store the rainfall from as large an area as possible for
use as required, the supply from the reservoirs being often
supplemented by pumping from wells and from streams where available.
Economy in the use of lockage water can be obtained (1) by
substituting lifts or inclined planes for locks; (2) by pumping back
the water from the lower to the higher level. This is done on the
Birmingham Canal Navigations at Ocker Hill, where water is returned
from the Walsall to the Wolverhampton level, also on the north side
of both Tring and Braunston summits of the Grand Junction Canal, and
at Hillmorton on the Oxford Canal; (3) by the system of duplicate
locks as described below; (4) by the use of locks with side ponds.
The principle of the side pond is that instead of allowing the whole
of the water to escape into the lower pound when emptying a lock,
the upper portion of the water contained in the lock chamber is
allowed to flow into a pond or ponds at the side, placed at a level
or levels intermediate between that of the water when the lock is
full and empty. The water thus collected in the side ponds is used
to replenish the lower portion of the lock when it is required to
again fill it, instead of the whole of the water being drawn from
the top pound of the canal. The number of side ponds usually
employed is from one to three.
“Waiting turns” is a system sometimes practised in dry weather at a
flight of locks to economise water. The system is that boats are not
allowed to follow each other indiscriminately, but that for every
boat that goes down the locks one shall also come up, and vice
versa, thus making sure that the maximum amount of traffic is passed
for the water consumed. Where the traffic is heavy the duplicate
system of locks is made use of, as on the Regents Canal main line,
on the Trent and Mersey Canal from the north end of the summit level
at Hardings’ Wood down to Wheelock, and at Hillmorton three locks on
the Oxford Canal near Rugby. On this system, instead of one lock a
pair of locks are provided side by side, the one being usually full
when the other is empty. Supposing an ascending boat to have entered
the empty lock from below, and a descending boat to have entered the
full lock from above, when the gates have been closed the water from
the full lock is allowed to discharge across into the empty one till
both have run level, thus leaving only half a lock of water to be
drawn from the top pound for the ascending boat, and the same
quantity to be discharged into the bottom pound for the descending
boat. Each lock consequently acts as a side pond for the other.
Staircase locks, or as they are sometimes termed “Risers,” are locks
arranged in flight without any intermediate pools, so that the top
gates of one lock are also the bottom gates of the lock above. This
arrangement of locks is used where the slope of the ground to be
surmounted is steep, but it has the disadvantage that vessels which
are over half the size the lock will contain cannot pass each other
when in any locks so constructed. The five staircase locks at
Bingley on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal are fine examples of the
type. They give a total lift of 59ft. 2in. Five is the maximum
number of locks arranged together on this plan which can be found in
this country, but two locks together are often met with on canals,
and are usually called double locks.
Mr. G. R. Jebb,in a paper on the “Maintenance of Canals” read before
the Society of Arts Conference on Canals, 1888, gives the following
interesting information on a point connected with the consumption of
lockage water. “A boat locking down from the higher to the lower
level requires a lock full of water minus the amount it displaces; a
boat locking up from the lower to the higher level requires a lock
of water plus the amount it displaces; thus, it will be seen that a
loaded boat requires more water than an empty one when locking up
hill, and that an empty one requires more water than a loaded one
when looking down hill.”
Throughout the main body of the barge and narrow boat canals, the
lock gates and paddles (the latter also variously known as “slats,”
“slackers,” and “cloughs,”) are invariably operated by manual
labour. The rack and pinion is the usual gear for opening and
closing paddles, the spindle of the pinion having a square on the
end to take a portable crank or windlass carried by the boatmen;
sometimes the crank is a fixture on the spindle of the pinion, which
has the disadvantage of enabling unauthorised persons to interfere
with the paddles. In a few localities, gear which requires the use
of a handspike is still in existence, and there are also paddles
operated by a fixed lever, as the “jack cloughs” of the locks on the
Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
On navigations where the traffic is not large it is generally the
rule to leave all locks empty, so that when locking up hill each
lock must be drawn off after the boat has passed. This ensures that
the water in the pounds is held by the top gates of each lock, which
are less likely to leak than the bottom gates, being much smaller.
(b) Flash Locks, or Navigation Weirs, or Staunches.
Flash locks, or navigation weirs, called in the Eastern Counties
“staunches,” are of necessity peculiar to rivers on account of the
amount of water they consume in working. They are at best but rude
and primitive contrivances. having the sole merit of being cheap,
and can only exist where the traffic is small, as their use entails
what is practically, to use a railway phrase, single line working.
