Tag Archives: Blackwater

Who was William Ockenden?

William Ockenden has been described as a Dutch engineer who worked on three eighteenth century Irish navigations: the Mallow to Lombardstown canal, the Kilkenny/Nore navigation and the Limerick Navigation [Park Canal section], all of them notably unsuccessful.

It seems likely that he was English, not Dutch, but may have lived in Ireland before inheriting property in England. But was he an engineer or a mill-owner and MP? Were there one or two William Ockendens at the time?

Here is some information and some speculation. I would welcome more of the first.

The Purton boat graveyard

If you happen to be driving across southern England and Wales — say from Fishguard or Pembroke to London — and you want a break, you could turn off the M4 or M48 and drive to the Purton ships’ graveyard in Gloucestershire. It’s roughly 25 miles, 35 minutes, each way: a two-hour break will give you an hour on site — and take you a world away from the busy motorways.

Purton gives you two waterways for the price of one: the Severn estuary and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which bypasses part of the estuary.

The estuary

Big estuaries — including the Shannon and the Suir — always give a sense of space, with big open skies, but somehow the Severn looks even bigger when the tide goes so far out.

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The long and level sands stretch far away

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Note the train on the far bank, behind the signpost

Incidentally, the west bank too seems to have a place called Purton, if Messrs Google’s map is to be believed.

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Drawing a line in the sand

The canal

Purton has two of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal‘s swing bridges, a weir and other interesting features.

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Purton lower bridge

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Purton lower bridge control room. The keeper operates both bridges

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Swinging room

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Purton lower bridge from downstream

Purton upper bridge

Purton upper bridge

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Information board beside the lower bridge

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Purton weir

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Weir bridge and sluices

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Weir inflow

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Weir sluices

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Weir outfall

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Canalside cottages (all occupied)

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One of several designs of self-closing gate

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Pontoon

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Pumpout

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Moorings

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Boats 1

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Boats 2

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Boats 3

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Boats 4

The hulks

The hulls of old vessels were used to shore up the embankment, between canal and river, at Purton. [This practice was also used in Ireland, on both the Barrow and the Suir, but not on anything like the same scale.] The result was the creation of a boat or ship graveyard that preserved, and makes reasonably accessible, the hulls or frames or at least parts of a large number of inland, estuarial and coastal vessels. And some of them are vessels that traded with Ireland.

The Friends of Purton have an informative website here; please also read their page about access here. I can confirm that parking is restricted on the site; it would be easy to annoy the local people by careless parking.

Good information is provided on site.

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Information board

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Memorial

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Close-up

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Advice

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All identified wrecks have plaques like this

I had allowed an hour for my visit, but didn’t see everything; it would have been easy to spend twice as much time there. In the summer, growth hid a few of the artefacts, but there was plenty to see without trampling on the shrubbery.

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The Mary Ann

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… is in there somewhere

There are quite a few concrete (ferrocement) barges, built during the Second World War.

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Up close

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Bows on

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Information plaque

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Stacked up

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Deck details

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Merging into the bank

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One side

Of the other vessels, the Dursley is apparently in reasonable condition but, on my visit, was largely hidden in the grass.

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Dursley plaque

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Dursley sternpost and rudder

The same was true of the Katherine [or Catherine] Ellen, built in Dungarvan.

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Katherine Ellen plaque

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Katherine Ellen site

I failed to find the Jonadab, a Severn trow that traded to the (Munster) Blackwater, but I did see the remains of the Scottish-built Dispatch, which is amongst the vessels listed by Niall O’Brien as having visited the Munster Blackwater [Blackwater and Bride: navigation and trade 7000BC to 2007, Niall O’Brien Publishing, Ballyduff Upper, 2008].

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Dispatch plaque

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Dispatch hull

Then there were the dramatic remains of Sally, renamed King, of London.

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Sally plaque

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Sally remains 1

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Sally remains 2

And many more. Even isolated timbers or iron ribs had their interest. But let me finish with a wreck that is not on the embankment but just offshore.

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Tanker offshore

You can read about the loss of the tankers Arkendale H and Wastdale H here and here. They are remembered on a plaque at the site.

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Plaque about the tankers

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I don’t know which of the tankers is shown in my photos

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The wreck is a reminder of the hazards of estuaries

Purton is well worth a visit — but it is only one of the waterways delights close to the Fishguard/Pembroke to London route.

Ballygalane on the Blackwater

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The Lismore Canal lock

The only lock on the Lismore Canal is at Ballygalane, on the River Blackwater. Here is a new page about the canal, with photos of some of its important features.

Was the Brickey a navigation?

