Little Venice and London Canals

Little Venice on London Canals

Little Venice – the heart of London’s Historic Canals

London Canals were built in the late 1700’s when the canals of the UK enabled the Industrial Revolution, bringing together the raw materials needed in construction and manufacturing into the cities and linking almost all of the main population centres of the UK together with over 2,500 miles of canals and navigable rivers being built in just 40 years.

The Grand Union Canal linked the city of Birmingham to London and the new terminus of the canal was opened at Paddington in 1801, forming what we now know as Little Venice and Paddington Basin. Horse drawn narrowboats would carry all kinds of heavy goods into London along the towpath which now forms a most pleasant walking space throughout the country. Today boats of all shapes and sizes use the canals in a huge revival of interest in living and spending leisure time on the water but the days of waterborne transport are over.

Little Venice on the London Canals

Little Venice in Winter

From Little Venice the London Canals have three distinct routes – first to the very end of the Grand Union Canal where the old Paddington Basin was built as a new port on the very outskirts of the City of London at a time when the surrounding area to the west was undeveloped and was indeed the countryside. Today Paddington Basin has been redeveloped as Merchant Square, home to Marks and Spencers and EE to name but a few. Paddington is now more famous for Paddington Station which sits alongside the canal and has recently been given a whole new modern canal-side frontage right outside the Paddington Hammersmith and City Line platforms as the station prepares for the new Crossrail services linking East London to the West.

To the west from Little Venice, passing through the distinctive horse bridge at Warwick Terrace Road, the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union leaves Little Venice heading westwards for 13 miles before it joins the North to South route of the main Grand Union Canal which connects Brentford on the Thames to Birmingham, the centre of the UK’s canal system.

To the east of Little Venice is the Regent’s Canal, built from 1812 and finally opened throughout its 8.5 mile length from Little Venice to Limehouse in 1820. The Regent’s Canal was one of the last main canals built in the UK and never did repay the initial investment due to the rapid development of our railways within the lifetime of most of those involved in building it, but it does still serve an important purpose of linking the canal system of the UK to the docks on the River Thames and the world of importing and exporting which this enabled.

So welcome to our world. Our world of history, boating, wildlife, nature and the people who live and work on the waterways of London.