The system consists in providing, instead of a pound lock, an
opening for the passage of vessels through a weir which can be
opened or closed at will, so that the water of the river can be
penned back in the reach above or allowed to run level, or nearly
so, with the water in the top of the reach below. The passage of the
water from the higher to the lower level is also often assisted by
sundry side sluices in addition, which are opened for the purpose
when required. The opening of the navigation passage is effected
either by a gate or gates similar to those of a lock, or a shutter
or “clough,” which is wound up vertically by suitable gear, or, in
the case of the three Hash locks still in use on the Upper Thames,
by removing a number of the rimers and paddles of which the weir
consists and opening the pivoted rimer beam, which is specially
constructed to swing aside for the purpose.
Thus it will be seen that the change of level from one reach to
another is accomplished by allowing the two reaches to run together
approximately level instead of, as in the case of the lock, by
raising or lowering the level of the water in the lock chamber to
correspond with either reach as required. Navigation weirs or
staunches, except on the Upper Thames, stand normally open or
“drawn,” being only closed or “set” when required to be brought into
In navigating down stream on a river provided with staunches, a man
must be sent in advance to set the staunch, and sufficient water
allowed to accumulate before the vessel can enter the reach of water
held up by that staunch. On arrival of the vessel at the staunch it
is drawn, and the vessel passes into the next reach. Going up stream
the vessel passes through the staunch, which is then set, and the
vessel must then wait until sufficient water accumulates to allow of
a passage into the next reach above, when the staunch is drawn, and
left in its normal position. The process of allowing the water to
accumulate can generally be hastened by drawing water from the reach
above, but it must be remembered that in going up stream all water
thus drawn decreases the navigable draught in the reach the vessel
is about to enter, while when going down stream the reverse takes
place, putting only any vessel which may be following to a
disadvantage, which of course in most cases is not held to be a
matter of great consequence.
There are at present only five navigation weirs or staunches in
existence in England not situated in the Fen Country or on its
tributary rivers; these, which are termed weirs, consist of three on
the Thames between Oxford and Lechlade, and two on the Lower Avon
Navigation (Warwickshire) between Tewkesbury and Evesham.
Lifts are of two kinds: vertically ascending lifts and inclined
plane lifts. At the present time there is only one lift in use in
this country: the vertical lift at Anderton, near Northwich, the
property of the River Weaver Navigation Trustees, which enables
vessels measuring 72ft. by 14ft. 6in. to be transferred from that
navigation to the Trent and Mersey Canal of the London Midland and
The Anderton lift was first opened for traffic in July, 1875. The
original design consisted of two caissons, each 75ft. long and 15ft.
6in. wide, supported and raised or lowered by hydraulic rams through
50ft. 4in., the motive power being chiefly obtained by gravity
arrangement of syphons regulating the water in the ascending
caisson, so that the additional weight of the descending caisson
raised the former.
After working until 1908 it was found that the hydraulic rams could
not be kept tight owing to grooving, and it was decided to abandon
the hydraulic action and substitute electric power. This was carried
out, and has been in operation since that date.
The caissons have not been altered in size, but now work
independently, so allowing an increase in the maximum number of
boats which can be passed through the lift.
A full account of the original lift will be found in the Minutes of
Proceedings of the Inst. of C. E., vol. 45, p. 107, and of the
alterations to electrical power in vol. 180, p. 239.
Among canal lifts which have gone out of use may be mentioned the
Tardebigge lift, erected on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal in
1809, and the seven lifts on the section of the Grand Western Canal
between Taunton and Loudwell, constructed from 1834 to 1836, and
closed in 1867 (Transactions of the Inst. of C. E., vol. 2). All
these lifts were of the vertically ascending type, and their remains
are cleared away. Of disused inclined plane lifts may be mentioned
the Trench lift and the Coalport lift. The Trench incline plane
lift, which was constructed towards the close of the eighteenth
century, consisted of two lines of rails laid parallel to each
other, on each of which ran a trolley raised and lowered by a wire
rope, and capable of carrying one tub boat at a time. The descending
trolley assisted in balancing the weight of the ascending one, the
extra power required being supplied by a stationary winding engine.
The length of the inclined plane was 227 yards and the vertical rise
was 73ft. 6in. The Coalport lift was almost a counterpart of the
Trench lift, with the exception that the trolleys were hauled up by
chains instead of wire ropes. This inclined plane was constructed
towards the close of the eighteenth century, and went out of use in
1902. It was 300 yards long, and had a vertical rise of 213ft. On
the Bude Canal, only the first two miles of the canal, which are
still open for traffic, were made navigable for barges, the
remaining 40 miles (closed by Act of Parliament of 1891) were
navigable only by four-ton tub boats, and on this portion all
changes of level were accomplished by inclined planes. The boats,
which measured 20ft. long by 5ft. 6in. beam and 2ft. 9in. deep, were
fitted with four iron wheels, each of 14in. diameter, projecting out
beyond the boat’s side, and which ran in rails of channel section up
and down the inclined planes. The first inclined plane was at
Marhamchurch, a little over two miles from Bude, where the boats
were hauled up and down by a water wheel. The next incline beyond (Thurlibeer)
was worked by a pair of balanced tubs, the descending one being
filled with water. The machinery at all the inclined planes has been
The Foxton inclined plane lift, on the Leicester Section of the
Grand Junction Canal, which was opened for traffic April, 1900,
consisted of two caissons, each mounted on ten wheels, and running
on five rails parallel to each other. The caissons were wound up and
down the inclined plane laterally by wire ropes, and here again the
one helped to balance the other, the extra power required being
obtained from a stationary winding engine. The length of the
inclined plane was 307ft., and the vertical rise 75ft. 2in. An
account of the lift, with illustrations, will be found in
“Engineering” of 25th January, 1901.
