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British Industrial History

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Croydon Canal

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The Croydon Canal ran 9.25 miles from Croydon, via Forest Hill, to the Grand Surrey Canal at New Cross in south London.

1801 Authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1801, the canal was originally intended to extend northwards to Rotherhithe, but the simultaneous construction of the Grand Surrey Canal provided a convenient access route.

1809 Opened on 22 October 1809. The Croydon Canal linked to the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway (itself connected to the Surrey Iron Railway), enabling the canal to be used to transport stone and lime from workings at Merstham. The canal was never extended further south-west, as was initially intended, to reach Epsom.

The canal was originally planned with two inclined planes but in the end 28 locks, arranged in two flights, were used instead. To keep the canal supplied with water a reservoir was constructed at Sydenham, with another at South Norwood; this still exists as South Norwood Lake in a public park.

The canal was built 34 feet wide. It had a maximum depth of 5 feet. After the initial flights of locks, most of the canal followed the 161 ft contour.

The final two locks at Croydon Common raised the level of the canal to the 174 ft contour, and because there was no natural source of water a steam pumping station was built at the foot of the locks to pump water up to the summit pound.

By 1811 22 barges plied the canal. The barges were 60 feet long and 9 feet wide and could carry about 30 tons. The main cargo was timber.

1836 The canal was never a success and closed in 1836. It was the first canal to be formally abandoned by an Act of Parliament. Much of the alignment was used by the London and Croydon Railway (to whom the canal had been sold for £40,250) for part of the railway route that today links London Bridge station and West Croydon station, which stands on the site of the old canal basin.

Certain sections were retained for leisure use, and some remained in water for a considerable time. The section at Betts Park in Anerley was used as a boating lake, and the area was called Anerley Tea Rooms.

1934 The canal was turned into a concrete trough which can be seen at the northern corner of Betts Park. Another section exists as a long curved pond in a small nature reserve in Dacres Road, Forest Hill. This was considered for redevelopment in 1989, but research by Lewisham Council resulted in its identity being confirmed, and it now forms an attractive wetland, having been returned to its former width. The side of a lock is also visible in the high pavement in David's Road, Forest Hill.

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