The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and The History of the Canal

The Queen’s remarkable reign of sixty years is also quite remarkable when thinking about the history of the Canal. Queen Elizabeth II has ruled for over a quarter of the time of the Canal’s existence. In fact the timeline of the Canal has been dominated by two monarchs – both Queens. The Monmouthshire Canal  and The Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal both began their existence in the reign of George III.

The following timeline is not a comprehensive list of events, but it does give an idea of the history of the canal under different reigns.

George III  1760 – 1820

  • 1792 – Act of Parliament authorising the Monmouthshire Canal.
  • 1793 – Act of Parliament authorising the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal
  • 1798 – Fourteen Locks completed
  • 1812 – The Monmouthshire Canal and Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal are joined at Pontymoile.
Other notable events
  • 1790s – The French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars.
  • 1801 – Act of Union – Great Britain and Ireland were united into a single nation – The United Kingdom – George became the first King of the new nation.

George IV  1820 – 1830

1829 – A locomotive started work on the Sirhowy Tramroad.

William IV  1830 – 1837

1836 – A railway from Pontypool to Newport was proposed.

Other notable events
  • 1833 – Slavery abolished in the colonies.
  • 1834 – Poor Law Act – The Workhouse system is established.
  • 1836 – ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens is published.

Queen Victoria 1837 – 1901

  • 1843 – Discussion takes place in relation to changing all the Monmouthshire Canal Company’s tram roads to railways.
  • 1848 – The Monmouthshire Canal Canal becomes the Monmouthshire Railway and Canal Company. The slow decline of the canal begins.
  • 1865 – The Monmouthshire  Canal Company purchases the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal.
  • 1875 – The day to day running of the canal is transferred to the Great Western railway Company (GWR).
  • 1880 – The concern is purchased by the GWR and the two canals became known as the The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canals. By this time the canals carried little more than general goods.
Other notable events
  • 1842 – The first monarch to use a train.
  • 1851 – The Great Exhibition
  • 1872 – The Secret Ballot is introduced

Edward VII 1901 – 1910

The canals continue to decline.

George V  1910 – 1936

  • 1915 – The last regular boat traffic from Newport to Crumlin comes to an end.
  • 1935 – The last recorded toll at Fourteen Locks.
Other notable events
  • 1914 – 18 – The First World War
  • 1917 – The Royal Family change their name – The House of Windsor begins.

Edward VIII 1936

Ruled for 325 days

George VI 1936 – 1952

  • c.1940 – the last use of working boats on the Canal.
Other notable events
  • 1939 – 1945 – The Second World War
  • 1948 – The introduction of the National Health Service.

Queen Elizabeth II 1952 – Present Day

During the reign of Elizabeth II the future of the Mon & Brec from Brecon to Five Locks in Cwmbran has been safeguarded.

  • 1967 – The Newport Canal Preservation Society is established.
  • 1984 – The Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust is established.

Significant restoration work on the derelict sections of the Old Monmouthshire Canal has begun.

  • 2010 – Two pairs of Locks at the Cefn Flight of Fourteen Locks are restored as a result of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
  • 2012 – The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is an exceptional achievement, especially considering how life has changed over the period of her reign.

At the beginning of the 1950s the continued existence of the canals was in question. The belief and actions of very many people, especially canal volunteers has kept the canal alive during this time. This is also a remarkable achievement.

Featured image at the top of this post – View of the Queen’s rowbarge Gloriana proceeding up the Thames in 2012. Copyright Oast House Archive under a Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence.