It is not often a section of a canal makes the news, but that was the case last week when a section of the Regent’s Canal was drained for repairs. The section between Johnson Lock and Limehouse Basin was drained to allow specialist brick-layers to repair damage in the canal wall.
The water from this section was released by opening Commercial Lock and slowly allowing the 7.5 million gallons of water to drain out. Hundreds of fish, including a massive 3ft-long carp weighing 25 pounds, were rescued and moved to safety.
Photo Canal & River Trust
It is easy to forget that the building of the canals were the ‘Crossrail’ of their day involving a massive amount of labour and expense. The Regent’s Canal was began in 1812 in Paddington and the last section finished at Regent’s Canal Dock in 1820. When completed it allowed cargo to be transferred directly onto and from sea-going ships.
Photo A G Linney (Museum of London) 1933
The pictures from A G Linney show this process in action, with schooners and other ships using lighters to transfer goods.
Photo A G Linney (Museum of London) 1927
It was estimated the tonnage carried on the canal rose from 8999 tons in 1931 to 168,638 tons in 1941. However by the 1960s there were very few commercial vessels and when the Regent’s Canal Dock was closed to shipping in 1969, it was the end of an era.
The work is part of the Canal & River Trust’s multi million pound maintenance programme and shows some of the work the Trust does in caring for 2,000 mile network of historic waterways. After the canal has been made safe, there is talk of some open days in which the general public may be allowed to see some of the work close up.
Looking at some of the debris found at the bottom it seems a haven for shopping trolleys and tyres for some reason. With all the major redevelopment around the area it seems a shame that this section of the canal is not used more, it is an important part of London’s industrial heritage and deserves to be more widely regarded.
If you would like to see what an empty canal looks like, the Works are already underway and the area will remain empty for ten weeks.