Dock feeder canal at Churchill Way, Cardiff

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Here Cardiff’s dock feeder canal was covered over in 1948 and uncovered in 2022 – reflecting changes in our attitudes to city canals. In the 1948 aerial photo, courtesy of the Welsh Government, the central light-grey strip shows where the canal had recently been covered. The water was still exposed at the southern end of what’s now Churchill Way.

1948 aerial photo showing newly covered feeder canal in Churchill WayThe feeder canal from the river Taff at Blackweir was built in the 1830s to maintain the water level in Cardiff’s Bute docks, opened in 1839 and the 1850s. It also filled reservoirs which flushed silt from the docks’ entrances. It still replenishes the old Bute East Dock (now a lake) and the operational Roath Dock.

Water from the feeder supplied the Cardiff Baths complex, opened in 1862. The baths buildings can be partly seen adjacent to the canal at the bottom of the aerial photo.

As Cardiff embarked on post-war rebuilding in the late 1940s, the Glamorganshire Canal was filled in and the feeder canal was covered to enable construction of the boulevard named Churchill Way. Previously the roads each side of the feeder were Pembroke Terrace (west side) and Edward Terrace.

Urban canals were then regarded as unsightly relics of the past. They were also a public hazard. In 1857 an inquest jury declared the feeder highly dangerous after a 20-year-old vagrant drowned in it. The feeder was fenced off in key areas but accidents and suicide attempts continued. In 1898 drunken Frank Swift of Tredegar climbed over the railings where the feeder canal emerged from beneath Queen Street. He dropped into the water, which was less than a metre deep at the time, and was rescued by onlookers.

In February 2022 Cardiff Council began uncovering 518 metres of the canal in Churchill Way to form the centerpiece of a new public open space with a performance area. This followed the successful refurbishment of canals in other UK cities as heritage assets and catalysts for property redevelopment.

Postcode: CF10 2HD    View Location Map

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