When London Became An Island

Part 2 - Document 3

Text of the Times report of the opening ceremony of the Regents Canal.

August 1820.

Yesterday being the day appointed for the formal opening of the new branch of the Regents Canal, the managing committee, with the chairman, Mr Morgan, the head engineer, Mr Nash, the head surveyor, together with the principal proprietors and a number of other persons of rank and respectability connected with the undertaking assembled near Maiden lane at about eleven o’clock and took water at that part of the canal which is contiguous. The committee embarked on board one of the city state barges, which had been borrowed for the occasion, and they were accompanied by several other barges, having on board bands of music, and decorated with flags and streamers in profusion. The day being favourable, the crowds assembled to witness the ceremony were immense, particularly at the grand basin in the City-road. The procession went under the great tunnel through Islington, where bands of music played several national airs, and the effect produced by the reverbration of the sound was grand beyond description. The party then proceeded to the grand basin in City road, where a salute was fired, and they were hailed with the loudest acclamations from the numerous crowds stationed on the shore. After having gone round the basin, the party proceeded down  the canal to Limehouse, and in their course met with the same reception from the well-dressed persons who lined the sides of the canal the whole distance. At Limehouse the party stopped, and partook of a magnificent dinner. Soon after the opening procession had gone through the locks there was a great competition amongst several of the Paddington barges for the honour of being the first to land produce on the wharf at the grand basin. A desperate struggle ensued between two of them but, after a well-contested race the honour was won by a barge, the name of which we believe was “The William” from which was landed the first produce, and a cask of ale, which was immediately drank up on the spot by the navigators, with loud huzza to the prosperity of the undertaking. Numerous barges, laded with respectable passengers, principally consisting of well dressed females, followed, accompanied by music, etc. The boatmen, in their Sunday clothes were particularly numerous and formed a most picturesque assemblage in their blue and white frocks, and their hats decorate with ribands. In short, the spot, from the noise, bustle, and jollity, had every appearance of a fair until a late hour.

The canal, which has been nearly seven years incomplete, unites all the principal canals in the kingdom with the river Thames. From its commencement, to the termination at Limehouse, it extends nearly 9 miles, and within that space are comprised 12 locks and 37 bridges. The construction of the former is on so excellent a principle, that only 3 minutes and a half are occupied in passing each of them. The work was projected by J.Nash Esq., the Royal architect, under whose superintendence it has been completed. The tunnel under Islington hill is about three quarters of a mile in length and passes beneath the bed of the New River.

At 7 o'clock nearly a hundred gentlemen sat down to an elegant dinner, the Earl of Macclesfield in the chair. After the removal of the cloth, and when the usual loyal and patriotic toasts had been drunk, the noble Chairman proposed “Success to the Regents Canal”, which was drank with great cordiality.

Mr Monroe, a member of the committee, observed, that as the Regent's Canal was an undertaking, the nature and objects of which were perhaps not generally known, he might be allowed to avail himself of the opportunity which this toast afforded him to say a few words on the subject. This was one of those great works which, though originating in the enterprising spirit of private individuals were calculated to produce the greatest benefit to the public. Many years had elapsed since the commencement of the work, and now they had at last the satisfaction to see it completed, though its completion had been accomplished at great expense, and after extraordinary exertions. In truth, the difficulties which had been surmounted were known only to those who had been engaged in superintending the work; and the expense had greatly exceeded the amount anticipated by those who had formed the original estimates. The sum expended on this canal was upwards of half a million sterling; but the proprietors had the gratifying assurance that it would be attended with great advantage to the metropolis, at the same time that it would add materially to the beauty of the country, and connect the whole inland navigation of England. When they saw this great undertaking materially completed, they were naturally induced to look to the superintending hand under which it had been accomplished and in that person of their noble chairman they had the good fortune to see that union of high rank and intelligence, which could not fail to command respect and to ensure success to the cause in which they were all so deeply interested (Great Applause.) He concluded by proposing “the health of their noble Chairman, the Earl of Macclesfield” which was drank with three times three.

The noble Chairman returned the thanks. Whatever exertions he had made to promote the object of the proprietors had resulted from the conviction that the canal would answer the expectations of the public, and of those who were more immediately concerned in the undertaking. The work was now completed, and he had no doubt that all the anticipations which he and others had formed respecting its utility would soon be realised (Applause.) On the health of the gentlemen of the committee being drank Mr Monroe returned thanks.