the Regent’s Canal 40 years on

 In 1976 I started my trip along the canal where it passes under the Mile End Road and followed it round to the City Road Basin and beyond to the Islington Tunnel. There I went overground to near the Battlebridge Basin from where I continued on past St Pancras Basin, Camden Lock and around Regent's Park. I finally left the canal just before the Lisson Grove (Eyre's) Tunnel in St John's Wood. I couldn't recall from where I'd taken the original shots but with a lot of painstaking research and intensive use of Google Streetview was eventually able to locate them all. In 2016 I took the trip again with the idea of seeing if I could recreate the shots from 1976...

locations | north-east section

1 | mile end lock

mile end lock then and now

Quite a change!  The lock-keeper's house in the almost rustic scene of 1976 is now completely obscured by trees (although you can just about make out the chimney pots through the leaves). Modern flats have replaced the wharves in the background and to the left you can still make out what looks like some kind of concrete channel (water bypass...?) The towpath on the right is now shaded by many trees; note also that it has been built up higher to the right of the lock gate so that it slopes up more gently.

Below is a shot of the renovated lock-keeper's cottage. The old extension on the right has been replaced by a very modern design whilst the lean-to on the left has been discretely removed...

lock keepers cottage mile end lock

2 | great eastern main line

mile end climbing wall then and now

The trains to and from Liverpool Street stiil roar past over the bridge here but the building is fairing better than it was in '76 and is now the home of the Mile End Climbing Wall. Note that the sliding doors and metal stanchion have gone and that the large broken window has been bricked up. Interesting to see that there are also many more boats moored along this stretch of the canal now.

3 | hertford union canal junction

hertford union canal junction then and now

At the centre of the 1976 picture here you can still see what I believe is known as The Cricketers Bridge whilst today it is half obscured by the trees. As with many other sections of the canal the old industrial buildings and yards have made way for residential blocks with 'lovely canal view'. Immediately to the right of the narrowboat chimney you can just make out the Hertford Union Canal coming in from the right with the towpath rising up over it. Here too a new block of flats is being built which meant that unfortunately access down onto the HUC towpath was blocked..

4 | hertford union canal

hertford union canal then and now

As I was unable to get down onto the towpath from the Regent's Canal, I exited up to Old Ford Road, walked up to the Grove Road bridge and walked back along the HUC towpath from there. The works with the characteristic chimney is still there but the yard has been cleared to make way for some low shed-like office buildings. Its good to see that the warehouse at left has been sympathetically renovated with many of the original details being retained. The stairway up the side of the building has gone but you can still see the support and traces of where it ran. In the distance the blocks of flats are still there.

5 | old ford lock

old ford lock then and now

It looks as if not too much has changed at Old Ford Lock. The only point that intrigues me is that  it looks as if the towpath may have been widened and/or straightened a bit since 1976.

6 | near lime wharf

warehouse near lime wharf then and now

Nice to see that this old warehouse near Lime Wharf has also been preserved and re-purposed although its perhaps now in danger of being overrun by the ivy...

7 | the gasometers

canal warehouses and gasometers then and now

I couldn't get to quite the same spot from which I took the 1976 picture with the gasometers in the distance because of the many boats moored here obstructing that view. However, its clear that not much remains of the foremost warehouse. There are some rather sad, boarded up remains of the loading doorways in the middle of the picture whilst the building with the green paintwork seems to be a new addition. Altogether its become a bit of a mess and its a pity that these lovely old warehouses couldn't be saved and renovated like some of the others.

8 | near regent's row

regent's row then and now

This old works was crumbling even when I photographed it in 1976 so it was no real surprise to discover that it had disappeared completely in 2016. The block of flats in the background helped me to locate the original spot and its quite interesting to see that the new terrace of residential houses somewhat echoes the earlier building.

9 | near sturt's lock

near sturt's lock then and now

It took me a long time to track down this spot which I finally pinpointed as being just beyond Sturt's Lock. In the background the block of flats has had a (penthouse?) layer added to the top of it. In the foreground the lovely arched windows of the 1976 works, together with the rest of the building have sadly gone to be replaced by rather ungainly modern blocks. At left you can see the remains of the brick-built column that used to form the near corner of the original building. Behind the narrowboats you can just make out the original wooden piles along the base of the old frontage.

10, 11 | city road basin

city road basin then and now

Nr10 is another location that took me a long time to find. I finally realised that it must be the corner of the City Road Basin when I saw that the top of the block of flats peeping over the roof of the abandoned works in the 1976 picture was the same one that can be seen in the distance in the 2016 shot. In fact, it was often blocks of flats that held the clue to finally determining many of the original locations...

city road basin then and now

What a vast change here!  How blissful it must have been to be able to take a skiff across the basin as the folk in the 1976 picture are doing!  It seems extraordinary to think that there was so much industry nestling so quietly and so closely to the heart of London. In the distance one of the towers of the Barbican can be seen, now obscured by the enormous glass office tower just to the right of centre in 2016. Barely discernible in the distance is the tower of St Luke's church directly behind the tower crane close up to the previously mentioned office tower. The tree is still on the quayside from the spot where the picture was taken in 1976 although I had to move to the right a bit to get a decent shot 'around' the moored narrowboat.

locations | north & north-west section

12 | near battlebridge basin

near battlebridge basin then and now

Again, the old warehouses and wharves at left in 1976 have gone and been replaced with modern blocks thankfully in a style reminiscent of much industrial canal architecture. Its also good to see that the lovely brick-built warehouse facing us is still there. It appears to have been restored and converted to office space or homes although the fading wall ads at the top of the façade have been almost completely removed.

13 | canal house, lisson grove

canal house lisson grove then and now

After a long trek around the northern section, my final port of call was at this remarkable house sitting astride the canal at Lisson Grove. The startling increase in shrubbery is perhaps the most noticable thing, together with a much more cluttered towpath which made it difficult for me to get a clear shot. Now as then, the towpath was closed off and I could go no further so reluctantly I exited the peace of the canal and returned to the relentless bustle of the city above...

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