Former North Road canal bridge, Cardiff

Former North Road canal bridge, Cardiff

The western end of this pedestrian underpass was originally a bridge carrying North Road over the Glamorganshire Canal. You can see stone arch in the 1880s drawing below – shown here courtesy of Cardiff Libraries.

cardiff_canal_north_roadThe drawing shows the view south from the towpath where the canal ran alongside the eastern walls of Cardiff Castle. Notice the tower of St John’s Church in the background.

The canal opened in 1794 to connect Merthyr Tydfil to the sea. It remained busy long after the advent of railways. The booming collieries and ironworks produced more than the early railways could handle, and many industrial facilities had been deliberately sited beside the canal. The Cardiff section of the canal was eventually filled in during the 1950s.

On the canal towpath in the bottom right corner of the drawing, you can see a horse with a rope leading towards a canal boat. By the 1880s, steam power had been harnessed to many uses but boats remained horse-drawn on the Glamorganshire Canal. A steamboat test in the 1870s had shown that the canal wasn’t deep enough in the Pontypridd area.

In 1893, there were concerns that people who led and looked after the horses would lose their jobs, because a new steam barge had been built for the canal. Its engine had the power of 16 horses, enough to transport 17 tons of cargo and tow three unpowered barges.

The concerns soon turned to mirth. On its test run, the steamer ran aground after just a few metres, alongside Mill Lane. After it was refloated, the propeller quickly became choked with coconut matting, wire, rope and other junk. The boat was towed to Queen Street, where a diver cleared the propeller, and then continued slowly to Nantgarw. The embarrassed crew and guests had to endure witticisms from onlookers, some of whom asked for the steamer’s expected date of arrival in Pontypridd!

Postcode: CF10 3FD    View Location Map

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