Will King on the GU

Picturing the Past: NarrowBoat, Winter 2013

David Blagrove

David Blagrove looks through photographs of narrowboats taken in the late 1950s between London and Hemel Hempstead

These pictures from the Will King Collection date from the late 1950s or early 1960s and show scenes from the London end of the Grand Union Canal, including the Regent’s Canal. Will King set out to photograph every lock and bridge on the Grand Union system, a most laudable aim which has greatly benefited historians of later years. This particular sequence begins at Limehouse Basin, which was then called Regent’s Canal Dock, before moving west. At the time, Regent’s Canal Dock was still an important interchange point between sea-going/coastal shipping and canal boats. It had been greatly developed after 1929 by the Grand Union Canal Company which arranged for imported steel for the Midlands motor industry to come through this dock. Some export traffic also went this way, including scrap metal via Cohen’s Wharf (which outlasted most other traffic), cocoa waste from Birmingham, and steel tubes from the Black Country. During the 1930s the Grand Union Canal Co set u…

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