The Lombardstown to Mallow Canal

Update May 2013: I’ve divided this very long page into four pages. Click on the requisite number below the “Like this page” stuff at the end of the text.
Updates January and April 2012: this page has been improved with the addition of extracts from OSI historic maps (by kind permission) and of photos and information from Richard Norton, for which I am most grateful. 

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.

The entire canal

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.

Where the canal left the river at Pallas

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.

37 responses to “The Lombardstown to Mallow Canal

  1. Very interesting.I’ve lived in Lombardstown nearly 40 years and never knew any history of the canal.

  2. Thanks, Brendan. I hope there will still be some of it left in forty years from now!


  3. i know where the canal enters mallow town. email me or ph 086 3629199.

    brendan glynn
    navigation rd

  4. This Canal is marked on both Ordnance Survey 6″ (1837-1842) Maps and 25″ (1888-1913) as “Old Canal” with the 25″ showing it in parts as swamp or silted up , from the 6″ it appears that the Canal finished short of Mallow with a small drainage spur running into the Blackwater, it is possable this was to be a location for a lock .,553122,598057,6,7

  5. Most interesting article. There’s a road bridge over the Allow, crossing the main Mallow-Killarney road, which must have been constructed for canal traffic, as there are date stones facing towards the river (north and south) which must have been put there to be read by boat traffic.

  6. By the way, you might be interested to know that I’m finalizing work on a book ‘The Blackwater, discovering the Irish Rhine from the Kerry mountains to the sea at Youghal’. It will be published in September/ October 2011 and will be richly illustrated with photographs from the river, plus text about people and historical events associated with it. Limited edition hardbacks (175 only) may be ordered in advance of publication.

  7. having had some good times fishing the blackwater , in Kanturk area i am looking forward to reading your book when it comes out.

  8. Pingback: Local History and Culture | Blackwater Valley Tourism

  9. Dear Brendan,
    Thank-you so much for sharing your discoveries.
    I much appreciate knowing about the link by canal between Longueville House and Waterloo House.
    My Great great grandmother Dorothea lived in Waterloo House before her marriage and consequent migration to New Zealand.

  10. Thank you for commenting. bjg

  11. there is a trace, I beleive , 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 incates 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.

  12. Thanks, Richard: that’s very interesting. Are you thinking of somewhere around here? That link should bring you to what I think is the garden centre on the OSI map. There is an interesting curve in the line of trees shown on the Ortho 2005 map, and it becomes more interesting if you switch to the Historic 6″ map (coloured or B&W). Of course the map is much later than the canal so it doesn’t tell us anything about what roads might have been there when the canal was built, and I’m afraid I have no information on the matter. But it certainly looks as if you’re right: thanks again. bjg

  13. I will go out tommorrow and take a couple of photos for you if the weather is OK. The “wet spot” has been landscaped somewhat by the garden Centre, but when firsat I knew it looked much more canal-like. I have always thought that the line of trees marching off across the fields would be the line of the canal but have never investigated. Id better take my wellies, floods locally recently!

  14. Great; many thanks. High water levels along the Shannon too. bjg

  15. just to add, at the western end, the canal turned a pronounced right angled turn to join the river, I imagine that the lock would have been on this stretch or possibly close to it on the line proper.There is some evidence of a channel further west which might be an unfinished section perhaps, which runs to and perhaps under the road that heads for Cecilstown. I’m not sure what plans there were to extend or whether the canal would use the river furtheron, as the river runs very close to the escarpment in places. I imagine a new channel for the river might have been possible.

  16. revisting your photos, the one with the “park” and the straight edge shows the old road alignment at this point. Quite extensive works carried out in around 1990. The canal didnt reach this far, stopping just immediattely east of Racecourse.See photos I have sent you.

    Mr Power. What date is on the Allow bridge?

  17. Niall O'Keeffe

    As a local living in Mallow all my life I really enjoyed your account of the canal. It is very informative and your inclusion of many photographs and map excerpts make it very easy to visualise. I’d love to hear more about the history to include the colleries.

  18. Thanks, Niall. This link may (all going well) take you to the appropriate page in Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of 1837 (you can increase the print size/zoom in to make it more readable. I’m not an expert on the subject, but there are several early sources available free on the internet that have some relevant material. I suggest using Google Books (or Google Scholar) to search for pages containing these three terms:

    Cork colliery Duhallow


  19. rosarie vaughan-drew

    my name is
    rosarie drew and found your article very interesting

  20. Thank you. bjg

  21. The photo of a stream with a wall on three sides and with the caption”I dont know what this is ” appears to have been taken at the Eel Weir Cross about 3 miles west of Mallow where a road branches off towards Ballyclough.One must assume that a weir and trap for catching eels were positioned here and the structure must have been part of that.I have no further information.
    The castle on another photo is Dromineen Castle an this is situated on the southern bank of The Blackwater(formerly known as the Broadwater) and was home originally to the O Callaghan Clan along with another castle at Clonmeen.