The Brickey is a small river that flows into Dungarvan Bay. Small boats used its lower, tidal reaches, but in the eighteenth century there was a proposal to link the Brickey to the Finisk, another small river that flows into the Blackwater south of Cappoquin.

Waterford County Museum, and others, believe that work began on that project in the mid nineteenth century and that a driveable track along the south bank of a stretch of the river was built as a towpath.

I have visited the river and looked online for further information; my conclusions (with maps and photographs) are here. However, I would welcome further information.

The Armagh Canal

Another unbuilt canal mentioned by the indefatigable Mr Atkinson.

A proposal for making a canal from the city of Armagh to the river Blackwater, near the town of Moy

In order to shew, that carrying into effect the annexed sketch of a line [alas not annexed to the Google scan of Atkinson’s book], for opening a navigable communication from Armagh to the river Blackwater, would be a work of public utility, the following reasons are most respectfully submitted to the Right Honourable and Honourable the Committee of the House of Commons.

From Armagh, being the most considerable market in the kingdom for the sale of brown linens, the manufacture of that staple article is carried on to a very great extent in its neighbourhood; but this manufacture is in danger of being most materially injured, from the great scarcity of fuel, which is such as to oblige the opulent inhabitants to use English coal, at a great expense of land carriage; and they have latterly, at inclement seasons, been under the necessity of subscribing large sums, to procure that article at a low price for the poor, to prevent them from perishing.

Should a navigation be opened from Lough Neagh it would give the means of a supply of turf from the extensive bogs in the neighbourhood of the lake, would open a communication with the collieries at Coal island, in the county of Tyrone, and bring English or Scotch coal at considerably under the prices at which they can now be procured.

An extensive trade in general articles of merchandise being carried on from Armagh, not only to its own neighbourhood, but to a considerable part of the counties of Monaghan and Tyrone, by opening a navigation through Lough Neagh to the ports of Belfast and Newry, this trade would be very considerably extended, to the great advantage of Armagh, and all those places to which its trade extends, and would tend much to improve the public revenue.

To the great number of bleach-greens and flour mills in the neighbourhood of Armagh, water carriage would be of the highest importance, as well for the conveyance of bleaching stuffs, coals, grain, and flour, as of timber, slates, and other heavy articles, used in erecting and repairing the necessary buildings, machinery, &c.

In a large tract of country, from Blackwater town to Lough Neagh, and from thence up the river Bann, and along the canal to Newry (an extent of nearly 30 miles), there is no limestone whatever; so that lime can only be procured by land carriage from a distance of several miles, which prevents its being at all used in that important national object — agriculture.

Was a canal opened from Armagh, it must necessarily go through the lands in that vicinity, containing inexhaustible quantities of limestone, which could be conveyed by boats returning from Armagh, at a very inconsiderable expense, to all that part of the county above mentioned.

The cut, as laid down in the plan, would extend about five and a half miles; and according to the estimate, would, when completed, cost from £18,000 to £20,000, about one-third of which could be raised by subscription.

To keep the works in repair, and pay interest to the subscribers, would require a toll of about sixpence per ton on all boats carrying coals, or any other species of merchandise; but boats laden merely with turf or limestone might be charged only twopence per ton.

The number of horses constantly employed in bringing coals, turf, and other necessaries, to Armagh, amount to some hundreds; two-thirds of these would, from a canal, become unnecessary, and consequently make a saving to the country of their keeping, attendance, &c to a very large amount.

Should the Armagh navigation be carried into execution, it would be necessary to give the commissioners of it a power of laying on a very small toll on vessels coming into the Blackwater from Lough Neagh, to enable them to clear, and keep in order, a cut which was made many years ago (as marked in the plan), to avoid a sand bank in the mouth of the river Blackwater.

 

Armagh, Moy and Lough Neagh

Armagh, Moy and Lough Neagh

A Atkinson Esq (late of Dublin) Ireland exhibited to England, in a political and moral survey of her population, and in a statistical and scenographic tour of certain districts; comprehending specimens of her colonisation, natural history and antiquities, arts, sciences, and commerce, customs, character, and manners, seats, scenes and sea views. Violent inequalities in her political and social system, the true source of her disorders. Plan for softening down those inequalities, and for uniting all classes of the people in one civil association for the improvement of their country. With a letter to the members of His Majesty’s Government on the state of Ireland Vol II Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, London 1823.

The Armagh canal document, bearing a date of June 20th 1800, is also included in Rev John Dubourdieu Statistical Survey of the County of Antrim, with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up for the consideration, and by direction of The Dublin Society Dublin 1812 [Google scan, again sketchless] but is not, oddly, mentioned in Sir Charles Coote Bart Statistical survey of the County of Armagh: with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up in the years 1802, and 1803, for the consideration, and under the direction of the Dublin Society Dublin 1804 [at archive.org here], although Coote does say of Newry

A canal has been in contemplation, to be cut from this town to Armagh, and an iron road is also talked of, but there has been no decision in either cases.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

The Dublin to Lough Neagh Canal

Here’s another lunatic canal proposal: one I hadn’t come across before.