The Monkland incline plane lift at Blackhill in Scotland, completed
in 1850, resembled somewhat the Grand Junction lift at Foxton of
later date, but with the difference that the caissons were
constructed to move end on, and ran on two rails each only instead
of, as in the case of the Foxton lift, moving laterally and running
on five rails each.
The first main line canal tunnel constructed in England was
Harecastle Old Tunnel, 2897 yards long, on the summit level of the
Trent and Mersey Canal. It was commenced by James Brindley in 1766
and finished in 1777, five years after his death. The latest work in
canal tunnelling in the country is Netherton Tunnel, 3027 yards
long, on the Birmingham Canal Navigations. It was commenced on 28th
December, 1855, and completed within two years and eight months.
In the tunnels of early date, towing-paths were never constructed,
and, except where mechanical haulage is in use, the method of
propelling boats through such tunnels down to the present time is
either “shafting” or “legging.” Shafting consists of pushing with a
long pole or shaft against the top or sides of a tunnel while
walking from forward to aft along the boat, and is generally only
used in short tunnels. Legging is performed by two men, one on each
side of the boat, who lie down on the fore end on their backs and
push against the tunnel sides with their feet. If the tunnel is too
wide to admit of their reaching the side walls with their feet from
the boats deck, boards projecting over the boats side termed “wings”
are brought into use for them to lie on. Sometimes, when the roof of
a tunnel is low, one man can leg an empty boat lying down on the top
of the cabin. Legging is hard work, and in former days used to be
performed by women as well as men. At Harecastle Old Tunnel, before
the war, a legger could have been engaged for 1s. 6d. for the
passage through, which took about three hours.
The construction of canal tunnels of any considerable length with
towing-paths for horse haulage in this country was only commenced
shortly before canal construction practically terminated,
consequently there are but few examples of such tunnels to be found.
Among the principal are Netherton and Coseley on the Birmingham
Canal Navigations, Harecastle New Tunnel — parallel to the disused
Harecastle Old Tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal — and Chirk
Tunnel on the Ellesmere Canal of the Shropshire Union Canals.
Thames and Severn (closed)
Birmingham Canal Navigations — Dudley Canal (closed)
Birmingham Canal Navigations — Dudley Canal
Birmingham Canal Navigations
9 Harecastle (New)
Trent and Mersey
10 Harecastle (Old)
Trent and Mersey (closed)
11 West Hill
Worcester and Birmingham
Leeds and Liverpool
15 Preston Brook
Trent and Mersey
Woking Aldershot and Basingstoke
17 Husbands Bosworth
Worcester and Birmingham
Worcester and Birmingham
Trent and Mersey
Leeds and Liverpool
25 Gosty Hill
Birmingham Canal Navigations — Dudley Canal
Kennet and Avon
Warwick and Birmingham
Trent and Mersey
Brecon and Abergavenny
Birmingham Canal Navigations — Main Line
33 King’s Norton
34 Hyde Bank
35 Maida Hill
Worcester and Birmingham
Trent and Mersey
Trent and Mersey
Worcester and Birmingham
The type of overline canal bridge most commonly found in this
country is the single-arch brick or stone bridge having the
towing-path carried under it alongside the waterway. In districts
affected by subsidences due to mining operations, iron girder
bridges are largely used, as they can be more readily raised when
the headroom under them diminishes
Throughout the waterways of the Fen Country, the towing-path, or as
it is there termed the “haling way,” is not carried under the
bridges, but horses towing have to have their tow lines detached on
nearing bridges and reattached again on the far side. A remarkable
type of bridge is to be found on the Stratford-on-Avon Canal,
designed to save the expense of constructing the towing-path under
it, and at the same time to obviate the inconvenience of casting off
and reattaching the tow line. These bridges consist of two iron
brackets, each projecting half across the canal from an abutment of
brickwork on either side.
