Grand Union Junction Canal - History & Pub history

The history of the Grand Union Junction Canal.

A brief history :

The Paddington Canal communicates with the Grand Junction Canal, at Bull's Bridge, in the precinct of Norwood; and was made in the year 1801. This latter canal was cut under an Act obtained in the year 1793, and begins at Braunston, in Northamptonshire, where it joins the Oxford Canal, and ends at the Thames, near Brentford. By this inland navigation, London is connected with all the different canals which have been made in the midland and north-western parts of England; and thus a cheap and easy conveyance is afforded to the great commercial port of Liverpool, the manufacturing towns of Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester; the salt mines of Cheshire, the Potteries, the Coals, and the Iron of Staffordshire, Shropshire, and Worcestershire.

The length of the Grand Junction Canal is ninety-three miles, and with its six collateral branches, to Paddington, Wendover, Aylesbury, Old Stratford, Buckingham, and Northampton, it possesses a navigation of one hundred and thirty-five miles. The main line of the canal was completed in March, 1805, when the Blisworth tunnel was opened. The magnitude of this required on the main line, the erection of more than two hundred bridges, the construction of one hundred and ten locks, of eighty-four feet in length, of an average of seven feet, each of which requires nine thousand feet, or two hundred and fifty tons of water; the forming of two tunnels, one at Blisworth, and the other at Braunston, the former of three thousand and eighty yards in length, fifteen feet wide, and nineteen feet high; and the latter, two thousand and forty-five yards in length, and of the same dimensions as the former. The great range of chalk hills, near Tring, is passed by a deep cutting three miles in length, and the greatest depth thirty feet. In several other parts of the canal there are deep cuttings of considerable magnitude. The canal is carried over the valley of the river Ouse, between Wolverton and Cosgrove, by an embankment forty feet in height, and an iron aqueduct. There are also embankments of almost equal magnitude at Weedon, and at Bugbrook, besides numerous lesser embankments and aqueducts in different places. There are eight large reservoirs, one in Middlesex, five in Hertfordshire, and two in Northamptonshire; from these, and other resources, the canal is at all times supplied with water. 

Articles of commerce conveyed along the line in the year 1812, amounted to 527,767 tons, and the tolls were £141,000. The trade has since received a very considerable addition from other lines of communication, one of which is called the Grand Union Canal, which cost £300,000. and were completed in 1814. This canal joins the Grand Junction Canal near Long Backley in Northamptonshire and the old Union Canal near Market Harborough, and forms a distinct inland navigation, from London to the north-eastern parts of the kingdom. In the year 1812, an Act was obtained for making the Regent's Canal, of the length of nine miles from the canal at Paddington, to the Docks at Limehouse; by this extension, which was completed in 1820. The weight of goods which passed along the Grand Junction Canal, in 1835, was 192,859 tons, and there passed in that year, 631,815 tons, to the numerous wharfs along that canal.

Historically, and in brevity, this sounds great. But which towns, and in particular the Pubs are along the canal / canals? There does not appear to be a decent guide of all of the towns which span this canal, although there is a rather excellent guide to the locks. The Grand Union Canal runs for 93 miles and 5¼ furlongs through 102 locks from Braunston Turn to the Thames.

From working through a number of 19th century census it was apparent that there are lock keepers in various towns in Buckinghamshire, but this is too slow for me to research each town. I am particularly interested in Bierton, Buckinghamshire, in the first instance. I will attempt to list a few lock keepers and associated staff along the way, plus obviously the historical pubs! What other reason would you travel the country slowly on a barge, apart from a major pub crawl (The M1 motorway is now much quicker). As we wander though time, you can see the effects of the railway overtaking the canal routes.

To start along the Grand junction Canal, here are the historical pubs in Braunston, Northamptonshire at the beginning (and top) of the Grand Junction Canal. And in 1891, Samuel Mills and William Mills are two of the lock keepers, both local men and in their forties.

 After a couple of miles, we arrive at Welton.

At 6 miles , we are at Long Buckby and Buckby Wharf. Here there are a number of toll keepers listed in the census. In 1851 and 1861, we have George Viney who is the Toll Clerk of the Grand Junction Canal, and in 1851 only there is John George Cherry, another listed Canal Toll Clerk. We also have Thomas Tomalin and Thomas Amos, who are both Canal Lock Keepers in the Buckby Wharf in 1851.

At 13 miles we are at Bugbrooke.

By 16 miles, we are at Gayton.

