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Canal Architecture in Great Britain

The UK's canal system developed, and is still developing its own styles of architecture.

Canal Architecture - Staircase Locks at Stoke on Trent / Caldon Canal


Canal Architecture - Old Canal Warehouse, Workshop in Chester Basin - Shropshire Union Canal - Chester Canal SectionThe canals themselves have their own structures: the most common of which are bridges and locks, but other distinctive structures include lock keeper's cottages, wharves, basins, dry and wet docks, warehouses, aqueducts, lifts and even the remains of inclined planes.


Canal Architecture - Disused Lime Kiln on the Welford Arm of the Grand Union Canal (GUC Leicester Branch) The canal companies had other operational buildings like toll houses, offices, stables as well as the warehouses, workshops and wharves. And of course the canals attracted manufacturing industry and agricultural merchants to their environs. Along the canals you will still see the remains of canal related buildings, quarries and mines, lime kilns, coke ovens and brick works.

There are two main types of canals, those that follow the contours of the land typical of James Brindley (1716 – 1772) one of the most notable English engineer of the 18th century - 'The Father of English Canal Building' and his followers and those that employ great civil engineering feats of cuttings, tunnels, aqueducts and embankments like Thomas Telford FRS, FRSE (1757 - 1834) civil engineer, architect and stonemason, and a noted road, bridge and canal builder and his exponents, both types were of course be hybridised at at the convenience of the canal builder.


Canal Architecture - The saucer shape is appatent here on the Caldon Canal after a breach in 2009 If you were to look at an empty canal in cross section then you would probably see that the canal is generally saucer-shaped with a bank at either side. The side on the down slope of the contour line is usually thicker or wider and accommodates the towpath, thereby making the canal stronger. The towpath is usually separated from the surrounding land by a hedge, fence or wall where no natural boundary was apparent.


Canal Architecture - Old Canal Wharf at Norbury JunctionCanals are usually managed in sections where the water level can be controlled by operational canal architecture: weirs, sluices, spillways with 'stop planks' available every now and then generally under bridges where the canal is at its narrowest. Planks are used to block off the canal when there is a breach.

Bollards are used to tie boats to or to slow boats down as they enter locks. Many of the older metal bollards show wear from the usage of ropes.




Canal Architecture included signs like this one on the Llangollen Canal

Sign Posts and Milestones are regular canal architecture features along the course of canals as are winding posts, mooring rings and other metalwork.

On many bends in the canal or near railway bridges you can find slopes built into the bank designed to allow horses to be recovered from the canal after falling in.

Canal Architecture - Barton Marina

Modern canal architecture includes marinas, old canal building conversions as well as new 'Urban Splash' apartments or offices.




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