Hanwell flight of locks and brick boundary wall, 370m WNW of The Fox Inn.
Reasons for Designation
Inland navigation using rivers originated in Britain in the prehistoric period and continues in use to the present day. From the Roman period, both canals (artificial waterways constructed primarily for navigation purposes) and river navigations (improvements to existing waterways to make navigation easier) were constructed, and medieval canals such as the navigable dykes dug by the monks in Holderness or the Exeter Canal are known. Although the advantages of canals and inland waterways for the inexpensive and safe means of transporting heavy, bulky or fragile goods had long been recognised elsewhere in Europe, it was not until 1759 that the principal age of canal building began in England, with the construction of the Bridgewater Canal from Worsley to Manchester.
Constructed by James Brindley and opened in 1761, it carried coal the seven miles to Manchester from the Duke of Bridgewater's mines at Worsley at less than half the cost of the traditional packhorse method. Over the next 70 years canals played an important part in the growth of industry and the expansion of trade in many parts of the country, in particular in the cotton, woollen, mining and engineering industries of Lancashire and West Yorkshire, in the Staffordshire pottery industry with its new water connection to the River Mersey and the port of Liverpool, and in the huge industrial expansion of Birmingham which, as the hub of the inland waterways system, rose to become England's second most prosperous city. Canals also facilitated the relatively rapid movement of bulk agricultural produce from the countryside to the rapidly expanding industrial towns of the north and midlands.
Canal construction brought with it the requirement for a whole range of associated structures. Many of these, such as bridges, canal workers' houses, warehouses, wet docks, dry docks, locks and water management systems involved the modification and development of the existing designs of such structures to meet the new requirements of the Canal Age, which also introduced the need for major technological innovation in, amongst other things, the construction of tunnels and aqueducts, and the development of inclined planes and boat lifts.
The great age of canals lasted until about the 1840s, when their utility was eroded by the huge expansion of railways with their quick and cheap transportation of people and goods. During their relatively brief period of use, however, canals became the most important method of industrial transportation, making a major contribution to England's Industrial Revolution. Surviving remains of the early industrial waterways transport network are particularly important both by virtue of their rarity and representivity.
Despite later repairs and alteration, the Hanwell flight of locks and brick boundary wall, 370m WNW of The Fox Inn, survive well with a considerable amount of original fabric. It is an impressive and well engineered stretch of canal, which became one of the most important 19th century navigations. The brick boundary wall beside the tow path is a significant part of the setting and visual integrity of this length of canal.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 24 March 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument, which falls into seven separate areas of protection, includes a flight of six locks on the Grand Union Canal and the brick boundary wall of the Ealing Hospital. It is situated on a gentle east facing slope just above where the canal converges with the River Brent, south of the Ealing Hospital.
This flight of broad beam canal locks is numbered 92 to 97. All the locks have side ponds on the south side, although that of the top lock (92) is an underground chamber with brick arches. They are constructed of red brick with masonry copingstones and blue brick details, repaired in places with concrete and modern blue brick. The lock gates are in timber and iron with concrete and steel banded balance beams. They have circular hydraulic steel gear. All the locks have modern lock numbers on their lower, southern tail wall. All the beam ends, lock edges, hand rails and steps were historically painted white, as a safety measure to aid night navigation for working boatmen.
North of the canal is a 19th century boundary wall, which separates the towpath from the Ealing Hospital, formerly St Bernard’s Hospital. It is built of stock brick and probably dates from the construction of the hospital buildings in the 1830s. It takes a curvilinear course for about 744m from the second lowest lock to Windmill Bridge. The wall gradually increases in height from 2m to 3m; then, at the rear of the hospital buildings, to 8m. The height then decreases towards Windmill Bridge. The highest stretch of wall is supported by projecting triangular wall piers with quoins of industrial blue brick and stepped brick coping. Below the coping are decorated iron grills. The wall has been repaired in places using modern brick and cement. It serves to enhance the historic setting of this length of the canal, being as it is of 19th century date and construction.
This length of canal originally formed part of the Grand Junction Canal between Brentford and Braunston in Oxfordshire. It was authorised in 1793 and completed in 1805. The chief engineer was William Jessop and the resident engineer was James Barnes. In 1894, the Grand Junction Company absorbed the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Company and the Grand Union Company. In 1929, it absorbed the three canals between Braunston and Birmingham, and the Regents Canal, and formed a new company, The Grand Union Canal Company. The route was partly modernised between London and Birmingham in the 1930's.
Windmill Bridge, to the west, is subject to a separate scheduling.