Victorian Powys for primary  schools
Powys Digital History Project
Swansea Canal
  Serving the needs of local industry  
Photographs from the collection of the late
John Morris
of Ystradgynlais.
It can sometimes be hard to imagine it nowadays, but the canals, which the Victorians inherited from an earlier age, were once noisy, bustling places serving the needs of industry and agriculture.
Coal, iron and other essential goods were loaded at wharves and warehouses, and carried along the waterways in huge canal boats towed by strong horses.
Canal boat and horse
  Canals, like the tramroads, were built because they made it possible for horses to pull much heavier loads than in wagons on the often very poor roads of the time.
The boats on the Swansea Canal could carry about 25 tons, and once the canal boat was under way it was fairly easy for the towing horse to keep it moving at a slow but steady speed.
The 36 locks on the Swansea Canal could take boats up to 69ft (21m) long and 7ft 6ins (2.2m) wide.
One of the old locks on the canal is shown below.
An old
canal boat
left to rot
at Ystalyfera
Sunken canal boat Disused lock
Disused lock on the canal (right)

The photograph above, probably from the 1950s, shows the sad end of one of the old canal boats once used on the Swansea Canal.
Left abandoned at Ystalyfera, this one was 69ft (21m) long and just over 7ft (2.1m) wide, and would have carried over 20 tons.

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