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What happened to bridges 1-16 of the Northern Grand Union Canal?


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I known that the Wigram's to Braunston turn bridge numbers are Oxford Canal, as is the A45 bridge in Braunston because the first Grand Junction bridge is Butcher's bridge, number one. But why do the northern section of the Grand Union, the former Warwick and Napton and Warwick and Birmingham canals, start with bridge 17 at Wigram's turn? The bridge and lock numbers are contiguous past the bottom of Hatton, incresing towards Birmingham, so they were clearly renumbered when the two canals came under one ownership, but why did they start at bridge 17 at Wigrams and not bridge 1. WHAT HAPPENED TO BRIDGES 1-16?

 

Enquiring minds want to know.

 

MP.

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From what I've found Butcher's Bridge is No1. 

Bottom Lock Bridge No2 etc

 

Further up the cut (as towards London) Smiths Bridge is 16. The next bridge is 19, Diamond bridge.

 

Interestingly enough Tomlow Bridge is 18, Daventry Road Bridge is 19 and so on.

 

http://www.grandunioncanal.co.uk/Grand-Union-Canal-I.html

 

579674467_GUBridges.jpg.9a8c57e09c461574fc209242729200a7.jpg

 

GU Bridges2.jpg

 

 

GU Bridges3.jpg

Edited by Ray T
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8 minutes ago, Ray T said:

That's the southern section. Those numbers start with Butcher's bridge as number 1 and go south. I'm taking about the northern section which starts at 17 at Napton Junction and increases northwards to around 110 at Salford Junction.

 

MP.

 

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Ah. From the website Ray linked to:

 

The Grand Union Canal shares it's watery passage with the older Oxford Canal between Napton Junction and Braunston Turn. There are no canal locks along this shared stretch of water but there are quite a few canal bridges. These bridges naturally show the Oxford Canal's numbering and naming system (Bridges 91 to 108) however they are also allocated bridge numbers in the Grand Union Canal's sequence although these are not displayed on the bridges themselves.

 

So the A45 bridge in Braunston, as well as being Oxford canal bridge number 91, is Grand union (northern) bridge number one!

 

Mystery solved. Thanks peeps!

 

MP.

 

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Well the Grand Union Canal might have something to with it. On page 169 of my book Silent Highways, I mention the work done 1935-1936 by the GU widening and improving the Oxford from Bridge 1  at Braunston to Bridge 17 at Napton Junction. These include Oxford canal bridges from 91 tp 108 Nimrod

 

91

Double Horseley Iron Co Bridge

95

97-108

 

These may account for the missing numbers, if the Oxford section was counted into the bridge no sequence    

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And worth pointing out also that the length of canal between Braunston Marina entrance and Braunston Junction is part of the original  main line of the Oxford Canal (before Telford's shortening). Hence the A45 bridge is an Oxford Canal bridge, and Butchers Bridge is the first Grand Junction bridge.

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What a good question. I’ve been aware since the 1970s that the bridge at Napton Junction was number 17 but never really thought about why, albeit the reason isn’t beyond a good guess.

 

What it presumably means is that the Grand Union completely renumbered the bridges on the Warwick & Napton (and the Warwick & Birmingham) as part of the widening.

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31 minutes ago, Captain Pegg said:

What it presumably means is that the Grand Union completely renumbered the bridges on the Warwick & Napton (and the Warwick & Birmingham) as part of the widening.

They do seem to have done so, with the sequence continuing beyond Bordesley junction down the Garrison flight and ending at Salford Junction.

 

Lock 58 seems to have mysteriously disappeared from between Camp hill bottom and Garrison top. I'd guess it may be the number of the stop lock half a mile further on at the junction with the Digbeth branch, but it's not marked as such in my Nicholsons, actually it's not marked as a lock at all. 

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5 minutes ago, MoominPapa said:

 

Lock 58 seems to have mysteriously disappeared from between Camp hill bottom and Garrison top. I'd guess it may be the number of the stop lock half a mile further on at the junction with the Digbeth branch, but it's not marked as such in my Nicholsons, actually it's not marked as a lock at all. 