Proposal for making a line of navigation from Dublin to Lough Neagh

It is proposed by several noblemen and gentlemen of the county of Meath, and of the manufacturing counties of the north of Ireland, the river Boyne company, with several merchants of the city of Dublin and of the commercial towns of the north, to complete, by private subscription, together with such aid as parliament may be pleased to grant, a navigable canal, from the royal canal at Blanchardstown, near Castleknock, in the county of Dublin, to Navan, Kells, Balieborough, Monaghan, Armagh, and Lough Neagh.

The object of this undertaking is to open a direct intercourse between the metropolis and the manufacturing towns of the north; and it is conceived, by the proposers for this undertaking, that a canal, large enough to navigate twenty-five ton boats on, would answer the trade; and in consequence of many locks being already made, rising from the city of Dublin to Castleknock, they think such a canal could be carried on very cheaply from thence to Navan, where another ascent takes place, through the locks of the Boyne navigation to the level of the town of Kells, and the river Blackwater, at Glevin’s bridge, three miles north of that town.

Claven's Bridge over the Blackwater near Kells

Claven’s Bridge over the Blackwater near Kells

My OSI logo and permit number for website

The country northward appears so fit for inland navigation, that no doubt can be entertained of being able to cut cheap canals through it. It is therefore most humbly hoped, if a line for a canal in this direction should be found to answer the expectation, that parliament will be pleased to allow the undertaking to become a part of the intended system of inland navigation of Ireland, and to a share of whatever bounty parliament may grant to accomplish the same.

The advantages that would arise to the nation from this undertaking, are too obvious to take up the time of this honourable house with any comment upon them.

A Atkinson Esq (late of Dublin) Ireland exhibited to England, in a political and moral survey of her population, and in a statistical and scenographic tour of certain districts; comprehending specimens of her colonisation, natural history and antiquities, arts, sciences, and commerce, customs, character, and manners, seats, scenes and sea views. Violent inequalities in her political and social system, the true source of her disorders. Plan for softening down those inequalities, and for uniting all classes of the people in one civil association for the improvement of their country. With a letter to the members of His Majesty’s Government on the state of Ireland Vol II Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, London 1823

The Clones Sheugh and other northern waters

Industrial Heritage Ireland has been visiting Ulster waterways including the Blackwater, which linked the Ulster Canal to Lough Neagh.

Brian Cassells was quoted again in the Belfast Telegraph on 27 April 2013. He believes that walking in the country is a Good Thing, although it’s not clear why that requires a canal. I trust that Sammy Wilson will stand firm and refuse to spend public money on a project that has an even stronger political smell than the proposed Narrow Water Bridge.

Lismore to Fermoy

A meeting was held in Fermoy in 1844 to promote a proposal to make the Blackwater navigable from Lismore upstream to Fermoy. Here is the Cork Examiner‘s account of the meeting.

Fermoy railway station opened in 1860.

Northern Ireland seeks cutting-edge technology … of the 18th century

IndustrialHeritageIreland reports on two recent outbreaks of cargo cultism in Norn Iron. Folk in Tyrone want the whole of the Ulster Canal to be restored to its, er, former glory, which presumably means without any water west of Monaghan, while a Sinn Féin MLA wants to lumber Waterways Ireland with responsibility for the useless Strabane Canal on which £1.3 million has already been wasted.

What is it with Sinn Féin and canals? I realise that Irish republicanism is by definition a backward-looking creed, with little contact with reality, but why not look to (say) early nineteenth century technology, like the steam railway, rather than that of the eighteenth century?

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that Sinn Féin folk, especially those who are subjects of Her current Majesty, adopt a British conception of inland waterways. In Britain, canals dominate and boats must travel slowly, no faster than the horse-drawn vessels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But Irish waterways are dominated by lakes, whereon modern folk like to zoom around in fast boats: jetskis, speedboats and skiboats, fast cruisers. Such boats are entirely unsuitable for canals: they damage the banks and the pace bores their owners.

As it happens, we have lots of lakes where owners can zoom. [I’d prefer if they didn’t, but that’s the way it is.] And with reductions in the amount of boating activity, we don’t need any additional waterways. Sinn Féin, though, doesn’t seem to have grasped this. Stuck in the eighteenth century, it wants canals. I suppose we should be grateful it isn’t proposing to have the taxpayer stump up for coal-mines as well.

The Munster Blackwater …

… from water level: an account of a swim down the river.