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Through London

Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2020

Richard Dean

Richard Dean charts early attempts to build a canal across the capital

Canal proposals from the Uxbridge area or the Lee Valley to bring water and transport to London were looked at several times in the 18th century, but it was the opening of the Grand Junction Canal in 1801 that stimulated further action. The route from the Midlands joined the Thames at Brentford, with a branch from Southall to a basin at Paddington serving the west of the centre. Connecting Paddington to the expanding dock area with a canal would serve the city and avoid the winding and congested tidal river through London, but GJC was fully committed elsewhere and it was left to separate interests to further this scheme, with the leading promoter being Thomas Homer. The engineer John Rennie was commissioned to investigate. Rennie's proposals in 1802 for the 'London Canal' were typically bold. The waterway was to be 72ft wide and 7ft deep, with 11 broad double locks and double towing paths, including at all 32 bridges. The route eschewed the cheaper but rather longer option of using op…

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