The two brackets do not touch each other over the centre of the
canal by something less than an inch, the bridge being thus
completely cut in two in the middle transversely. Instead,
therefore, of having to detach and reattach the tow line, when the
horse and boat are about equidistant from the bridge on either side,
the horse is slacked up and the tow line is dropped through the slot
left between the two halves of the bridge.
Opening bridges or movable bridges are of two kinds, those which
open by turning aside on a centre, sometimes called “turn bridges,”
and those which open by lifting upwards and are balanced by
Opening bridges are cheaper in first cost than the fixed brick or
stone bridge, but cost more to maintain. They are not generally
adopted except for special situations. Large numbers of them are,
however, to be found on the southern portion of the Oxford Canal
between Fenny Compton and Oxford.
(7) — AQUEDUCTS.
The earliest canal aqueduct constructed in England was that at
Barton, opened on the 17th July, 1761. It was built by James
Brindley for the Duke of Bridgewater to carry the Bridgewater Canal
from Worsley to Manchester across the River Irwell, about five miles
west of Manchester. This aqueduct, built of stone, was about 600ft.
in length and 36ft. in width at the top, the waterway being 18ft.
wide and about 4½ft. deep carried in a puddled channel across the
structure. It remained in use and in a good state of preservation
until 1893, when it was superseded by the present Barton swing
aqueduct, designed by Sir E. Leader Williams, and necessitated by
the portion of the bed of the River Irwell below being absorbed into
the Manchester Ship Canal. The main girders of the swinging portion
of the present aqueduct are 234ft. long, the waterway being 19ft.
wide and 6ft. deep. The aqueduct is always swung full of water,
there being gates at each end and also at the shore ends of the
canal which can be closed at will. The total weight of the swinging
span and of the water contained therein is about 1600 tons.
For an account of the circumstances attending the construction of
the old Barton aqueduct, see Smiles’ “Lives of the Engineers”; and
for an excellent illustrated description of both old and new
aqueducts, and the Manchester Ship Canal in general, see
“Engineering” of the 26th January, 1894, from which the above
figures of dimensions are taken.
Another notable canal aqueduct is Lancaster aqueduct, completed by
Rennie in 1796 at a cost of £48,000, which carries the Lancaster
Canal over the River Lune near Lancaster. It is 600ft. long, and
consists of five arches of 75ft. span each. The mortar (pozzolana
earth) used in its construction was brought from Italy (see Smiles’
“Lives of the Engineers”).
Two other remarkable aqueducts are those of Chirk and Pontcysyllte,
completed by Telford, the former in 1801 at a cost of £20,898, and
the latter in 1803 at a cost of £47,069, for the Ellesmere Canal,
now a portion of the Shropshire Union Canal Section of the London
Midland and Scottish Railway Co.’s Canals. Chirk aqueduct, over the
River Ceriog, consist of ten arches, each of 40ft. span, and is
710ft. long. The waterway was originally carried across this
aqueduct in a puddled channel.
Pontcysyllte aqueduct, over the River Dee, four miles north of Chirk,
is 1007ft. long, and consists of a cast-iron trough for the canal
with towing-path and iron side railings carried on nineteen arches.
For further particulars and illustrations of these two aqueducts,
see Smiles’ “Lives of the Engineers,” and the “Life of Thomas
Telford,” written by himself, 1838.
A remarkable instance of road, canal, and railway, on three
different levels, is to be seen near Hanwell in Middlesex. Here the
short aqueduct carrying the main line of the Grand Junction Canal
over the Great Western Branch Railway from Southall to Brentford is
also surmounted by the bridge carrying the high road from Greenford
to Osterley Park. The three ways of communication make approximately
angles of 60 degrees with each other at their point of crossing, and
an imaginary plumb line could be drawn to intersect all of them.
In navigable waters, under the influence of the ebb and flow of the
tide, traffic, as a rule, has to be conducted in the same direction
as that in which the tidal current is moving at the time. The
difference of level of the tide at high and low water, the velocity
of the tidal current, the distance inland to which the periods of
ebb and flow extend, and the further distance to which the effect of
the tide is felt by backing up the land water, vary very much. It
must always be remembered that the tide is greatly affected both as
regards the time of high and low water and the height to which it
rises or falls by the wind. For instance, a wind blowing with a
flood tide will cause it to be earlier and to rise higher, whilst a
contrary wind will produce the opposite effect. In rivers also the
amount of land water coming down the river considerably affects the
time and height of the tide at any given place.
The greatest tidal range in the British Isles, and apparently also
in the world, is found at Chepstow, on the River Wye. Here the
average range of a spring tide is 38ft. and of the maximum recorded
tide 53ft. It used to be commonly held that the tide in the Bay of
Fundy exceeded that of the Bristol Channel, but it appears recently
to have been proved to the contrary. The Bristol Channel tide can
also apparently claim to have the greatest velocity of flow of any
in England. The tide flowing past Sharpness Point on the Severn, the
entrance to the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal, attains at times
a velocity of seven knots.
