|Rotherhithe before the Grand Surrey Canal in 1799|
The church of St Mary's Rotherhithe is marked in red.
The above is the Richard Horwood map of 1799 and shows the natural water courses before the establishment of the Grand Surrey Canal. St Mary's Rotherhithe church is marked in the red box to help readers get their bearings (it still stands today).
|Grand Surrey Canal in 1811|
from Stuart Rankin's
A Short History of the Surrey Commercial Docks)
|As excellent schematic|
of the canal and its
The Grand Surrey Canal Company appointed Ralph Dodd as its engineer. and the canal's design and implementation was his inspiration. Ralph Dodd, was something of an unpredictable character, involved in numerous engineering projects some of which either failed or which he abandoned. In his 1999 booklet Stuart Rankin describes him as "a plausible visionary, with a tenuous grasp on reality." In 1795 Dodd published an Account of the principal Canals in the known World, with reflections on the great utility of Canals. In 1794 he invented a canal cutting machine which was trialled on the Grand Junction Canal at Dawley but was not adopted long-term. In 1801 he was appointed engineer to the Rotherhithe South Dock but fell out of favour with the Eastern Dock Company who owned it, and he was paid off and dismissed. Dodd was also involved in the first attempt to build the world’s first under river tunnel from Rotherhithe. This attempt failed and it was Marc Brunel who eventually succeeded, working a short distance away from the remains of the failed first attempt. However, in spite of this succession of dubious projects he oversaw the successful implementation of the canal, which opened in 1807 and reached to the Old Kent Road before being extended later to Camberwell and Peckham.
|The entrance lock in 1826. By George Yates.|
The works for the canal started in 1802. The canal, the first lock and the original entrance basin were supposed to have been built simultaneously but the company ran into financial difficulties so it was not until 1804 that the two-pronged basin was added. The locks, basins and canal are shown on both the 1811 and 1843 maps (see images above and below) with the basins surrounding an artificial island, one intended to act as a a dock and the other to mainly handle through-traffic. Collectively they were named the Grand Surrey Basin, and in the 1850s were renamed Stave Dock (the upper basin) and Island Dock (the lower one).
The main role of the entrance lock and the basin were to provide access for barges that wished to get into the Grand Surrey Canal from the Thames or to offload cargo onto barges and narrowboats. The lock was located just to the east of where the modern Old Salt Quay public house is located today (the west entrance lock, which survives as an entrance to Surrey Water was built later). An inlet just downriver of that location is all that remains both of the lock entrance and the complex set of dry docks and wharves that clustered around this site. The canal could handle vessels of up to 18ft width.
|1843, showing the expansion of the|
canal along its flanks
|The route of the canal by 1868, showing|
Surrey Basin and both old and new locks.
In 1855, to reflect its increasing investment in the creation of docks, the company's name was changed to the Grand Surrey Docks and Canal Company. The company immediately set about making substantial changes in order to accommodate the larger and deeper vessels that were being built and purchased land from the Lord of the Rotherhithe Manor, Sir William Maynard Gomm with a view to seriously extending their operations. An extended lock was built upriver and the old one was eventually filled in, certainly by 1888. The new lock, the Surrey Lock, opened into a new basin, the Surrey Basin (now known as Surrey Water). The basin was filled in when the docks were closed but re-excavated by the London Docklands Development Corporation to provide a focal point for new housing projects.
|New hydraulic lock gates. 1870s|
In the 1870s hydraulic lock gates were added to the Surrey Lock, one of a number of improvements that were being made throughout the system.
|Hydraulic gear for the lock connecting the Grand|
Surrey Canal, which ran through Russia Dock,
to the newly enlarged Greenland Dock.
|The Surrey Canal Office|
|1902 canal office|
On this blog: The remains of the canal's Rotherhithe leg
- Evelyn Street to Surrey Canal Road
- Surrey Canal Junctions
- Surrey Canal Wharves
- Burgess Park - Canal Terminal
- The Peckham Branch
Apparently there were plans afoot some years ago to mark out the route officially, but this has never been done.
|Aeriel view from the 1930s showing the Surrey Basin|
on the left and Island and Stave Docks.
From the PortCities website.