Regent's Canal

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Regent's Canal
Regents Canal, London, England -Islington tunnel-21March2010.jpg
West portal of the Islington tunnel
Specifications
Length8.6 miles (13.8 km)
Maximum boat length78 ft 0 in (23.77 m)
Maximum boat beam 14 ft 6 in (4.42 m)
Locks13
StatusOpen
Navigation authority Canal and River Trust
History
Principal engineer James Morgan
Date of act1812
Construction began14 October 1812
Date of first use1816 (1816)
Date completed1 Aug 1820
Geography
Start point Paddington Arm
(Grand Union Canal)
End point River Thames
(Limehouse)
Branch(es) Hertford Union Canal
Limehouse Cut
Regent's Canal
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Grand Union Canal
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Little Venice, Maida Vale
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A404 Harrow Road
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A40 Westway
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A4206 Bishop's Bridge
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Paddington Basin
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A5
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Maida Hill Tunnel
272 yards (249 m)
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Eyre's Tunnel
53 yards (48 m)
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Chiltern Main Line bridge
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A41 Chapel Bridge
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Macclesfield Bridge
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Cumberland Basin
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A5205 Water Meeting Bridge
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West Coast Main Line bridge
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Hampstead Road Locks
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A502 Hampstead Road Bridge
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2
Hawley Lock
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3
Kentish Town Lock
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A400 Kentish Town Bridge
northbound
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A400 Camden Bridge
southbound
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A503 Camden Road
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A5202 College Street Bridge
northbound
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A5202 Gray's Inn Bridge
southbound
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Midland Main Line bridge
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St Pancras Basin
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4
St Pancras Lock
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East Coast Main Line tunnel
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A5200 Maiden Lane Bridge
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Battlebridge Basin
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A5203 Thornhill Bridge
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Islington Tunnel
960 yards (880 m)
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City Road Lock
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City Road Basin
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Wenlock Basin
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Sturt's Lock
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A1200 New North Road Bridge
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Kingsland Basin
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A10 Kingsland Bridge
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East London line bridge
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Laburnum Basin
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7
Acton's Lock
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West Anglia Main Line bridge
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A107 Cambridge Heath Bridge
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Old Ford Lock
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Hertford Union Canal
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Great Eastern Main Line bridge
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Mile End Lock
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A11 Mile End Bridge
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Johnson's Lock
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London, Tilbury & Southend line bridge
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Salmon Lane Lock
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A13 Commercial Road Bridge
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Commercial Road Lock
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DLR bridge
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Limehouse Basin Marina
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Limehouse Cut
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13
Limehouse Basin Lock
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River Thames

Regent's Canal is a canal across an area just north of central London, England. It provides a link from the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, 550 yards (500 m) north-west of Paddington Basin in the west, to the Limehouse Basin and the River Thames in east London. The canal is 8.6 miles (13.8 km) long. [1]

Contents

History

Regent's Canal: Transfer certificate of 10 shares, issued 1 December 1818 Regents Canal 1818.jpg
Regent’s Canal: Transfer certificate of 10 shares, issued 1 December 1818

First proposed by Thomas Homer in 1802 as a link from the Paddington arm of the then Grand Junction Canal (opened in 1801) with the River Thames at Limehouse, the Regent's Canal was built during the early 19th century after an Act of Parliament was passed in 1812. Noted architect and town planner John Nash was a director of the company; in 1811 he had produced a masterplan for George IV, then Prince Regent, to redevelop a large area of central north London – as a result, the Regent’s Canal was included in the scheme, running for part of its distance along the northern edge of Regent's Park.

The entrance to the Regent's Canal at Limehouse, 1823. Regent's Canal Limehouse1823.jpg
The entrance to the Regent's Canal at Limehouse, 1823.

