Monkland Canal

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Monkland Canal, an artificial navigable communication between the city of Glasgow and the district of Monkland in Lanarkshire. It commences in the northern suburbs of Glasgow, or rather is prolonged westward there into junction at Port-Dundas with the Glasgow branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal; and it proceeds east-south-eastward, through the Barony parish of Glasgow, and the parish of Old Monkland, to North Calder Water, at the boundary with Bothwell parish. It sends off four branches, one about a mile in length, to Calder Ironworks, near Airdrie, in the parish of New Monkland; one, about a mile in length, to Gartsherrie Ironworks; one, about ¼ mile in length, to Dundyvan Ironworks; and one, also about ¼ mile in length, to Langloan Ironworks-the three last all in the parish of Old Monkland.

The project of the Monkland Canal was suggested in 1769, as a measure for securing to the inhabitants of Glasgow, at all times, a plentiful supply of coals. The corporation of the city immediately adopted the project, employed the celebrated James Watt to survey the ground, obtained an Act of Parliament for carrying out the measure, and subscribed a number of shares to the stock. The work was begun in 1761; and the operations were carried on till about 10 miles of the canal were formed. The first 2 of these miles, extending from the basin to the bottom of Blackhill, are upon the level of the upper reach of the Forth and Clyde Canal; the other 8 miles, beginning at the top of the Blackhill, are upon a level 96 feet higher. The communication between these levels was at that early time carried on by means of an inclined plane, upon which the coals were lowered down in boxes, and re-shipped on the lower level. The capital which had been declared necessary to complete the undertaking was £10,000, divided into 100 shares; but this sum was found to be altogether insufficient; for, in addition to expending it, a debt of some amount was contracted in executing the above part only of the operations. The concern, in this unfinished state, produced no revenue, and the creditors naturally became pressing. A number of the stockholders, too, refused to make advances either for the liquidation of the debt, or for the completion of the plan. The whole stock of the company was consequently brought to sale, and purchased, in 1789, by Messrs William Stirling & Sons of Glasgow. These gentlemen, immediately after acquiring the property, proceeded to complete the canal; and, in 1790, having, in conjunction with the proprietors of the Forth and Clyde Canal, procured a second Act of Parliament, empowering the latter to make a junction between the navigations, by a cut from their basin at Port-Dundas in Glasgow to the Monkland Canal basin, they built locks at Blackhill, and extended the Monkland Canal to the river Calder. On these operations the Messrs Stirling are understood to have expended £100,000.

The Monkland Canal is 35 feet broad at the top and 24 at the bottom. The depth of water upon the locksills is 5½ feet. To connect the upper and lower levels, at Blackhill, there are two sets of four double locks of two chambers. Each chamber is 71 feet long from the gates to the sill, and 14 feet broad; the ascent in each being 12 feet. The level at the top of the Blackhill is continued to Sheepford, 8 miles, where there are two single locks of 11½ feet each, after which the canal goes on upon the level it has then gained to the river Calder. The supplies of water for it are derived from the contiguous streams, from the river Calder, and from the reservoir at Hillend, beyond Airdrie, which covers 300 acres of ground near the source of that river, and was formed at the expense of the proprietors of the Forth and Clyde navigation. From the advantage which the canal offers of easy communication with both the eastern and western seas, and from its unlimited command of coal, the vicinity of it has always been considered favourable for the establishment of manufactures, especially of a bulky nature. For a long series of years the revenue of the canal was wholly absorbed by the expenses of its extension and improvement. In 1807, when a dividend first began to be made, the gross revenue amounted to £4725; and in 1814 it was £5087, although the navigation during this year was stopped for eleven weeks, principally by the severe frost, but partly on account of necessary repairs. From 1814 or 1815 up to the year 1825 the traffic continued without much variation, but about the last-mentioned date a great impulse was given to it by the establishment of ironworks in the district of Monkland. When the project of opening up that district by railways to Glasgow and Kirkintilloch was first started, it created much alarm in the Canal Company, lest the traffic should be entirely diverted from their navigation to the new channels. The alarm was not unfounded, but it only induced the company to reduce their dues to about one-third of the rate which had been charged up till that time, and also to expend large sums in making such improvements on the canal, and on things connected with it, as seemed fitted to facilitate its traffic. One of these improvements was the making of additional reservoirs in the parish of Shotts, all uniting in the river Calder, which flows into the canal at Woodhall, near Holytown, thereby insuring an increased supply of water. Another improvement was the forming of extensive loading basins and wharves at Gartsherrie and Dundyvan, for the reception of traffic from the mineral railways in the vicinity. A third improvement was the making of new locks at Blackhill, near Glasgow, of such character as to excel all works of their class in Great Britain. These locks now comprise two entire sets of four double locks each, either set being worked independently of the other; and they were formed at an expense of upwards of £30,000. In 1850 the increase of traffic still going on, the supplies of water had again fallen short, and even the new locks at Blackhill could not pass the boats without undue delay. An inclined plane with rails was now formed at these locks, 1040 feet in length, and 96 feet in total ascent, at an expense of £13,500, by which empty boats are taken up at a saving of five-sixths of water, and about nine-tenths of time. Each boat is conveyed afloat in a caisson, and the traction is done by steam-power and rope-rolls. The plan is unique, was contrived by Messrs Leslie & Bateman, and has answered admirably. In 1846, under parliamentary sanction, the Monkland Canal became one concern with the Forth and Clyde Canal. The purchase price of it to Messrs Stirling and Sons in 1789 is said to have been only £5 per share; bu t the pnrchase price to the Forth and Clyde Company in 1846 was £3400 per share. As part of the Forth and Clyde navigation, the Monkland Canal was taken over by the Caledonian Railway Company in 1867.—Ord. Sur., sh. 31, 1867.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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