With regard to the distance inland to which the influence of the
tide reaches, it may be mentioned that on the Thames high spring
tides sometimes flow to Kingston Bridge, a distance of 68 miles from
the Nore. The River Ouse (York) is tidal up to Naburn Locks, 5¾
miles below York and 55 miles from Hull, and on the River Ouse
(Great) spring tides affect the level of the water as far as Brown’s
Hill Staunch (now a lock) above Earith, and about 42 miles from the
When the tide flowing up a river to a weir rises to the same height
as the reach of water above the weir the tide is said to “make a
level.” Where the tide, owing to its rising considerably above the
normal level of the inland waterways, has to be shut out by sea
doors, as in the Fen Country, two levels are made at every tide —
the level of the flood tide, or as it is termed “the first level,”
and the level of the ebb tide or “the back level.” These levels are
of great assistance in passing trade, as so long as the level lasts
both top and bottom gates of the lock can be open at the same time,
thus affording an easy passage from one reach to the other.
The phenomenon of the first of the flood tide flowing up a river in
the form of a tidal wave, or as it is termed “Bore” or “Aegre,” is
met with in certain of the rivers at spring tides whose channels
suddenly contract from wide estuaries, thus causing the advancing
water to be heaped up. The term “bore” is applied to this wave when
it occurs in rivers of the West Coast of England, while “aegre” is
the term used in the case of the rivers of the East Coast. The bore
is seen in the Severn, the Parrett, and the Dee; and the aegre in
the Trent and the Welland. An Aegre used to occur in the Witham
below Boston, but the deepening of the channel has now removed the
cause of its origin. Various statements have from time to time
appeared as to the height of these tidal waves. In one case an aegre
on the Trent which sunk two narrow canal boats at Gainsborough in
1898 was credited with a height of from 8 to 10 feet, but it may
generally be accepted that the height of these waves in the case of
any of the rivers of England Ends its maximum at from three to four
An excellent short description of the phenomenon of the tides in
general will be found in Whitaker’s Almanac.
(9) — PRINCIPAL TYPES CF VESSELS USED IN INLAND
(a) Non-Sailing Vessels.
“Narrow” boats or “monkey” boats are by far the most numerous class
of vessel engaged in inland navigation. They are from 70ft. to 72ft.
long by from 6ft. 9in. to 7ft. 2in. beam, and draw from 8in. to llin.
of water when empty, loading afterwards about 1in to 1 ton.
The ordinary type of long-distance travelling narrow boat carries
from 25 to 30 tons, and is built with rounded bilges. The narrow
boats in use on the Severn and in a few other localities for
short-distance traffic are built with square bilges, and carry up to
40 tons. This latter class of boat requires more power to haul, as
it offers more resistance to the water, and also has the
disadvantage of not being able to “carry a top,” as the boatmen say,
that is, they become top heavy in loading sooner than a boat with
A modification of the narrow boat is found in Yorkshire, where there
is a type of short boat about 58ft. long by 7ft. beam, made for the
purpose of passing the short locks of the Huddersfield Broad Canal
and Calder and Hebble Navigation and the narrow locks of the
Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
Another small type of narrow boat is found on the Shropshire Union
Canal Section of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Co.’s
Canals, being made to pass the small locks between Wappenshall
Junction and Trench; these boats measure 70ft. long by 6ft. 2in.
wide, and draw, when empty, about 12½in., and when loaded with 17½
tons, about 2ft. 8½in.
Wide boats are boats of a size intermediate between the narrow boat
and the barge; they are from 70ft. to 7 2ft. long by from 10ft. to
11ft. beam, and draw, when empty, about 11in. or 12in., loading
afterwards about ¾in. per ton to a maximum of about 50 tons. This
type of boat is found chiefly on the Grand Junction Canal. The term
“boat” in Yorkshire is also applied to a class of vessel built on
the lines of a Yorkshire keel, but without masts and sails, and
which as a rule do not navigate tidal waters.
Barges comprise a large number of vessels of widely varying
dimensions, the largest of which, sailing barges of course excluded,
are probably the Thames barges such as navigate the Surrey Canal,
which admits of dimensions of 105ft. in length, 17ft. 9in. beam, and
4ft. 9in. draught.
The Regent’s Canal can pass barges 78ft. long by 14ft. 6in. beam
with a draught of 4ft. 6in.
In all the above measurements of length the rudder is included.
A barge such as would pass Cowley Lock on the Grand Junction Canal,
measuring 72ft. long without rudder and 14ft. 3in. beam, would draw
about 16in. when empty and carry 70 tons on a draught of 51in.
loading — therefore, about 2 tons to 1in.
