Site of Glamorganshire Canal sea lock, Cardiff

button-theme-canalbutton_lang_welshSite of Glamorganshire Canal sea lock, Cardiff

The Glamorganshire Canal joined the Taff estuary in the area which is now the Hamadryad Park, which is named after a Victorian hospital ship.

cardiff_canal_sea_lockThe photos here – courtesy of Cardiff Libraries – show the canal in the area. The aerial view was taken c.1920 and shows the estuary (at low tide) and the sea lock at the bottom. The canal leads away along what is now Canal Park. The James Street swing bridge can be seen crossing the canal on the left. Beyond the canal is Butetown, with the railway sidings and docks at the top of the photo.

This section of the canal, opened in 1798, was large enough for sea-going vessels – like the steamship in the centre of the photo – to reach town-centre wharves. North of there, only narrow boats could navigate the canal.

The sea lock kept the canal water at a constant level and enabled vessels to enter or leave the canal. The canal company preferred to employ ex-Royal Navy sailors to keep this lock.

The structure became known as the “old sea lock” after a “new sea lock” was constructed for access to Cardiff docks. The Old Sea Lock Hotel was in Harrowby Street. The photo of it was taken c.1891, when Noah Morgan was the licensee.

In the 1860s there were concerns about sailors spreading exotic diseases after arriving in Cardiff. A redundant Royal Navy frigate named Hamadryad was converted into a seamen’s hospital. When plans were drawn up to move it to the estuary in 1867, people living near the old sea lock feared the prevailing westerly wind would spread patients’ germs and bad smells.


When the ship was scrapped in 1905, the name transferred to the newly erected Hamadryad Hospital building nearby. The Hamadryad Park was laid out in the 1970s and extended southwards in the 1990s on land created during the development of Cardiff Bay.

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