As with many Nash projects, the detailed design was passed to one of his assistants, in this case James Morgan, who was appointed chief engineer of the canal company. Work began on 14 October 1812. The first section from Paddington to Camden Town opened in 1816 and included a 251-metre (274 yd) long tunnel under Maida Hill east of an area now known as 'Little Venice', and a much shorter tunnel, just 48 metres (52 yd) long, under Lisson Grove. The Camden to Limehouse section, including the 886-metre (969 yd) long Islington Tunnel and the Regent's Canal Dock (used to transfer cargo from seafaring vessels to canal barges – today known as Limehouse Basin), opened four years later on 1 August 1820. Various intermediate basins were also constructed (e.g.: Cumberland Basin to the east of Regent's Park, Battlebridge Basin (close to King's Cross, London) and City Road Basin). Many other basins such as Wenlock Basin, Kingsland Basin, St. Pancras Stone and Coal Basin, and one in front of the Great Northern Railway's Granary were also built, and some of these survive.

All the locks were built with duplicate chambers to facilitate the heavy barge traffic. With the demise of commercial traffic in the early 1970s, at the end of 1973, the British Waterways Board embarked on a three year programme to convert one chamber at each lock into an overflow weir to facilitate unmanned use by pleasure craft without the risk of serious flooding due to incorrect use of the paddles. [2]

The City Road Basin, the nearest to the City of London, soon eclipsed the Paddington Basin in the amount of goods carried, principally coal and building materials. These were goods that were being shipped locally, in contrast to the canal's original purpose of transshipping imports to the Midlands. The opening of the London and Birmingham Railway in 1838 actually increased the tonnage of coal carried by the canal. By the early twentieth century, with the Midland trade lost to the railways, and more deliveries made by road, the canal had fallen into a long decline. [3]

Explosion of the barge Tilbury under the Macclesfield Bridge

Macclesfield Bridge before the explosion. After the explosion it was also known as Blow Up Bridge. Macclesfield Bridge, Regent's Park - Shepherd, Metropolitan Improvements (1828), p219.jpg
Macclesfield Bridge before the explosion. After the explosion it was also known as Blow Up Bridge.

Just before 5am on 2 October 1874 the narrowboat barge 'Tilbury' which was loaded with sugar, nuts, three barrels of petroleum and around five tons of gunpowder exploded right under the Macclesfield Bridge, just outside London Zoo. Until the explosion, the Tilbury was part of a convoy consisting of a tugboat and three narrowboats travelling westwards heading for a quarry in the West Midlands. [4] [5]

Damage and aftermath

All people on board died, these were captain Charles Baxton, a labourer named William Taylor, a third man and a young boy. The Macclesfield bridge was destroyed and rebuilt in 1876 reusing the cast iron pillars (made in Coalbrookdale according to an inscription at their top), but turning them by 180° (canal side towards tow path side) so, tow rope grooves that were created before the incident can be seen on the outer side of the columns. The explosion was heard 20 miles away. Debris flew in all directions, the roofs of surrounding houses blew off, windows smashed, trees uprooted and dead fish rained down on the West End. The tugboat’s keel was found embedded in a house 300 yards away. [4] The bridge was nick-named the 'Blow-Up Bridge'. [5]

The damage would have been far worse had the barge exploded in the highly populated areas of Camden and Islington, which the convoy had passed through earlier that morning. The canal company that owned Tilbury was condemned for gross negligence in permitting the “highly imprudent and improper” practice of carrying petroleum and gunpowder aboard the same barge. The incident accelerated the passing of the Explosives Act in 1875Explosives Act 1875, which regulates the manufacture and carriage of dangerous substances. [4]

Railway projects

There were a number of abortive projects to convert the route of the canal into a railway. In September 1845 a special general assembly of the proprietors approved the sale of the canal at the price of one million pounds to a group of businessmen [6] who had formed the Regent's Canal Railway Company for the purpose. [7] The advertisement for the company explained:

