History

Bulbourne Yard is an historically important purpose built canal maintenance yard that operated for nearly two centuries, only moving when the buildings could no longer accommodate mechanised production.  The Listed buildings are unmatched on the canal network for their completeness.

The Grand Junction Canal was constructed as a short cut from Brentford in West London to Braunston in the industrial Midlands.  The Act of Parliament to allow the canal to be constructed was passed in 1793, and after raising £600,000 though private venture capital, construction started in the same year at the two ends of the canal simultaneously.

The canal carried commercial cargo, and also packet boats that carried passengers, luggage and mail, but struggled with competition from the railways by the mid 19th century. At first the canals and railways did coexist, the railways concentrating on transporting passengers and light goods and the canals on moving the bulky and heavy goods. By the 1850s the railway system had become well established and the amount of cargo carried on the canals had fallen by nearly two-thirds. The canals survived through the 19th century largely by occupying the niches that the railways had missed, or by supplying local markets such as the coal-hungry factories and mills of the big cities. However, as road networks increased in the mid 20th century the canals were largely unable to compete.  In 1948 the Grand Union was nationalised.

The Yard was purpose built as a canal maintenance yard, manufacturing gates and repairing canals for the Southern canal network for nearly two centuries.

The Yard is a series of historic and Listed buildings are unmatched on the canal network for their completeness.

Our site in chronology:

  • By 1811 there appears to be a house in the current location of Plot 14.  This was named the surveyor’s house, the surveyor (or engineer) being James Barnes. It is likely this is refers to the origin of the current house.
  • The four listed buildings date from 1849, built as bespoke workshops.
  • The three cottages at the entrance to the site were built in 1893, and were occupied by canal workers, the last leaving in 2016.
  • In 2003 the manufacture of lock gates ceased as the buildings could no longer accommodate mechanised  production. Canal and River Trust continued to use the base and the water side access until 2019, but will return once the site is completed.
  • 2019 works start for conversion to homes and a new office for Canal & River Trust.