Pontymoile canal junction

button-theme-canalPontymoile canal junction

Pontymoile (or Pontymoel) is where the Monmouthshire and Brecon & Abergavenny canals were joined together in 1812.

The Monmouthshire Canal was built 1792-1798 to connect thriving industries – mainly ironworks in the Blaenavon area – to the sea at Newport. There were 11 locks in the 5km section between here and the canal terminus at Pontnewynydd. Parliament authorised the canal company to build tramroads (basic railways) to bring materials to the canal from ironworks, quarries and collieries.

pontypool_canal_outing_1941The Brecon & Abergavenny Canal (B&A) was authorised a year later, in 1793, but took longer to construct. After the canals were connected, the B&A’s cheaper fees per tonne applied to all goods loaded along the B&A, even if the cargo continued to Newport. To save money, industrialists in the Blaenavon area diverted their goods to wharves on the rural B&A, installing major tramroad infrastructure to do so.

Canal traffic between Pontnewynydd and Pontymoile rapidly dwindled, and in 1852 the Monmouthshire Railway & Canal Company (as the concern had been renamed) opened a railway to Blaenavon, partly on the old canal route. The spur west of Pontymoile basin is all that survives of the canal to Pontnewynydd. There was a wharf alongside the spur (served by a siding off the railway which tunnelled under the canal basin) and, by 1902, a boathouse at the far end of the spur.

The old photo (courtesy of the MBACT archive) shows staff from Lion House, Pontypool, at Pontymoile on a wartime summer outing to Goytre in 1941. The store was owned by members of the Fowler family, one of whom is holding the megaphone in the photo.

The narrow section of canal at the southern entrance to the basin is where boats were “gauged”. An employee who lived in the canal-side cottage estimated each boat’s payload so the correct fee was levied. Each inch lower in the water roughly equated to one more tonne of goods. For accurate measurement, the canal company installed a pioneering boat weighing device at Newport. This was copied on three other canals, including the Glamorganshire Canal in Cardiff.

Wooden gates were installed at each end of the narrow section. It’s thought that one gate was closed to retain the water on one side when the canal needed draining for maintenance on the other.

The railway from Pontypool Road station to Aberdare and Neath crossed the canal where the A472 road now crosses.

With thanks to the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust

Postcode: NP4 0RF    View Location Map

Canal & River Trust website – Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

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