Former railway bridge, Griffithstown

button-theme-canalFormer railway bridge, Griffithstown

pontypool_skew_rail_bridgeThe road and railway bridges over the canal here are so close together that the railway bridge’s builders had to allow a hole for the road to pass through their large new abutment!

This section of the Monmouthshire Canal was built in 1792. Goods from Pontypool and beyond crossed the canal on the road bridge to reach Coed y Gric canal wharf (on the towpath side).

The wharf was cut off from the road system by the Pontypool to Blaenavon railway, opened in 1852. The railway crossed the canal on a skew bridge, which originally featured cast-iron arched ribs (as shown in the old photo). The large stone blocks along the edge of the canal here were probably installed at the same time to stabilise the land, because the railway embankment placed additional weight on the east bank of the canal. The railway route is now a path for cycling and walking.

Further south, you can see two small concrete bridge abutments where a short narrow-gauge railway crossed the canal after the Second World War. Coal was unloaded from the main railway on a siding east of the canal, and the narrow-gauge track took it to the County Hospital on the west bank for heating.

The hospital was previously the infirmary of the Pontypool Union Workhouse, which was south of today’s hospital. In 1876 Jane Barnes, an “indoor pauper” at the workhouse, was jailed for seven days with hard labour after refusing to work. Decades later, in 1902 Charles Rose was jailed for a week for “refusing to perform his allotted task” there.

Many children entered the workhouse because their fathers had deserted them. For example, in 1905 five children belonging to Pontypool painter Frederick Rapson were discovered living destitute when an officer went to the family home to remove their mother to a “lunatic asylum” (home for the mentally ill). Mr Rapson had previously left the family, so the children were taken to the workhouse. He told a court later that he suffered from “painter’s colic”, pain caused by exposure to the lead in paints.

The navigable section of the canal is looked after by the charity Glandwr Cymru the Canal & River Trust in Wales.

With thanks to the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust

Postcode: NP4 0XZ    View Location Map

Canal & River Trust website – Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

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