 

As indeed has Nechells Shallow Lock just before Salford Bridge Junction. Back in the 70s you had to work through this, with a fall of about 6 inches. Now it's just a gateless narrows.

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5 minutes ago, Richard Carter said:

There were six locks at Knowle before the widening ...

Hatton top lock is 46 and Camp Hill top lock is 52, so that's evidence that the renumbering happened when the GU bought the Napton and Warwick and the Warwick and Birmingham (1927) and NOT when the route was widened (1932). 

 

MP.

 

Edited by MoominPapa
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More on the numbering habits of the GUCo. The locks on the Leicester line are numbered contiguously from Watford Bottom lock to Trent Junction and beyond - the locks on the Erewash continue the sequence. Strangely, though, the bridge numbers seem to reset again to one at Mill Lane Bridge over the Mile Straight in Leicester.

 

MP.

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The acquisition of the Warwick Canals was at the formation of the Grand Union 1/1/1929, and the renumbering would have been contemporary with the Oxford.

 

 

 

Regarding numbering 96 is the towpath bridge adjacent to the BCN and 97 commences as the start of the Junction Canal

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20 minutes ago, Ray T said:

Did this little bridge ever receive a number?

 

It is / was between Napton Junction and Wigram's top lock. ( Given the lock the name the working boaters knew, not the Calcutt 3.) :ninja:

38148148_10216512216933954_7588543699714310144_n.jpg

38005051_10216512352737349_3980139119392063488_o.jpg

It's not in the GU sequence, if you believe Nicholsons. The Junction bridge is 17 and first bridge below the three locks (Tomlow bridge) is 18. Maybe your little bridge was gone by the time the GU bought the Warwick and Napton and renumbered everything.

 

MP. 

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1 hour ago, MoominPapa said:

Hatton top lock is 46 and Camp Hill top lock is 52, so that's evidence that the renumbering happened when the GU bought the Napton and Warwick and the Warwick and Birmingham (1927) and NOT when the route was widened (1932). 

 

MP.

 

But then wouldn’t Knowle have been numbers 47-52 making Camp Hill top lock number 53?
 

 

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3 hours ago, MoominPapa said:

<counts on fingers> err, yes. Ooops.

 

MP.

 

I used the same tactic to convince myself I wasn’t wrong.

 

A couple of reasons spring to mind as to why the GU might have adopted shadow numbers for the OCC bridges. The obvious one would be that they had designs on buying it but possibly it’s because the GU undertook work on that section as part of their widening scheme and perhaps had some contractual liabilities despite not owning the canal.

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1 hour ago, Captain Pegg said:

A couple of reasons spring to mind as to why the GU might have adopted shadow numbers for the OCC bridges. The obvious one would be that they had designs on buying it but possibly it’s because the GU undertook work on that section as part of their widening scheme and perhaps had some contractual liabilities despite not owning the canal.

 

Lets hope they did a better job than whoever last rebuilt bridge 101. It looks like it was originally built on a mild skew, but has been replaced using pre-fabricated concrete arch sections that can't be used to build skew arches. As a consequence both the towpath  and the water channel change width from one side of the bridge to the other.

 

It makes me wince every time I go through it.

 

MP.

 

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15 hours ago, MoominPapa said:

 

Lets hope they did a better job than whoever last rebuilt bridge 101. It looks like it was originally built on a mild skew, but has been replaced using pre-fabricated concrete arch sections that can't be used to build skew arches. As a consequence both the towpath  and the water channel change width from one side of the bridge to the other.

 

It makes me wince every time I go through it.

 

MP.

 


The bridge is a square arch that crosses at a skew and that’s how it was presumably built given the original builders of the canal didn’t have the ability to build skew arches.

 

It’s noticeable that the natural angle at which the track crosses the canal is naturally a sharper angle than the angle of skew between the bridge and canal. The track accordingly has a bit of a kick to each side of the bridge but there is no obvious sign the footprint has been changed. This suggests that perhaps the layout of the original was a bit of a fudge to accommodate a square arch.

