A comment by Tim Lewis to me a few weeks ago regarding the old entrance lock on the McMurrays canal at Wandsworth prompted this post. Currently there are many changes occurring at Wandsworth with the Ram Quarter development now very much in evidence. The canal in question was one of London’s lesser known waterways, it was a canal originally built to serve the Surrey Iron Railway and shut more than a hundred years ago.
Picture source & discussion: Canal World
Note: The Canal World page now has its images missing however here’s an archived version in PDF.
The picture alluded to was considered to be a mystery photograph. Most definitely not the Nutbrook! Contributors eventually sussed it was Wandsworth and they referred to my own comprehensive research on what is known as McMurrays canal. I have seen the pic before – it shows part of the entrance lock. There were three sets of gates – the normal ones plus a pair of tidal gates to keep out the river when it got extremely high – rather similar to the one which can still be seen at Woolwich.
The view looks south from the Thames towards the first canal basin. Although the date of the picture is not known its probably the early 1920s. An article in The Engineer (July 1924) discusses the Surrey Iron Railway – of which McMurrays canal was part:
“At the time the present writer visited the place he found the Wandsworth, Wimbledon and Epsom District Gas Company – the present owner of the property – busy replacing the outer gates of the dock. The original gates have disappeared gradually and an arm of one [this refers to the balance beam] is all that remains. Inside the gates is the inner basin, [which can be seen in the picture] built to hold thirty or so barges for the traffic to or from the railway.”
The photograph in question clearly shows the lock and the first basin at the time of their infilling. The state the author found the lock in no doubt was in the ensuing years after the photograph was taken.
Its been said the lock featured stone sleepers from the Surrey Iron Railway which were used to improved the canal’s flood defences. The following photo (from The Engineer) taken when the canal was still used shows the stones piled up by the flood gates (the balance beam of one can be seen.) There is no mystery about this, the railway closed in 1846 and its stone sleepers found new uses elsewhere.
McMurrays canal lock looking towards the Thames c1900 with iron railway sleepers at left.
As for the rest of the canal, and indeed the first part of the Surrey Iron railway, the land eventually became part of Young’s brewery. This closed down several years ago and the entire site is currently under re-development as part of the new Ram Quarter. Its clear that will do away with several of the buildings that once surrounded the canal.
The monument to the Surrey Iron Railway disappeared in 2014. Hopefully it will be exhibited in the new museum within the Ram Quarter.
The main picture at the top of this page was taken during a visit to Youngs Brewery in May 1990. It looks south along the old canal alignment just before it turned into the canal head. The next picture shows the bit further along:
This image from London Canals shows a before and after view of the canal head. The early picture is probably circa 1900s, the modern picture was taken in 2013.
The only building that shall remain is the one on the left in the black/white picture. The computer generated view shown below depicts the canal head site when the Ram Quarter development opens later in 2018.
Some of the old buildings retained for the Ram Quarter. Source: Ram-Brewery