Leeds and Liverpool Canal short boats, which are the maximum size
which can pass between Leeds and the bottom of the 21st lock at
Wigan, measure about 62ft. long by 14ft. 3in. beam, and draw when
empty about 1ft. 2in., and when loaded with the maximum load of 45
tons about 3ft. 9in.
Thames lighters, or as they are termed by the watermen and
lightermen “punts,” are swim-ended vessels, that is, they have flat
sloping ends; their dimensions average about the same as those of
the barges, but they do not travel far away from the river. Their
advantage is that they are less damageable than barges, most of them
having no helm; those fitted with helms are termed “rudder punts.”
Bridgewater Canal lighters are of the same size as the Mersey flats,
but are open vessels, and do not travel on the Mersey estuary. Their
maximum load is about 50 tons.
Mersey flats are from 68ft. to 70ft. in length by from 14ft. 3in. to
14ft. 9in. in beam. Their draught when empty is about 1ft.10in., and
they load afterwards about 2 tons to 1in. to a maximum load in open
water of about 80 tons.
Weaver flats are usually about 90ft. in length by 21ft. beam, and
draw up to 10ft 6in. of water with a load of about 250 tons, as when
not exceeding these dimensions four can lock together through the
locks on that river. Some of these flats are fitted up as steamers
and others are plain flats for towing by steamers; there are also
the No. 1 flats (sailing flats), which are now greatly reduced in
number owing to the increase of the steam traffic on the river.
Aire and Calder Navigation compartment boats, or “Tom Puddings,” are
oblong iron boxes towed on the Aire and Calder Navigation by steam
tugs in trains, the usual number of compartments in a train being
nineteen. Attached to the fore end of the first boat in the train is
a short wedge-shaped boat called the “Dummy Bows,” for the purpose
of cleaving the water, and which carries no cargo. The measurement
of these compartment boats is about 20ft. in length by 15ft. beam
and 8ft. deep; they carry 35 tons on a draught of 6ft. 6in.
Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation barges measure about 58ft. 6in.
long by 16ft. beam. Their maximum load is about 27 tons with a
draught of 2ft. 2in. There are only one or two of these barges
fitted with cabins, as the length of the navigation is only thirteen
Glamorganshire Canal, Brecon and Abergavenny Canal, and
Monmouthshire Canal boats measure about 60ft. long and about 8ft.
6in. beam, drawing when empty about 13in., and loading afterwards
about lin. to 1 ton. Their usual load is about 20 tons.
The majority of these boats are without cabins.
Neath Canal and Tennant Canal boats measure about 60ft. long by 9ft.
beam, and draw when empty about 9in., loading afterwards about 1in.
to 1 ton. Their average load is 20 tons and the maximum 24 tons.
None of these boats have cabins, all of them are double ended, the
rudder being transferred from one end to the other as required.
Swansea Canal Boats measure about 65ft. long by 7ft. 6in. beam, and
draw when empty about 12in. to 13in., loading afterwards about 1in.
to 1 ton up to 20 tons.
None of these boats have cabins, all of them are double ended, the
rudder being transferred from one end to the other as required.
Fen lighters are usually about 42ft. long by from 9ft. to 10ft. beam
at bottom to from 10ft to 11ft. beam at deck, and draw when empty
about 12in. They load a little more than 1in. to 1 ton, drawing
about 3ft. 6in. when loaded with 25 tons. Owing to the beam at
bottom being less than that at deck, the immersion is of course
greater per ton for the first portion of the cargo loaded than for
Fen lighters are only met with on the waterways of the Bedford Level
and tributaries; they invariably navigate in gangs of about five
lighters, the stern post of one lighter being tightly coupled to the
stem of the next by a “seizing chain.” All the lighters in a gang
except the first are fitted with poles projecting over the bows like
bowsprits, the second lighter is fitted with a longer pole than any
of the others, called a “steering pole,” by means of which a man or
men standing on the first lighter steer the whole gang unaided. Two
ropes called “fest ropes” one from each side of the lighter, and
passed round the fore end of the steering pole, are used to steady
the pole as required when steering. The third and remaining lighters
in a gang are fitted with shorter poles called “jambing poles,”
whose fore ends are attached to either side of the lighter in front
by ropes called “quarter bits.” All Fen lighters do not have cabins,
but it is usual for one lighter in each gang to be provided with a
cabin, and such lighter is termed a “house lighter.”
River Stour (Suffolk) lighters measure about 47ft. long by 10ft.
9in. beam, and draw when empty about 12in. and when loaded with 13
tons about 2ft. 5in. They closely resemble the Fen lighters, and
always work in gangs of two, the stern post of the fore lighter
being coupled to the stem of the after lighter by a “seizing chain,”
and the gang being steered from the fore lighter by a “steering
pole” fixed to the after lighter.
