Regent’s Canal 200 coming up

The Regent’s Canal celebrates its 200th birthday next year (or rather it doesn’t but people do.) The Grand Junction Canal Paddington Arm had opened in 1801, and in 1802 Thomas Homer proposed building a canal to link this with the River Thames at Limehouse. In 1811 John Nash who was building Regent’s Park became one of the directors of the new canal company, and he persuaded his friend the Prince Regent (who later became King George IV) to allow his name also to be used for the canal.

The Act of Parliament needed to build the canal was passed in 1812, but construction took some time, not least because Homer ran away with some of the money. He was caught and sentenced to seven years in Australia but for unknown reasons never sent there.

The canal was completed to Camden in 1816, and Islington tunnel in 1819 and the canal was finally opened on 1st August 1820, having cost by then twice the original estimate – some things never change.

Another of the problems had been a novel lift design by the inventor Sir Willliam Congreve which would have raised and lifted boats without the loss of water in a normal lock, using two sealed chambers to contain thee boats which were arranged to counterbalance each other.

Although the idea was sound, it needed better waterproof seals than were possible at the time, and modifications to Congreve’s designs made by the canal company increased the problems. The lock which had been constructed at Camden market apparently worked when first constructed but the canal company were unable to keep it operating, and it was eventually removed and replaced by a conventional design.

The lock house just west of Camden High Street was retained and is now a branch of Starbucks, equally unsuccesful in making good coffee, but excelling in avoiding paying tax.

I’ve been working for around 18 months taking photographs along the canal, which I first photographed around 1980, intending to show a small exhibition of them for the anniversary (and rather more online.)

I’d gone up to London to meet friends but they were unable to get there because of a trackside rail fire which put Waterloo out of action, and I took the opportunity to walk the section of the canal from St John’s Wood to Little Venice and then to go on down the Paddington Arm.

It wasn’t ideal weather for making these pictures and I might find time to go back and retake some of them under better conditions. There is rather a lot of vegetation in some too, and possibly some would be better in winter. Clearly some would benefit from cropping at the top (and possibly some at the bottom too) to give a more panoramic format.

St John’s Wood – Paddington Basin

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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