The vast importance of this undertaking, whereby a junction will be effected between all existing and projected railways north of the Thames, combined with the advantage of a General City Terminus, is too obvious to require comment. By the proposed railway, passengers and goods will be brought into the heart of the City at a great saving of time and expense, and facilities will be afforded for the more expeditious transmission of the mails to most parts of the kingdom. [7]

The railway company subsequently failed, but in 1846 the directors of the canal went about trying to obtain an Act of Parliament to allow them to build a railway along its banks. The scheme was abandoned in the face of vigorous opposition, especially from the government who objected to the idea of a railway passing through Regent's Park. In 1859, two further schemes to convert the canal into a railway were proposed. One, from a company called the Central London Railway and Dock Company, was accepted by the directors, but once again the railway company failed. In 1860 the Regent's Canal Company proposed a railway track alongside the canal from Kings Cross to Limehouse, but funds could not be raised. Further schemes over the next twenty years also came to nothing,[ citation needed ] with the Metropolitan Railway that opened to the south in 1863 serving much the same purpose of linking the lines radiating north of London.

In 1883, after some years of negotiation, the canal was sold to a company called the Regent's Canal and City Docks Railway Company. at a cost of £1,170,585. The company altered its name to the North Metropolitan Railway and Canal Company in 1892, but no railway was ever built; instead it raised money for dock and canal improvement and eventually, in 1904, became the Regent's Canal and Dock Company. [6]

The Regent's Canal and Dock Company became part of the merged Grand Union Canal Company on 1 January 1929.

Wenlock Basin, Islington (2004) WenlockStitch.jpg
Wenlock Basin, Islington (2004)

New uses

Commercial Road Lock on Regent's Canal where it meets the Limehouse Basin Canal lock - Regent's Canal - Limehouse Basin.jpg
Commercial Road Lock on Regent's Canal where it meets the Limehouse Basin

A new purpose was found for the canal route in 1979, when the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) installed underground cables in a trough below the towpath between St John's Wood and City Road. These 400  kV cables now form part of the National Grid, supplying electrical power to London. Pumped canal water is circulated as a coolant for the high-voltage cables. The canal is frequently used today for pleasure cruising; a regular waterbus service operates between Maida Vale and Camden, running hourly during the summer months. [8]

Due to the increase in cycle commuting since the 2005 London Bombings [9] and increasing environmental awareness, the canal's towpath has become a busy cycle route for commuters. National Cycle Route 1 includes the stretch along the canal towpath from Limehouse Basin to Mile End. British Waterways has carried out several studies into the effects of sharing the towpath between cyclists and pedestrians, all of which have concluded that despite the limited width there were relatively few problems at the time of the audits. [10] More recently, in 2019, The Guardian reported on instances of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists. [11]

Geography

Map of the route of the Regent's Canal in London Regent's Canal map.jpg
Map of the route of the Regent's Canal in London

The Regent's Canal forms a junction with the old Grand Junction Canal at Little Venice, a short distance north of Paddington Basin. After passing through the Maida Hill and Lisson Grove tunnels, the canal curves round the northern edge of Regent's Park, passing London Zoo and skirting round the base of Primrose Hill. It continues through Camden Town and King's Cross Central. It performs a sharp bend at Camley Street Natural Park, following Goods Way where it flows behind both St Pancras railway station and King's Cross railway station. The canal opens out into Battlebridge Basin, originally known as Horsfall Basin, home of the London Canal Museum. Continuing eastwards beyond the Islington tunnel it forms the southern end of Broadway Market and meets the Hertford Union Canal at Victoria Park, East London. It turns south towards the Limehouse Basin, where it meets the Limehouse Cut, and ends as it joins the River Thames. [ citation needed ]

Maximum craft dimensions

The Regent's Canal near St Mark's Regents' Park. Canal Regent Londres.jpg
The Regent's Canal near St Mark's Regents' Park.