The locks on the River Stour can take in the two lighters at one
time, and as each lighter can carry about 13 tons the capacity of
the gang is about 26 tons. The after lighter contains the cabin, and
is termed a “house lighter,” as in the case of the Fen lighters.
Upper Trent boats are used for local traffic in the Newark,
Nottingham, etc., districts. These measure about 74ft. long by 14ft.
2in. beam, and draw when empty about 20in. forward and 14in. aft, or
an average draught of approximately 18in. When loaded with 32 tons
the average draught is 30in., and with 75 tons 53in.
These boats, as will be noticed from the above dimensions, carry a
good load on a small draught; they would be quite unsuitable for
carrying on the Lower Trent traffic, as this necessitates navigating
the Humber in order to reach Hull. Upper and Lower Trent traffic is
often transhipped at Newark, but Upper Trent boats in no case ever
go below Keadby.
Tyne wherries are the type of vessel in general use for conducting
the local traffic on that river. They vary in size from 30 to 100
tons, and are usually towed by steam tugs.
(b) Sailing Vessels.
Medway sailing barges are built in sizes ranging from 65 to 150
tons, the usual large size barge being about 120 tons. A 65-ton
barge such as would pass the locks in the London District of the
Grand Junction Canal would gauge the same as an ordinary barge with
the addition of about 4 tons extra in respect of the mast, spars,
sails, and gear.
Yorkshire keels measure about 57ft. 6in. to 58ft. long and from
about 14ft. 2in. to 14ft. 8in. beam, and draw when empty from about
2ft. to 2ft. 6in., loading afterwards between 5½in. and 6in. per 10
tons up to a maximum draught of about 6ft. to 6ft. 9in. with a load
of about 80 to 100 tons at this draught.
Yorkshire keels, like Fen lighters, are built of less beam at the
bottom than at the deck, and similarly the immersion is greater per
ton for the first portion of cargo loaded than for the last.
Severn trows measure about 70ft. long by 17ft. beam, and draw when
empty from between 3ft. to 4ft.; they carry about 120 tons on a
draught of from 8ft. 6in. to 9ft. 6in.
Standard Lower Trent boats measure 82ft. 6in. long by 14ft. 6in.
beam, and draw when empty about 15in. to 17in., loading afterwards
from about 8in. to 9in. per 20 tons up to a maximum of approximately
100 tons. These boats navigate between Hull and Nottingham when
loaded with 100 tons, no transhipping now being required at Newark.
No. 1 flats are vessels trading up the River Weaver from Liverpool
and district. Their numbers are now much reduced owing to the growth
of steam traffic on the river. For average dimensions, &c., see
Weaver flats ― (a) Non-Sailing Vessels.
Norfolk wherries vary in size from 12 to 83 tons. A 12-ton wherry
measures about 35ft. long by 9ft. beam, and would draw when empty
about 2ft. and when loaded with 12 tons about 3ft. 3in. A 20-ton
wherry is a size of which many are in use; they measure about 54ft.
to 56ft. long by 13ft. to 14ft. beam, and draw when empty about 2ft.
and when loaded with 20 tons about 4ft.
The largest wherry ever built is supposed to be the “Wonder” of
Norwich, which measures 65ft. long by 19ft. beam, and draws when
empty about 3ft. and when loaded with 83 tons nearly 7ft.
River Teign, Stover Canal, and Hackney Canal barges, which are
mostly engaged in taking china clay from the Newton Abbot district
to Teignmouth for shipment, measure about 56ft. long by 13ft. 6in.
beam, and carry 30 tons with a draught of about 3ft. forward and
3ft. 9in. aft.
THE IMPACT OF THE GRAND JUNCTION CANAL ON THE
DEVELOPMENT OF TRING.
Following Fabian Hiscock’s presentation to the Tring & District
Local History Society on the impact of the Grand Junction Canal on
the growth of West Hertfordshire (16 March 2016), we felt that we
ought to record our conclusions concerning the Canal’s impact on the
development of Tring. It was the authors’ original intention to
address this subject in detail, but due to a lack of documentary
evidence it proved impossible to deal with reliably (see
Foreword). Thus, the note that follows
derives mostly from conjecture and speculation.
When considering the impact that a new canal had on a community, it
is reasonable to assume that the improved transport communication
it offered was beneficial; the question, therefore, is to what
extent this was material to the development of the local economy.
Many newspaper reports of the time speak of the often dramatic fall
in the price of coal in the area served by a new canal. As
there was no coal mining carried out anywhere near Tring, meaning
that coal was a comparative luxury before the canal, this point
needs to be considered.
On 14th October, 1800, the tenancy of ‘a wharf’ at Tring (presumably
Gamnel Wharf) was auctioned for three years. The lease was
taken by James Tate, a coal merchant, for £15 per annum. [fn] This
is the earliest indication of cheap canal coal arriving in the town.