  22. Excellent; thank you very much. I’ve amended the two captions accordingly, adding “see comment by donieos below”. About six seconds after I photographed the structure at Eel Weir Cross I took a pic of the signpost to Ballyclough. bjg

  23. I had not heard it called eel weir cross before so that’s interesting. I think the structure is more to do with a culvert under the main rd but I don’t know how that would have worked, crossing the canal. The Eel Weir would presumably have been on the Blackwater rather than the canal

  24. The structure itself seemed to be concrete, and might indeed be a culvert, but it might be on the site of, or close to, a former eel weir. There does seem to have been one on the canal, and some flow in the canal. If you click on this link it should take you to an eel weir on the canal itself on the 6″ OSI map (~1840). If you change to the Historic 25″ (~1900) and then to the modern (Street Map Beta), you can see changes on the site. bjg

  25. Nicholas (Nick) Kelly

    I passed along the road on my way to Tralee from Mallow in June 1996 and was amazed that the lock at Longueville survived! The question that formed in my mind was Why? What did Thomas Ockenden think he was doing! In many ways it reminded me of the ill fated Kington,Leominster and Stourport Canal Instead of starting at the navigable end of the River Blackwater and working upstream to the Collieries He began in the middle and worked in both directions and then ran out of money! Also I wonder what sort of vessel used the canal as the locks were rather large to put it mildly. Did Ockenden propose to make the river and canal navigable for sea going vessels? In all I came away from Longueville utterly baffled by the lock. Itis amazing and it has to be one of the most unlikely relics of inland navigation in these islands!

  26. I haven’t specifically studied the history, but Ockenden was also in charge of work on the equally disastrous Nore scheme to Kilkenny and the slightly less disastrous Limerick Navigation, which was badly designed and badly built but was at least finished. The Mallow work depended on government grants and, when they stopped, so did construction. bjg

  27. The only reason I can come up with for starting the canal near Roskeen is the fact that the “Navigation” road only went as far as Roskeen at that time.It was extended further west by Sir Richard Griffith in about 1830. The main or High Road from Mallow to Killarney at that time ran along the southern side of the Blackwater via
    Newberry,Glantane,Lombardstown,Banteer,Millstreet and Rathmore. Of course it could also have commenced at Lismore to link up with the Dukes canal but would the Duke have agreed.
    There is one question I cannot get answered and that is why the bridge on the N72 over the little stream between Pallas and Woodpark is known locally as the “Lock Bridge”.there seems to be no record of a another canal lock planned for this area.

  28. It was reported in 1761 that two locks had been completed, and I seem to recall reading that road works had obliterated one of them. I can’t at the moment lay my hands on my copy of the relevant article from the Mallow Field Club Journal, alas.

    I’m not sure where the stream you mention is, but I wonder whether it might be here. I ask because, switching to the Historic 25″ and zooming in, there is an interesting shape here, close to that spot.


  29. The little stream actually is the townland boundary between Carrigane and Dromrastil that are located between Pallas and Woodpark The bridge was extended when the n72 was widened.It is known locally as “The Lock Bridge” however,I recently came across a reference to this bridge in the 1930’s and it was spelled as “the Lough Bridge”.The plot thickens.
    This bridge was bored for destruction during the Emergency and a local was designated to do this if Germany invaded.A munitions store was constructed nearby in 1939 by the Irish army to hold gelignite, arms etc. and this has survived to this day.
    I should also point out that the old house at Woodpark was a gate lodge for the the local landlords mansion ,further in,and had nothing to do with the canal

  30. Thanks for that. Have I got the order of photos wrong there? bjg

  31. I have since found out that an area of swampland existed across the Blackwater from the Lough Bridge and it was known as the lough by shooters in times past as it was an excellent shooting area.This swamp does not appear as a lake on old osi maps but it must have given its name to the bridge and not to another canal lock

  32. That’s very interesting; thank you. Might it have been a turlough, appearing only in wet weather?


  33. Doubtful as the area is old red sandstone.The osi map does show two patches that may indicate a swamp and depending on time of year surveyed the swamp area could be much bigger in winter.The info I got would indicate a reasonably large area and shooters converged on the site from a distance.

  34. Thank you. bjg

  35. Olivier Dumoulin

    The second photo is Pallas

  36. Thank you for that. bjg

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