- Swansea Canal
The Swansea Canal was a
canalconstructed by the Swansea Canal Navigation Company between 1794 and 1798, measuring some 16 miles long and running from Swanseato Hen Neuadd, Abercrafin South Wales.
The canal was constructed to transport
coalfrom the upper Swansea Valleyto Swansea docksfor export, or for use in the early metallurgical industries in the lower Swansea Valley. The period 1830-1840 saw the development of towns around the canal: Abercraf, Clydach, Penwyllt, Pontardawe, Ynysmeudwy, Ystalyferaand Ystradgynlaiscame into being as early industries developed at those locations.
Fforest Fawr(English - Great Forestof Brecon) was enclosed or divided up into fields, and large parts of it became the property of John Christie, a Londonbusinessman. Christie had already developed a limestone quarryat Penwyllt, and decided to develop lime kilns there as well. In 1820 he moved to Brecon, and developed the Brecon Forest Tramroad. This network consisted eventually of over 100 miles of tracks connecting the farms of Sennybridgeand the Fforest Fawr (where Christie wanted to improve the land through application of lime), with the charcoalburning centres and coal extraction below Fforest Fawr, with the lime kilns at Penwylltand ironworksat Ystradgynlais, and the Swansea Canaldock for other industries down stream. Unfortunately, before he could complete the system, he went bankrupt[ [http://history.powys.org.uk/school1/ystradgynlais/gtforest.shtml Victorian Ystradgynlais - The Brecon Forest Tramroad ] ] .
There were originally 36 locks on the
canalto raise it from sea levelat Swansea to 375 feet at Abercraf, and aqueducts at Clydach, Pontardawe, Ynysmeudwy, Ystalyfera, and Cwmgieddto carry the canal across major rivers.
The boats were 65 feet long, 7 feet 6 inches wide and carried 22
tons of cargo when fully laden. The last narrowboatbuilt on this canal was 'Grace Darling' in 1918 at the Godre'r Graig boat yard.
The canal company sold the canal to the
Great Western RailwayCompany in 1872. The tonnage of coal carried on the canal was very high, with 400,000 tons transported down the canal to Swansea in 1888 alone. The canal remained profitableuntil 1902, when losses were first reported. This decline in revenue and profits was largely due to the competition from its railwayrival - the Neath and Brecon Railway. The last commercial cargo carried on the Swansea Canal was in 1931, when coal was conveyed from Clydachto Swansea. Boats continued to operate on the canal after that date but only for maintenance work, with horse-drawn boats last recorded at Clydachin 1958.
The Swansea Canal was nationalised in 1947 and became part of the
British Transport Commission. 1962 saw control of the canal passed to British Waterways, who remain responsible for the maintenance of the waterway and its structures to this day.
In-filling of much of the canal has taken place in the past 50 years, particularly the northern section to create a new road around
Ystradgynlais. Just five miles of the canal remains in water, from Clydachto Pontardawewhere it is now a popular trail and is part of the route 43 of the National Cycle Network.
The canal empties from a
viaductinto the River Clydachat the point where it joins the River Tawe. A project is underway to dredge the canal and to remove the Japanese knotweedthat grows extensively around the Swansea Valley. The canal is an important habitat for water birds who mainly feed on the eels that live there. Local youngsters from Clydachoften set up fishing off the banks of the canal to catch the eels.
* [http://www.britishwaterways.co.uk British Waterways]
* [http://www.SwanseaCanalSociety.com Swansea Canal Society registered charity]
* [http://www.waterscape.com Waterscape.com]
* [http://swansea-waterlinks.com/ Swansea Community Boat]
* [http://www.geograph.org.uk/search.php?i=2832332 www.geograph.co.uk : photos of the Swansea Canal]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/southwest/sites/local_history/pages/swansea_canal.shtml BBC Wales feature on the canal]
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