Next, at about 17 miles, we will be passing through Blisworth. At Blisworth, in 1861, Joseph Billingham is the Toll Collector for the Grand Junction Canal. In 1871, we have Jessie Cherry as the Grand Junction Canal Manager. By 1881, we have Edward White Viney, who is the Assistant Toll Collector for the canal.

Along the canal with the next set of locks is at Stoke Bruerne, and the hamlet of Shutlanger, at about 21 miles. Stoke Bruerne has a number of locks, and a considerable number of lock keepers in the earlier years. In 1851, we have William Child, Thomas Dimsey, Nathaniel Carter and Joseph Dyke as lock keepers here. By 1861, we have Thomas Frost, Daniel Dempsey, Benjamin West and Joseph Dike. By 1871, the numbers of lock keepers seem to be diminishing, and we have just Benjamin West and Joseph Dyke. In 1881, I can only find Joseph Dyke listed as a lock keeper. In 1891, this is only Daniel Atterbury.

But, in 1901, there are now a number of lock keepers again serving this area of canal at Stoke Bruerne. i.e. Henry Allen, Richard Dyke and George Inns.

I am now jumping a number of miles south along the canal to Cosgrove, where the next set of locks appear to be. We have now travelled about 27 miles from the start of the canal, moving southwards.

We are now in Buckinghamshire, at Wolverton, at about 29 miles along the canal. And also here is Bradwell (old and new), including Stantonbury.

Great Linford at 31 miles is next along the canal, then Little Woolstone at about 35 miles.

Along the canala we pass through Fenny Stratford (now all listed under Bletchley)


Big jump to Ivinghoe, at 51 miles - Ivinghoe, and Horton. Then we pass Pitstone, and a couple of miles further at about 53 miles, is Marsworth with its junction with the 'Aylesbury Arm'. There are a number of locks here, as there are many lock keepers through time.

I list the Marsworth lock keepers in order, to clarify roughly which locks they operated. This detail is from the census of this period.

In 1851, in Marsworth, is William Jeffery (born Kingston, Surrey in 1811), then William Filkin (born 1786 in Tring, Hertfordshire), then the Queens Head. Next is John Barber (born 1782 in Chesham), then Norman Norman (born 1798 in Aylesbury); and finally the Red Lion.

In 1861, in Marsworth, is Samuel Anderton, Toll Collector (born in Paddington in 1811), then the lock keepers are -  Francis Filkin (born 1806, in Tring, Hertfordshire) and William Perkins (born 1817 in Marsworth); next is the Queens Head, followed by more locks. We have Joseph Newens (born 1817 in Betlow, Hertfordshire), then Charles Readhead (born 1811 in Bramston, Northamptonshire); followed by the White Lion, an unnamed beer house, and followed by George Norman (born 1823 in Marsworth); and finally the Red Lion.

In 1871, in Marsworth, we have Samuel Anderton, Toll Collector (born in Paddington in 1811), then lock keepers are Francis Cockett (born 1812 in Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire), then William Perkins (born in 1825 at Marsworth). Next is the White Lion, the Queens Head and the Ship, followed by George Norman (born 1823 in Marsworth); and finally the Duke of Wellington and the Red Lion.

In 1881, in Marsworth, we have Peter Corkett, a Night time Toll clerk (born 1845 in Cheddington, Buckinghamshire), and again Samuel Anderton, Toll Collector (born in Paddington in 1811). The lock keepers are then as usual, Robert Rowland (born 1835 in Marsworth), William Perkins (born in 1825 at Marsworth). We then have four pubs, i.e. the Queens Head, White Lion, Red Lion and Duke of Wellington, finished off with a lock keeper - George Norman (born 1823 in Marsworth).

In 1891, in Marsworth, we have William Cockerill (born 1823 in Milton, Northamptonshire); followed by the Ship,  Red Lion, White Lion and Queens Head. The Stanhope End Lock House is named with William Perkins (born in 1825 at Marsworth), then Thomas Saunders (born 1853 in Marsworth), and Peter Corkett is the Night Lock Keeper. Finished off with a beer at the Duke of Wellington.

Finally, in 1901, we have Peter Smith, lock keeper (born in 1867 at Marsworth), followed by Ship and the Red Lion. Another lock keeper, Henry Twigg (born in 1862 at Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire), followed by the White Lion, Queens Head and the Duke of Wellington.

[What is to come - well, this site covers Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire - and certainly London already, So the next parts of the Grand Junction canal route and its link to the local pubs network should speed up]

As the canal wends its way south, we cross the Buckinghamshire border into Hertfordshire......

