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The Hertford Union Canal or Duckett's Cut is just over 1 mile (1.6 km) long in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in East London. It connects the Regent's Canal to the Lee Navigation.[1] It was opened in 1830 but quickly proved to be a commercial failure. It was acquired by the Regents Canal Company in 1857, and became part of the Grand Union Canal in 1927.[2]

Hertford Union Canal
Hertford union canal junction.jpg
Junction of Hertford Union Canal and River Lee Navigation
Maximum boat length72 ft 0 in (21.95 m)
Maximum boat beam14 ft 0 in (4.27 m)
Navigation authorityCanal and River Trust
Original ownerSir George Duckett
Principal engineerFrancis Giles
Date of act1824
Date completed1830
Start pointRegent's Canal
End pointLee Navigation
Hertford Union Canal
River Lee Navigation
Old Ford Bottom Lock
Wansbeck Road
 A12  East Cross Route
Cadogan Terrace
Old Ford Middle Lock
Old Ford Top Lock
 B118  Old Ford Road
 A1205  Grove Road
Regent's Canal


Like its 1766 predecessor, the Limehouse Cut, the Hertford Union Canal was intended to provide a short-cut between the River Thames and the River Lee Navigation. It allowed traffic on the Lea heading for the Thames to bypass the tidal, tortuous and often silted Bow Back Rivers of the Lea via a short stretch of the Regent's Canal, and provided a short-cut from the Lea to places west along the Regent's Canal.

The canal was promoted by Sir George Duckett who succeeded in gaining an Act of Parliament that gained its Royal Assent on 17 May 1824, entitled An Act for making and maintaining a navigable Canal from the River Lee Navigation, in the parish of St. Mary Stratford Bow, in the county of Middlesex, to join the Regent's Canal at or near a Place called Old Ford Lock, in the parish of St. Matthew Bethnal Green, in the said county of Middlesex.[3]

The Act authorised Duckett to borrow up to £50,000 to fund construction, and to charge tolls for using the canal, initially one shilling (£0.05) per ton of goods carried.[3]

With Francis Giles appointed as engineer, the canal opened in 1830 and was for some years known as Duckett's Canal or Duckett's cut (or passage). It was not a commercial success, and within a year offers to waive the tolls were being made. For several years around the 1850s it was unnavigable, as a dam was built across it to prevent the Regent's Canal losing water to it. After failed attempts to sell it in 1851, it was eventually acquired by the Regent's Canal Company and became a branch of that canal on 28 October 1857. The new owners removed the dam, and deepened and widened the channel.[4] When the Grand Union Canal Company came into existence on 1 January 1929, it became part of that network. Today, it is maintained by the Canal & River Trust.


The canal starts at Hertford Union Junction between Mile End Lock and Old Ford Lock on the Regent's Canal. It passes along the north of Bow Wharf, redeveloped in the 1990s with shops and bars, and after Grove Road, passes south of Lakeview Estate, completed in 1958. For much of the rest of its route it is bounded on the north by Victoria Park. The canal joins the Lee Navigation just above Old Ford Lock.

Many of the associated locks, bridges and other features around the canal, date from the canal's opening in 1830 and are designated listed structures within a scheduled ancient monument.[5]


Hertford Union Top Lock No. 1
Hertford Union Middle Lock No. 2
Hertford Union Bottom Lock No. 3

The locks on this canal have been collectively named Old Ford Three Locks,[6] all lying within the district of Old Ford, but are now individually known as Hertford Union Top, Middle and Bottom locks. They are grouped together towards the north-eastern end, and descend approximately 19 feet (5.8 m) from the Regent's Canal to the Lee Navigation. These locks are all single manual locks, and the largest craft that can use them have a length of 72 feet and a beam of 14 feet.[7]

Proceeding west to east, the locks are:

Hertford Union Top Lock No. 1Edit

This is lock No.1, and is 0.63 miles (1.0 km) from the Hertford Union Junction with the Regent's Canal. It is to the south of Victoria Park, with the tail of the lock passing beneath a cast iron footbridge accessing the park from Parnell Road.[8] It has a fall of 6 feet 3 inches (1.9 m).[9]

The lock was designated a Grade II listed structure in 1990, and its bottom gates have rare cast iron balance beams.[10] One of the adjacent cottages (No 3 Lock Cottages) is also a Grade II listed building.[11]
51°32′17″N 0°01′47″W / 51.538056°N 0.029783°W / 51.538056; -0.029783

Hertford Union Middle Lock No. 2Edit

The middle lock has a fall of 8 feet 11 inches (2.7 m)[12] The tail of the lock passes under Cadogan Terrace.
51°32′21″N 0°01′39″W / 51.539082°N 0.027568°W / 51.539082; -0.027568

Hertford Union Bottom Lock No. 3Edit

The lower lock has a fall of 3 feet 9 inches (1.1 m). It is just 0.13 miles (0.2 km) from the junction with the River Lee.[13]

The public house, now the "Top of the Morning", but then the Mitford Castle, by the ramp to the canal, on Wick Road, was where Thomas Briggs – the first victim of a railway murder – was taken to die from his wounds, in July 1864 (see Hackney Wick).[14]
51°32′26″N 0°01′29″W / 51.540610°N 0.024636°W / 51.540610; -0.024636


The nearest London Overground station is Hackney Wick

The canal towpath is open to walkers and cyclists — without permit. At its eastern end, the towpath joins the Lea Valley Walk. At Hackney Wick, the Capital Ring crosses the canal; with section 13 proceeding north-west toward Stoke Newington[15] and section 14, south-east — using The Greenway towards Beckton District Park.[16] The towpath forms part of the "Limehouse Circuit"; commencing at Limehouse Basin and utilising the Limehouse Cut, Lee Navigation, Regent's Canal and Hertford Union in a circular five-mile walk.

The Olympic Park, London was constructed to the east of the Lee Navigation. During the games, the Cut was closed to navigation and used for mooring visiting craft. In the legacy phase of the 2012 Summer Olympics, there is promised access to the Olympic Park and Bow Back Rivers.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Boating facilities". Canal & River Trust. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2018.; "Lea Valley Walk, Section 4 of 6, Southwold Road to Three Mills Bromley-by-Bow" (PDF). Transport for London. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Waterways of England and Wales: London's Minor Canals: Smaller Navigations of London". London Canal Museum Home Page. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b Priestley, Joseph (1831). Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, and Railways, of Great Britain. Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown & Green
  4. ^ London Canals: Hertford Union: History Archived 2007-12-01 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ See individual listings for details
  6. ^ "Inland Waterways Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland". Imray, Laurie, Norie And Wilson, Limited. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Boating in London. Facilities, maps and waterways guide". British Waterways. p. 13. Archived from the original on 5 May 2011.
  8. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1260227)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  9. ^ "Hertford Union Top Lock No 1". CanalPlan AC. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1357546)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  11. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1065741)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  12. ^ "Hertford Union Middle Lock No 2". CanalPlanAC. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  13. ^ "Hertford Union Bottom Lock No 3". CanalplanAC. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  14. ^ Harper's Weekly, 10 September 1864 Retrieved 1 December 2007
  15. ^ Capital Ring Section 13: Stoke Newington to Hackney Wick, Transport for London, Retrieved 14 December 2008
  16. ^ Capital Ring Section 14: Hackney Wick to Beckton District Park, Transport for London, Retrieved 14 December 2008