The Cefn Wharf Lock, No 21, at the very top of the Cefn Flight of Fourteen Locks is to be fitted with new lock gates, following Newport City Council’s successful bid for Shared Prosperity Fund grants. Work has recently begun to remove the existing gates (see photo above), so they can be accurately measured to ensure the new gates fit perfectly. A complicating factor is that every lock on the canal has slightly different dimensions.
This lock was restored in 2003 in a joint initiative by Newport City Council, British Waterways, local contractors Noel Fitzpatrick, and volunteers from Inland Waterways Association Waterways Recovery Group (WRG) and MBACT. The lock chamber had previously been filled in with rubble and the lock walls substantially patched with modern brickwork. We believe this happened in the 1970s, as part of a Work Experience Programme.
Restoration in 2002 saw the fill removed and modern brickwork patching replaced with traditional stone walling. New traditional oak gates were made and fitted by MBACT volunteers. The existing footbridge and pipe crossing the canal on the western side of Cwm Lane Bridge also needed to be raised to allow boat access.
This lock was originally restored in order that boat trips could be undertaken from the Fourteen Locks top pound up to the Ruskin Avenue road crossing, where a small winding-hole, or turning point was created.
Traditional lock gates are made of oak. They generally last around 15 – 20 years before needing replacement. This time frame can reduce substantially if the gates are not well used and maintained. It’s remarkable that these gates have remained in position for 20 years having had very little use.
Newport City Council has decided to use MBACT’s design of composite lock gate. This innovative design has been successfully deployed at the Ty Coch flight in Torfaen. The gates are made of thickly galvanised steel box sections, with some relatively minor oak components. This design has a number of unique advantages over a traditional gate. It lasts much longer, perhaps 100+ years rather than 20, is much easier to install as it’s sectional and does not require a large crane, and looks appropriate as they have the appearance of a traditional timber gate.