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Brecon and
Abergavenny Canal
 
  A new supply route for Brecon  
Most canals had been in use for many years by the start of the Victorian age. But they remained of great value in transporting goods until the new steam railways took most of their business away.
It can be quite hard these days to imagine that this now very peaceful waterway was once busy and noisy with the constant movement, loading and unloading of huge quantities of materials for industry and for agriculture.
The building of the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal was made possible by an Act of Parliament passed in 1793, at a time when there was a great demand for new waterways.
Canals were then seen as the best means of transporting large quantities of heavy goods like coal, lime, iron and timber more cheaply at a time when most roads were in a very poor condition.
Loading a canal boat
Map of canal route

The 33 mile long route of the canal was from Brecon to Pontymoile, near Pontypool where it would join the Monmouthshire Canal, being built at the same time.
The section between Gilwern and Llangynidr was the first to be opened in 1797. The canal reached Talybont in 1799 and was open to Brecon by December 1800.
The southwards link to the Monmouthshire Canal was not completed until early in 1812.

 

Compared to the cost of building roads or the simple railways of the time, canals were very expensive. This canal required labourers or 'navvies' to dig a 33 mile long trench which was 30 feet [9.14m] wide and 4 feet [1.2m] deep, then make it watertight with clay. It also needed almost 100 bridges, an aqueduct, a tunnel, and six locks.
By the time the connection with the Monmouthshire Canal had been completed the cost of the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal had reached well over £200,000 - a huge sum in 1812.

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