At about 55 miles, we find Bulbourne, and Tring.  At Akerman Street in 1851, we have James Marcham (born about 1811 in Tring), and  Francis Pipkin (born about 1808, Tring) as the lock keeper and night lock keeper. In 1861 and 1871, we have William Stratford (born about 1821, in Marsworth) at Long Marston.

Several miles further south, we then touch upon the Dudswell & Northchurch Locks. Modern Northchurch also appears to be spread amongst Bovingdon, Great berkhampstead . The Bourne End part of Nortchurch is attributed to Bovingdon. By 64 miles, we are heading though Winkwell, and modern Hemel Hempstead.

At Dudswell in 1851, we have James Dunn (born about 1798 in Berkhamstead). Then in 1861, we have Charles Talbot as the lock keeper (born about 1825 in Northchurch). By 1871, we have a Richard Eacrey (looks like, and born in Coventry about 1817). By 1871, we also have an Edward Hadlam (born about 1810 in Warmington) at the Canal House, near to Bourne End.

At the Cowroast Lock in 1851, we have George Riddley (born about 1810 in Middlesex). In 1861, we then have Thomas Andrews (born about 1814 in Crick, Northampton) as the lock keeper - he is also still here in 1871.

As we proceed further south, we hit the area, listed in modern day, as Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire. This is yet another area which is confusing. There are locks at Bourne End (now in Hemel Hempstead, but in 1915 to about 1935 in Bovingdon); then at Winkwell, and Boxmoor, Two Waters, Apsley, Nash Mill etc. To add an additional complexity, I split the pubs in Two Waters and list these under Leverstock Green. That sort of describes the area as I understand the history, enjoy.

It looks like Kings Langley is nearly upon us, at about 68 miles, which includes the areas named as Nash Mills, Two waters, and the Waterside - we also have Chipperfield which is often listed with Kings Langley. Then as we pass Hunton Bridge, we are in Sarratt.

Then we are heading for Watford. In 1871, we have two lock keepers where the canal passes west of Watford at Cashiobury. They are Edward Edwards (born about 1820 in Tring, Hertfordshire); and also Charles Norman (born about 1830 in Marsworth, Buckinghamshire).

About a mile further on, we are now passing Croxley Green on the other bank of the canal. Croxley Green is listed as part of Rickmansworth, which iscoming up next along the canal (I think). Lots more work to do on both.

In 1841, we have James Brown (born about 1781 in Hertfordshire), at the lock near to the White Bear. In 1851, at Batchworth, we have Alfred Morris, the Lock house keeper (born about 1823 in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire). Whilst in 1851, at the Common Moor Lock we have Isaac Beasely (born about 1811 in Purton, Wiltshire); and also John Treadwell (born about 1799 in Thame, Oxfordshire). By 1871, at Lot Mead Lock House, we have Isaac Beasley at the Lock House (born about 1814 in Purton, Wiltshire). In Batchworth, near to the bear Inn, we also have Alfred Anderson (born about 1833 in Deptford, Kent).

I have now finally moved into Middlesex, and Harefield. There is Jacks Lock, at 78 miles, and also Harefield Marina at 79 miles. This area is on the borders of the counties.

Next along the canal in Buckinghamshire.  At Denham, which is now a quiet place with three pubs; it used to be very important in the road and canal network, with a huge number of Inns and taverns (at least twelve). The lock keepers at Denham were :

In 1851, Thomas Collet (born about 1764 in Berkshire); In 1861, a samuel Barford (born about 1793 in Blisworth, Northampton);  in 1871, we have James Kirby (borna bout 1803 in  Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire). In 1881, we no longer have a lock keeper, but an labourer at the lock house, i.e. Levi Tomkins (born about 1830 in Iver, Buckinghamshire), abd again in 1891 although he is now born in Tring, Hertfordshire in about 1820. By 1901, John James is at the lock house (born about 1852 at Little Tring, Hertfordshire).

Next along the canal is Uxbridge, this may take a week or two to update. The area includes Hillingdon, Cowley and West Drayton (Yiewsley).

I have moved down the canal a little more to the Hayes area. I also include Southall, North Hyde and Norwood in this index. I have added a host of new (old) pubs to the pages, although there is considerablte detail to add as yet. Hanwell appears to be next, and then Brentford ...


As usual, there is lots more to follow - I just need to fill in all of the gaps ...

And Last updated on: Tuesday, 05-Mar-2024 11:57:15 GMT