On the Regent's Canal the maximum length is 21.95 metres (72.0 ft), with a beam of 4.27 metres (14.0 ft) and a headroom of 2.79 metres (9 ft 2 in). The navigational depth is, on average 1.15 m (3 ft 6 in). [12]

Culture

In 2012, playwright Rob Inglis was awarded a £16,000 Arts Council grant to write Regent's Canal, a Folk Opera, a musical that celebrates the 200th anniversary of the digging of the canal. [13] It played in a number of locations around London in 2012. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Grand Union Canal Canal in England

The Grand Union Canal in England is part of the British canal system. Its main line starts in London and ends in Birmingham, stretching for 137 miles (220 km) with 166 locks. It has arms to places including Leicester, Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover and Northampton.

Paddington Human settlement in England

Paddington is an area within the City of Westminster, in central London. First a medieval parish then a metropolitan borough, it was integrated with Westminster and Greater London in 1965. Three important landmarks of the district are Paddington station, designed by the celebrated engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1847; St Mary's Hospital; and the former Paddington Green Police Station.

Limehouse Cut Canal in East End of London, England

The Limehouse Cut is a largely straight, broad canal in the East End of London which links the lower reaches of the Lee Navigation to the River Thames. Opening on 17 September 1770, and widened for two-way traffic by 1777, it is the oldest canal in the London area. Although short, it has a diverse social and industrial history. Formerly discharging directly into the Thames, since 1968 it has done so indirectly by a connection through Limehouse Basin.

The Limehouse Basin in Limehouse, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets provides a navigable link between the Regent's Canal and the River Thames, through the Limehouse Basin Lock. A basin in the north of Mile End, near Victoria Park connects with the Hertford Union Canal leading to the River Lee Navigation. The dock originally covered an area of about 15 acres (60,703 m2). The Basin lies between the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) line and historic Narrow Street. Directly to the east is a small park, Ropemaker's Fields.

London Canal Museum Transport museum in London, England

London Canal Museum in the King's Cross area of London, England, is a regional museum that displays information about the history of London's canals.

St Pancras Cruising Club

St Pancras Cruising Club (SPCC) is a members' association of boat owners located between Camden Town and Islington on the Regent's Canal in central London. Most boats in the basin are narrowboats, the most common form of craft on the British canals. As the club is near to King's Cross station, it is affected by the ongoing developments at King's Cross Central, formerly known as the Railway Lands.

Camden Lock

Camden Lock is a small part of Camden Town, London Borough of Camden, England, which was formerly a wharf with stables on the Regent's Canal. It is immediately to the north of Hampstead Road Locks, a twin manually operated lock. The twin locks together are "Hampstead Road Lock 1"; each bears a sign so marked. Hawley Lock and Kentish Town Lock are a short distance away to the east; to the west is a long level pound — it is 27 miles (43 km) to the next lock.

City Road Basin

The City Road Basin is an English canal basin and part of the Regent's Canal in Central London, owned by the Canal & River Trust. It opened in 1820, and made a large contribution to the prosperity of the Regent's Canal. By the 1950s, its surroundings were largely derelict, but a programme of regeneration began in 2004, involving several large-scale residential developments, and public access to the basin was provided for the first time in 2009. The basin is used for canoeing by the Islington Boat Club.

Britannia Stop Lock was a lock on the Limehouse Cut in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It was built in 1853. The gates were either side of Commercial Road bridge and were oriented such that a boat travelling from south-west to north-east would ascend in height.

Islington Tunnel

The Islington Tunnel takes the Regent’s Canal 960 yards (878 m) under Angel, Islington, as the longest such tunnel in London. The way for short boats and barges only opened in 1818; the pavements above are waymarked so the otherwise discontinued towpaths are connected. The canal's Eyre's and Maida Hill Tunnels, to the west, are much shorter.

St Pancras Lock

St Pancras Lock is a lock on the Regent's Canal, in the London Borough of Camden, England. The St Pancras Basin is nearby.

