Melingriffith canal pump, Whitchurch, Cardiff

button-theme-canalMelingriffith canal pump, Whitchurch, Cardiff

Here you can see a remarkable survivor from the early decades of the Industrial Revolution. The wood and iron device pumped water up to the Glamorganshire Canal, which ran parallel to Tŷ Mawr Road here.

The canal from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff opened in 1794, making it faster and cheaper to transport bulk goods. Canals constantly lost water, especially through filling and emptying locks (where boats were raised or lowered). There was a lock on the canal here, a little north of the pump.

There wasn’t enough water from the upper part of the canal to keep the section through Cardiff filled, so a feeder was needed here to top up the canal from the river. There was a snag: a large tinplate works was already abstracting water from the river Taff at Radyr weir. The works would have suffered shortages if the canal took some of the water from its feeder.

The solution was to pump water up to the canal from the channel where the used water left the factory. That was the job of this water-powered pump. It could be the original pump installed in the 1790s but is probably an improved version from c1807.

It operated constantly for well over a century, until 1927. The canal remained open but little-used until 1942, so the pump may have been used occasionally until then.

The pump was restored at various times from the 1970s onwards. The biggest refurbishment, undertaken by volunteers from Risca Industrial History Museum, culminated in 2011 with the wheel being able to turn again, albeit using an electric motor. Some of the original parts of the wheel are displayed at the museum.

The tinplate works was further north, where Melingriffith Drive and Hanbury Close are now. The canal skirted the works’ eastern edge then ran alongside the factory’s feeder channel, diverging just north of where the Ffordd Morgannwg houses are now.

From c1815 there was also a tramway (early form of railway) into the works, carrying iron from Pentyrch. Forest Farm Road follows its course.

Postcode: CF14 2TS     View Location Map