When London Became An Island

Part 2 - Document 1

Text of the Regents Canal prospectus. August 1811.

The great Distance of the Thames from the Northern Boundary of the Town has been always considered an Inconvenience from the Expense of Land Carriage, and the crowding the intermediate Streets with Carts and Waggons: as the Town has extended itself Northwards, those Inconveniences have been more severely felt, and so long ago as the year 1773 a Canal was contemplated along the back Part of the Metropolis, between its Northern Boundary and the High Grounds of Hampstead, Highgate and Islington.

The Paddington Branch of the Grand Junction Canal, executed about ten years since, formed a Communication with the River Thames at Brentford but the Distance from Paddington to Brentford being 20 miles, and from thence by the River Thames to the Shipping at Limehouse and the different Docks at Wapping, Blackwall etc. upon the Average 20 miles more, is so circuitous and the Passage through the different Bridges is so hazardous, that no Sort of Accommodation has been afforded by that Connection with the River Thames to the Neighbourhood through which the intended Canal is proposed to pass, and the Accommodation it has afforded to Paddington itself is very little.

In the Year 1802, a Canal from Paddington to the Limehouse Dock, at Wapping, was projected on a line through Ground, much of which was then allotted for building upon, and in the Course of which many and valuable Buildings then erected must have been necessarily taken down. A large subscription was then raised to carry the Scheme into Effect, but it was afterwards abandoned from the very heavy Expence likely to be incurred by it and by the great Opposition made by the Land Owners through which it was to pass.

That Line has now become impracticable altogether, by the quantity of buildings since erected, rendering every Prospect of Remuneration for its probable immense Expence futile. The most formidable Part of the Opposition shewn to the Measure in 1802, does not now exist, and a new line has been formed equally convenient to the former, and a comparatively small Expence, and affording the best Prospects of Advantages to the Public, and those who may become Subscribers. This line has been surveyed, examined, estimated and approved and the Plans annexed will shew its course and Connection with the principal Streets of the Town. It commences at the Grand Junction Canal and Paddington and passes under the Edgeware Road opposite Maida Hill, through Marylebone Park, crosses Tottenham-court Road at Camden Town, passes on the North Side of the Veterinary College, Pancrass Church, and the Smallpox Hospital, enters the Hill near White Conduit-house, and goes under Islington and New River beyond it, by a Tunnel in the shortest Way, then goes along the open Ground to the North of the Town of Hoxton, Bethnal Green, and continues on to Mile End, from thence to the North End of Stepney, crossing the Commercial Road, Queen Street and Narrow Street, and uniting with the Thames at the Bight, between the Limehouse and West India Docks.

The Canal will be level between Paddington and Camden Town, will have 4 locks between Camden town and White Conduit House, and 8 more Locks between Islington and the River Thames. The Length of the Tunnel under Pentonville and Islington will be 8 hundred and 80 Yards and the Tunnel under the Edgware Road One Hundred and Sixty Five Yards. There are only Five Inferior Houses to be taken down in the whole Course of the Canal and the Place where it enters the River, besides being conveniently situated between the West India and Limehouse Docks, is in the Reach where Colliers lie, and is exactly opposite the Entrance of the Grand Surrey Canal. It is proposed that the Dock or Basin shall be formed in the flat Ground between the Commercial Road and Queen Street and that Colliers and other Shipping may enter and unload, and the Barges and Boats of the Canal may enter the Thames and load or unload by the Side of the Shipping.

The Cost of making the Canal, Purchases of Land and buildings, erecting Steam Engines for supply of Water, Headways, Docks, Compensations, Damages and all other Expenses is estimated at 280,000.

The gross Revenues, to arise from the Undertaking, have been very moderately calculated at, per Annum 43,500. The annual Outgoings of every kind most amply taken at 12,000, of which Outgoings the greater Part is for the Supply of Lockage-Water by Steam Engines, thus leaving a nett Revenue of 31,500 per annum, which would yield an Interest of more than 11 per cent on a Capital of 280,000.

In forming the Estimates every Allowance has been made that the long Experience in Canal-making can suggest, and the Revenue has been calculated on Data which existed in 1802 and of course must be considerable increased.

The Advantage of such a Canal to the Public are incalculable, but amongst the most prominent is the supplying the whole of the North Side of the Metropolis, for an extent of 8 miles with Water Carriage. It will be another Thames at the Back of the Northern Parts of Town, affording the like Advantages of Commerce and Communication as the River Thames itself.  

It will, in a very great Degree, remove the Objection of Carts and Waggons in the Narrow Streets of the City and the East End of Town, and by extending the Line of the Canal from Paddington Eastwards, will clear the wider Streets at the West End of the Town of the Annoyance of Cartage of the Traffic between the City and Paddington conveyed by the Canal from, or to be conveyed by them to the North North East and North West Parts of the Kingdom, and will furnish Provisions, and every Necessary and Luxury of Life to the whole of that Side of the Metropolis and the adjacent Villages and Town at reduced Prices.     

The Individuals through whose Lands the Canal shall fortunately pass will have their Property materially increased in Value. New Inducements will be created for People to build on the vacant Grounds and to subscribers a Prospect will be opened of Advantages which no other Canal ever possessed, and of which they will be sensible when they reflect how the Grand Junction Canal has succeeded, though terminating only at the Corner of Town.

Considering but for a Moment the vast Trade carrying on, and the numerous Manufactories in the very populous Parts of London, upon the North of the River Thames, extending for several Miles, and even far North of the Line of the intended Canal, the Mind must be at once impressed with an Immensity of Traffic that must necessarily be carried upon it when executed, but cannot possibly contemplate the Magnitude of Extent of it.    

The Quantities wanted  - Of Stone, Bricks, Tiles, Slates, Timber, Lime, and all the other Materials for Building and Repairs – of Flag, Kirb and Paving Stones for the different Streets – Of Coals for the large Manufactories and for Family purposes – Of Grain, Flour, Vegetables, and all the Necessities and Luxuries of Life – Of all sorts of Manure from the Metropolis into Counties on the Line of the Grand Junction Canal, and bordering upon the River Thames – Of all general Merchandise and raw Materials from London to the North North Eastern and North Western Parts of the Kingdom and their Manufactories. Of the different Manufactures and Merchandize from these Parts, for the Consumption of London, and for the Exportation, comprising the Merchandize and Manufactories of many Parts of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and of the counties of Lancaster, Chester, Derby, Stafford, Worcester, and Warwick, amongst which are, the Manufactures of  Manchester, the different Potteries, the Hardwares of Sheffield, Birmingham, and Wolverhampton etc. and the immense Traffic between Liverpool and London, Coals from the Midland Counties and Salt from Cheshire and Worcestershire, will always be so great as that can leave no possible Doubt as the great Advantages of this proposed Undertaking to the Public and the Subscribers to it.

The Buildings in Contemplation on the Crown Estate of Mary-le-Bone Park, and on the Estate of the Duke of Portland, Earl of Camden, Lord Southampton, the See of London, the Trustees of Harrow School, Mr Portman, and Mr Eyre, through most of which the canal will be cut, will afford the strongest Probability for many Years of a Commerce on the Canal, greater than the whole of the Tonnage assumed in the Calculation of Revenues above stated, in short, all the Advantages of Success which this Canal holds out to Subscribers, would extend this Prospectus to an immeasurable length.

 8th August 1811.

Click here to see an illustration by George Cruikshank of the northward expansion of London in the 1820s.