 

Reconstruction as a skewed arch would change the footprint which in turn would mean changing the profile of the canal. I can understand why that wouldn’t be favoured.

 

I think we’d need to see the original before criticising the reconstruction.

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1 hour ago, Captain Pegg said:


The bridge is a square arch that crosses at a skew and that’s how it was presumably built given the original builders of the canal didn’t have the ability to build skew arches.

 

I don't know the history of skew arches. Is it definite that the builders of the Oxford wouldn't have known how to build them?

1 hour ago, Captain Pegg said:

 

It’s noticeable that the natural angle at which the track crosses the canal is naturally a sharper angle than the angle of skew between the bridge and canal. The track accordingly has a bit of a kick to each side of the bridge but there is no obvious sign the footprint has been changed. This suggests that perhaps the layout of the original was a bit of a fudge to accommodate a square arch.

Maybe, but the line of the canal is not particularly constrained at that point: a very small wiggle would have seen it going straight through the original arch if it occupied the same footprint as the modern one. Given, it's clear that the original builders were not prepared to move a single  shovelful of earth to deviate from the contour, but even so, the ground is pretty flat on the towpath side there, a small deviation would have been possible. It seems strange that they built a bridge with the line of the towpath edge though the bridge not parallel to the line of the abutments, there and nowhere else.

 

Another thought, a casual scan along there on Google maps shows that the builders were perfectly happy to put severe wiggles into farm tracks in order to get a perpendicular crossing of the canal. I wonder what was  different about this bridge?

 

1 hour ago, Captain Pegg said:

 

Reconstruction as a skewed arch would change the footprint which in turn would mean changing the profile of the canal. I can understand why that wouldn’t be favoured.

 

I think we’d need to see the original before criticising the reconstruction.

That sounds like a challenge to our history buffs!

 

 

MP.

 

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18 hours ago, Captain Pegg said:

I think we’d need to see the original before criticising the reconstruction.

I was boating around Braunston at the time the bridge was rebuilt, and remember being irritated that the new was an exact copy of the old. If you were lined up along the canal, the bridge came out and bit you, and that didn't change.

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1 hour ago, Richard Carter said:

I was boating around Braunston at the time the bridge was rebuilt, and remember being irritated that the new was an exact copy of the old. If you were lined up along the canal, the bridge came out and bit you, and that didn't change.

 

 

19 hours ago, MoominPapa said:

Another thought, a casual scan along there on Google maps shows that the builders were perfectly happy to put severe wiggles into farm tracks in order to get a perpendicular crossing of the canal. I wonder what was  different about this bridge?

 


Thank you for that information, I’m not surprised to learn that the new bridge is an exact copy. Quite why the original was like it was when other bridges had been built square to the canal we may never know. Cock-up is often the answer to such things.

 

19 hours ago, MoominPapa said:

 

I don't know the history of skew arches. Is it definite that the builders of the Oxford wouldn't have known how to build them?

 


The engineers would likely have known the theory but the combined engineering enterprise did not have the capability to execute them.

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4 hours ago, NB Alnwick said:

Just a thought on the original topic: Wasn't this made up of several different canals? The Warwick to Napton section may have retained the bridge numbers of the old Warwick and Napton Canal.

 Unlikely as presumably they would have started at Bridge 1 not Bridge 17. My understanding, which seems to be confirmed above, is that the GU numbered north from Braunston when they took over. 

 

On 08/04/2021 at 17:14, MoominPapa said:

Lock 58 seems to have mysteriously disappeared from between Camp hill bottom and Garrison top. I'd guess it may be the number of the stop lock half a mile further on at the junction with the Digbeth branch, but it's not marked as such in my Nicholsons, actually it's not marked as a lock at all. 

Warwick Bar Stop Lock is number 58 as you surmise

If anyone wants to do more mental gymnastics, the bridges on the Oxford were also renumbered for the straightening in the 1830s and as all three branches of the junction at Braunston are the Oxford canal there must have been quite a few numbering variants over the centuries

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