City Road Lock

City Road Lock is a lock on the Regent's Canal, in the London Borough of Islington, England. It is located a short distance to the east of Islington Tunnel, and immediately to the west of City Road Basin.

Maida Hill Tunnel

Maida Hill Tunnel is a canal tunnel on the Regent's Canal in London, England. The two other tunnels on the Regent's Canal are Islington Tunnel and Eyre's Tunnel.

Transport on the Regents Canal

Several private boat companies operate services which provide Transport on the Regent's Canal. The services run along the Regent's Canal in London, England, UK, and are open to the public. They provide both leisure cruises and regular scheduled "water bus" services along the canal between Little Venice, London Zoo and Camden Lock.

Angel, London Human settlement in England

Angel is a locality on the northern fringes of Central London within the London Borough of Islington. It is 2 miles (3.2 km) north-northeast of Charing Cross on the Inner Ring Road at a busy transport intersection. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in London. It is a significant commercial and retail centre, and a business improvement district. Angel straddles the ancient boundary of the parishes of Clerkenwell and Islington that later became the metropolitan boroughs of Finsbury and Islington. It is named from the former Angel Inn which stood on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road. Since 1965 the whole area has formed part of the London Borough of Islington in Greater London.

Paddington Arm

The Paddington Canal or Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal is a 13+12-mile (22 km) canal to Paddington in central London, England. It runs from the west of the capital at Bull's Bridge in Hayes. Little Venice — its only junction — is with the Regent's Canal, London that runs to Limehouse Basin to the east. The arm and the two canals it links are fed by water by the Brent Reservoir. The Paddington Arm is part of a long pound that stretches for nearly thirty miles.

Little Venice District in London, England

Little Venice is a district in West London, England, around the junction of the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, the Regent's Canal, and the entrance to Paddington Basin. The junction forms a triangular shape basin. Many of the buildings in the vicinity are Regency white painted stucco terraced town houses and taller blocks (mansions) in the same style. The area is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) west-north-west of Charing Cross and immediately north-west of Paddington.

Widebeam

A widebeam is a canal boat built in the style of a British narrowboat but with a beam of 2.16 metres or greater. Widebeams are found on the UK waterways, a canal and river system that is managed by the Canal and River Trust (CRT)

References

  1. "Regent's Canal".
  2. McKnight, Hugh (1978). The Shell Book of Inland Waterways. Newton Abbot: David and Charles.
  3. Islington: Communications, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8: Islington and Stoke Newington parishes (1985), pp. 3–8 accessed: 22 July 2008
  4. 1 2 3 "The Great Barge Explosion". Waterfront. November 25, 2015.
  5. 1 2 "The Explosive History Of Blow-Up Bridge". Londonist. January 26, 2017.
  6. 1 2 Denney, Martin (1977). London's Waterways. London: B.T. Batsford. pp. 79–80. ISBN   0-7134-0558-9.
  7. 1 2 "Regent's Canal Railway". The British and Foreign Railway Review. 1 (1): 306. 1845. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
  8. "Regents Canal Waterbus". London Waterbus Company. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  9. 'Cycling on London's Waterways', British Waterways London
  10. See a presentation Archived June 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine by British Waterways following a Safety Audit Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine study by Transport Initiatives in 2006. Archived January 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  11. Townsend, Mark (July 27, 2019). "On roads, cyclists are vulnerable – but on towpaths they're the menace". Guardian. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  12. Boating in London(British Waterways). Retrieved October 29, 2011 Archived May 5, 2011, at the UK Government Web Archive
  13. ""Regent's Canal" – a folk opera". Archived from the original on December 22, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  14. Peter Gruner (August 23, 2012). "Musical writer Rob Inglis finishes off folk opera script from hospital bed". CamdenNewJournal. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2014.

Further reading

Next confluence upstream River Thames Next confluence downstream
River Neckinger (south)Regent's Canal River Ravensbourne (south)
(Deptford Creek)