From 1755 onwards, the Commissioners of Inland Navigation were able to dispense large grants, and several landowners in counties Cork and Waterford asked for funding to make the (Munster) River Blackwater navigable from the Duhallow coalfields, near Kanturk, to the port of Youghal.
William Ockenden began work in 1756, but didn’t start either at the collieries end or at Cappoquin (a town on the Blackwater to which the river was already navigable with the tide). Ockenden died in 1761 and was replaced by Thomas Fruin. And when the parliament cut off funding in 1763, after £11,000 of public money had been spent on the colliery and navigation, the result was an isolated 3.5-mile stretch of canal, running from Pallas, near Lombardstown, to near the town of Mallow.
On the Ordnance Survey map (of around 1840) you can see the thin blue line north of the river, almost touching it in a couple of places. Note that the map was made many years after the “old canal” (as it terms it) was closed. It does not show the positions of the locks.
As the Rev Horatio Townsend wrote in 1810:
CANALS [in County Cork] at present cannot be so properly called a subject of enquiry, as of speculation. Some have been talked of, none executed, and one only begun. [...] The professed object was, I presume, a communication between Mallow and the Duhallow collieries; the real one, perhaps, had more relation to private than to public emolument. What was the full object of the plan, or whether it was intended to go further, it seems now useless to inquire, as the amount of execution fell greatly short even of this object. [...] The canal was formed upon much too large a scale, an error but of recent discovery, though apparently so obvious to common understanding.
Samuel Lewis wrote in his Topographical Dictionary in 1837:
About 40 years since, about 3½ miles of a line of canal, intended to connect the Duhallow collieries with the sea, was cut and may still be traced adjoining the road to Kanturk, thence called the “navigation road.”
The canal closed in 1786, after £11,000 of public money had been spent on the colliery and navigation, but mining at Duhallow continued for many years afterwards. Incidentally, although it is called the Mallow–Lombardstown Canal, the waterway ddn’t go through Lombardstown, which is slightly to the south of the N72.
Much of the Mallow–Lombardstown Canal runs along the north side of the N72 road from Mallow to Killarney. It originally had two locks. The upstream lock at Pallas fed the canal from the river, and has been lost to roadworks. The surviving lock at Longueville, at 47m by 6.62m, was much larger than locks on the Grand Canal, although it has now been shortened by an underpass. Nonetheless, the stonework was tidied up and is in good condition. It is in the grounds of Longueville House Hotel but can be seen from the road.
The Mallow end of the canal was said to have been north of the racecourse; Richard Norton (see Comments below) has found its possible location.
The photographs below are in sequence from the western (Pallas) end towards the eastern (Mallow) end, along the N72. I am not at all certain about the two ends, and I would be glad to hear from anyone who can help to clarify matters.
The Blackwater comes close to the road
Looking back west: I think this is Pallas
The first of several entrances on the north side of the road
Another entrance …
… with what might just possibly be a trace of the canal
Just beyond this culvert …
… is what might be a ditch – or a canal
Then the real gem …
… which is this bridge and gatehouse
The arch from the side
The arch from the centre
Looking along the bridge
What was this for?
Near Rose Cottage …
… is more declivity
And at Waterloo House …
… there is even water!
You can just about see the bridge arch through the leaves
At a back entrance to Longueville House (a splendid hotel) …
… there’s water again
And then we come to the lock
The building of this underpass under the N72 shortened the lock
Looking down into the lock 1
Looking down into the lock 2
Some of the stonework 1
Some of the stonework 2
The stonework seems to have been cleaned up when the roadworks made the lock visible. But the timber growing in the lock needs to be cleared out, I think.
Taken from the bottom of the lock 1
Taken from the bottom of the lock 2
In appreciation of Longueville House Hotel’s kindness in making the lock visible, here’s a link for them. Incidentally, it’s foodie heaven: highly recommended, as are their Eden apple brandy and their cider.
Sign at the lock to Longueville House Hotel …
… and here’s the turning to the hotel
I don’t know what this is
The river is very close to the south side of the road here
Another entrance …
… and another hint of water
Yet another entrance …
… yet another hint of water
Water flows through it
I’ve lost the line of the canal at this stage, and I’d be glad to hear from anyone who knows where it’s gone.
The last entrance I’ll show
Stone wall. I was told that the end of the canal was near that petrol station, on the north side of the road, but others say it’s a bit further on, near the racecourse (which is to the south of the road).
Interesting building south of road and river
There’s a small park where the road has been straightened, and there are several interesting pieces of stone in it. I wondered where the stone came from, but Richard Norton (see below) says that this was where the road was straightened, and that the canal did not go that far, so I have deleted the photos. It’s a nice place to stop, though.
One other possible source of confusion is this information board.
The information board is sited several hundred metres east of the canal and would be confusing to anyone who thought they should be able to see the canal at that point.
Here is an extract from the OSI map, showing the end of the canal in relation to the town of Mallow.
A close-up of the OSI map (drawn, remember, well after the canal closed) shows the canal ending on the north side of the road.
There is a trace, I believe , of the canal at the front of the Garden Centre, near to the Racecourse and East of it. In times of flood this overflows across the road and I believe indicates the point at which the canal crosses to the other side of the road to join the river. The road I think postdates the canal and thus there would be no bridge in evidence here.
On the OSI maps, you can see the racecourse and the garden centre if you select Ortho 2005. Unfortunately the Google satellite view is too blurred to be of any use.
Richard Norton says that these three photographs (taken in January 2012) “are to the south of the road and water is flowing under the road through some sort of culvert or unfinshed work in stone.”
[These] pics are opposite the garden centre. You may be able to make out there is a bridge or culvert running there of stone and water runs through to the Blackwater. This is immediately east of the Racecourse boundary. The bit that LOOKS like a canal here might be something to do with works not completed perhaps (could just be boggy ground). The opposite side of the road where the garden centre is I found the remains of the canal still exist and run west past the Racecourse where they may have been obliterated by roadworks in the early 1990s but looking at the tree line, Id say they survive almost intact.
He also says:
I had the good fortune to meet the man from the Garden Centre who told me that the bit he has landscaped was the terminus of the Canal, presumably there would have been a wharf here and coal would have been hauled into Mallow from there. This bit is cut off from the rest of the line by an access road of some sort which must be later.
I am very grateful for this extra information and for the photographs.