Old canal toll house, Pontymoile

Old canal toll house, Pontymoile

The cottage facing the canal here was originally a toll house, located where the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal (B&A) was joined to the Monmouthshire Canal in 1812. The protruding section with the curved wall at the front helped the toll-keeper observe activity on the canal from indoors.

The canal outside the toll house is wide enough for only one boat at a time. This is where boats were “gauged”. The toll-keeper estimated each boat’s payload to establish the correct fee. Each ton (almost the same as a modern tonne) of cargo lowered the boat approximately 2.5cm (1 inch) in the water, but this was unscientific and open to dispute.

For accurate measurement, the Monmouthshire Canal installed a pioneering boat-weighing device in 1815 near Newport Castle (the canal terminated in Newport). The device straddled a special lock and had a cradle which held the boat when the water was emptied, enabling its mechanism to register the boat’s precise weight.

This was copied on three other canals including the Glamorganshire Canal, whose device is preserved at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. You can see it in an old photo on our page about the canal near Cardiff Castle.

At Pontymoile, wooden gates were installed at each end of the narrow section of canal. It’s thought that one of them was closed to retain the water on one side whenever the canal on the other side needed draining for maintenance.

The bridge near the toll house was designed with curved ramps so that horses towing boats along the Monmouthshire Canal (to and from Pontnewynydd) could cross the B&A without their tow ropes being unhitched. Look closely at the wall of the bridge on the far (downstream) side to see grooves where tow ropes chafed the stonework as horses turned the corner here, ahead of their boats.

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 0RF    View Location Map

Canal & River Trust website – Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal