Coming of the Canal
A meeting in Birmingham in April 1792 launched a company to be known as The Grand Junction Canal Company. At the beginning of September 1792 statutory notices were published for the canal to run from Braunston via Berkhampsted, Watford, Ruislip, Southall, Hanwell to the Thames at Brentford. The canal to be 42 ft. wide at top, bottom 28 ft., depth 4½ ft, with locks 15 ft. wide and 86 ft. long. The bill was passed in Parliament March 1793 and received the Royal Assent 30th April, 1793. William Praed, Chairman (hence Praed Street); James Barnes, Chief Engineer — full time, 2½ gns. a day; William Jessop, Site Engineer.
Work started at both ends on May 18th, 1793. There were 370 men on the Pay Roll, this gradually increased to 800. They were paid from 2/- (10p) 3/6d (17½p) a day according to grade. They worked in deplorable conditions; most living rough; and food, etc. was brought on to the site from Brentford or Uxbridge. 90% of the digging was done manually and horses and wagons were hired at 18/- (90p) per day for a wagon and five horses. All lock gates were made by hand on site. The oak cost 1/8d (9p) per foot, elm 1/3d (6½p) per foot. Blacksmiths were employed. Local stock bricks were used wherever possible. The hard, blue bricks coming from Staffordshire.
The canal opened from Brentford to Uxbridge Monday, November 3rd 1794, and the Paddington Branch from Bulls Bridge on 10th July, 1801. Most of the water came from the Colne and Ouse. Tonnage charges — half penny per ton per mile. All military material free.
Although in reality at the time the canal only skirted Southall Green boundary (almost all being in Norwood) several small branches were made. Hanwell Military Dept. Line, Southall or as it became known – Weedons Dock five and a quarter furlongs — all now filled in but the entrance still visible near Old Oak Bridge. Passmore Dock, four and seven eighths furlongs, stretched as far as the Recreation Grounds — an old barge was found buried there about seven years ago. Hamborough Dock, five and a quarter furlongs, and another which came alongside (Fedder Lane), now Havelock Road, came up to where Victoria Road is now. All the last three were made to get the stock bricks away.
Much later came the Maypole Dock, three and a half furlongs, built in 1912-13.
The tonnage at Top Locks was 1906 —355,458, boats 16,892; 1914 — 440,516 tons, boats 20,272; 1928, 391,006 tons, boats 16,819. Fellow-Morton-Clayton were the largest barge contractors.
In 1914 Rudolph Lane de Salis became Chairman of the Company. With the coming of the railway the traffic on the canals gradually became less and gradually more leisure craft began to appear. The Waterways were nationalised in 1952 and became British Waterways. A Leisure Boatyard has been established near the Three Bridges and another old barge company, Murrells, run barge excursions from Bulls Bridge, and the Ealing Borough is turning the Old Adelaide Road Dock into a Boating Leisure Centre.