TQ3681 : The Regent’s Canal at Johnson’s Lock


Construction of a national canal network began in the late 18th century, but initially the canal from the Midlands ended at Paddington, and there was no link to eastern London until the Regent’s Canal was built. It was the brainchild of engineer Thomas Homer who, in 1812, presented a plan to the Grand Junction Company (which owned the canal from London to Birmingham) for the creation of a waterway from Limehouse to Paddington. To begin with the project progressed quickly, largely passing through what was then agricultural land, but it was soon hampered by financial problems. Stubborn and greedy landowners asked inflated prices for property along the preferred route, and, to make matters worse, Thomas Homer disappeared in 1815 taking the company’s funds with him. New legislation passed in 1817 enabled the work to be completed by 1820 using funds borrowed from the Treasury.

The canals were initially a success, particularly for transporting coal, building materials and other bulky loads, but the rise of the railways not long after the canals were built substantially reduced their importance. Now they are primarily a leisure facility. What was then the Central Electricity Generating Board laid cables under some of the towpaths in the 1970s and made them suitable for pedestrians again.

This is the Regent’s Canal at Johnson’s Lock alongside Mile End Park.