Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey

Royal Gunpowder Factory, Walthan Abbey
Lee and Stort Navigation

The trouble with this interest in aqueducts is that I end up finding out about some really interesting stuff, but which isn't actually about the subject in hand. Luckily my main blog, Captain Ahab's Watery Tales provides scope for elaboration, so if you want to know a bit more about this strange site I would suggest that you click across and take a look.

The Royal Gunpowder factory site extended to 10 miles of navigable canal used to transport explosives either in the form of raw materials or as finished product. Locks mean bumps and bumps could mean bangs - very big bangs. The site was therefore constructed on only two levels and spanned the River Lee on four occasions.
The first two aqueducts were very fine affairs, built in the early stages of the development on the site in 1878/9. These sturdy aqueducts were prefabricated off site as three huge slabs of cast iron, floated into place and then riveted into a single trough in situ. Only one of these aqueduct remains, but it stands in remarkably good condition, complete with a very impressive embossed royal insignia.

A third less elaborate aqueduct was added in 1904, near Newtons Pool. Much of this aqueduct remains save one end of where its base place was smashed out when two huge nitro glycerine explosions occurred in 1940.

The in house canal network operated until the 1940's when a last, and very utilitarian aqueduct was built to link up to a new mixing house. Newer is not always better and this structure, a simple concrete channel sat atop a row of concrete pipes has long since vanished.

Whilst the aqueducts are not cutting edge technology, their location is very interesting and the fact that the site contains three of only 26 cast iron aqueduct built on the UK makes this holy ground for ardent aqueduct hunters!

26, hmm. Thats quite a big number. I wonder where all the rest are? More hunting needed.

The photos are courtesy of www.londoncanals.co.uk

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