Sand Boats

Famous Fleets: NarrowBoat, Summer 2017

Alan Faulkner

Christopher M Jones

Sand was an important traffic on the Grand Junction Canal, particularly from the quarries around Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire. Alan Faulkner and Chris M. Jones look at the carriers that once transported this cargo, often into central London where it was in great demand in the construction industry.

Although sand formed a cargo for many carriers at one time or another, this article focuses on the Grand Junction Canal-based companies that transported it as a main cargo. As we will see, sand formed a significant traffic that continued, in much reduced form, until the latter decades of the working waterways.Leighton Buzzard For many years, the Bedfordshire town of Leighton Buzzard was a site of major sand quarrying and transportation. The sand here is a special type, known as silica sand, which has a wide variety of uses. The coarser grades are used in the construction industry for concrete and tiles, but the very fine white, or silver, sand is used in paints and pigments. Other grades find their way into horticulture, foundries, water filtration and glass manufacture. At Leighton Buzzard several of the sand pits were situated close to the canal, such as at Grovebury Farm, near to Grove Lock. There were also extensive pits south-east of Leighton Buzzard, on both sides of Billington…

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