As the canal was not yet complete to the north it was probably sea
coal shipped through Brentford (the Regent’s Canal not then being
open to the London Docks), although it is possible that Warwickshire
coal was also available, it being conveyed over Blisworth Hill by
the horse railway that operated during the years in which the canal
tunnel was under construction.
The early coal trade (to which coke was added as town gasworks came
on stream after c.1820) would have attracted some commercial activity
at Gamnel Wharf, but more importantly it would have reduced the
costs of heat-dependant manufacturing being carried out in the
locality, such as brewing, brick and tile making, and iron work.
While cheap coal and coke reduced the costs of what industry already existed,
there is no evidence of new heat-dependant industries starting up at
Tring following the canal’s opening. Coal did, however, became
more affordable for domestic use ― even the Parish Overseers were
able to distribute it to those on Parish Relief. So existing
local industry together with the local coal and coke trade probably benefited from
these fuels’ fall in price, but there is no evidence
of the town growing significantly as a result.
The canal’s most tangible contribution to Tring’s growth was
Mead’s (now Heygates) Flour Mill at Gamnel Wharf, which can trace
its roots back to the canal’s early years. In 1810, William
Grover bought Gamnel Wharf from the Grand Junction Canal Company and
on it — probably before 1820 — he erected a windmill; flour milling
continues on the site to the present day. The Grover family’s
connection with Gamnel wharf ceased in 1843 when the business was
sold. According to a sale notice published in the Bucks
Herald there was by then an active canal trade:
“William Grover, in the town of Tring in
the County of Hertfordshire, having on the 28th day of January last
disposed of the business of wharfinger, coal and coke merchant and
mealman, and dealer in hay, straw, ashes, and other things, lately
carried on by him in partnership with Thomas Grover, at Tring Wharf,
and at Paddington in the County of Middlesex, under the firm of
‘WILLIAM GROVER & SON’ to his sons-in-law, William Mead and Richard
Mention of Paddington is important. It refers to the firm’s
wharf at Paddington Basin, which the new owners maintained for many
years together with a fleet of narrow boats, using the wharf to
import hay and straw into the horse-powered Metropolis and to export
horse manure to the countryside for fertiliser. When it became
available in the 1870s, the Tring Flour Mill also received cargoes
of cheap imported American/Canadian grain through Brentford for
milling, a canal trade that continued until after World War II when
narrow boats were replaced by road transport.
It is also likely that the canal was used to bring building
materials into the town - including road stone for the Turnpike and
other local roads - but only on an ‘as and when required’ basis
rather than as a regular activity. A case in point is the
construction of the Tring Silk Mill in 1824. Originally a very
large structure, it would have required bricks, structural timber
and ironwork in quantity, and also machinery, all probably delivered
to Gamnel Wharf. But overall this aspect of the local canal
trade was probably insignificant.
In addition to grain milling and the shipment of general
merchandise, a boat-building business (later named Bushell Brothers)
grew up at Gamnel Wharf out of the need to maintain the Mead
family’s fleet of narrow boats, a business that continued until the
early 1950s. Bushells later built commercial vehicle bodies at
their boatyard and undertook general painting, decorating and
carpentry work in and around the town, but the business was never a
A further new employer to the area was the Grand Junction Canal
Company itself. The Company employed lock-keepers and others
to operate the Bulbourne toll house and the Tringford Pumping
Station, as well as workers from various trades at the lock-gate
manufacturing works at Bulbourne.
Following the opening of the London & Birmingham Railway in 1838,
trade on the Grand Junction Canal fell into a slow terminal decline.
An example of this decline was coal for the Tring Gas Light & Coke
Company. When opened in 1850/51, the company minutes record
that for the first couple of years coal was brought in by canal
after which this fairly substantial trade switched to the railway,
which by then probably brought in most of the town’s coal for other
uses including that of the breweries and firing the Silk Mill’s
To conclude, the canal was probably a contributory factor in the
growth of the small communities at Gamnel, Bulbourne and Little
Tring, some inhabitants of which would have worked at the flour
mill, the boat-building business, the canal works and the pumping
station, but none of these businesses were extensive. Improved
transport communications would have had some beneficial impact on
local agriculture, but its extent is not evident. Thus, it
appears that the Grand Junction Canal had little impact on the
development of the town and its surrounding area, certainly nothing
to compare with the impact that the railway was later to have on
Tring’s growth as a commuter town, and the main roads were to have
on the growth of its trading estates.
Footnote: The Growth and Decline of the Grand Junction Canal
between 1793 and 1890, with Special Reference to the Hertfordshire
Section, by M. D. Hackman, 1969 [Hertfordshire Record Office]