A lock by any other name, but which?

Canal Boat - - Letters - PETER ALLEN, via email

JUST RE­CENTLY, WE were on a trip around the North­ern BCN when we came upon a stop­page no­tice that men­tioned Salt­ley Locks on the Birm­ing­ham & War­wick Junc­tion Canal.

In the years that I’ve been boat­ing (35 plus) I have al­ways be­lieved that they were called Gar­ri­son Locks and that they were on the Grand Union Canal. My cur­rent Ni­chol­son’s Guide (pub­lished 2014) refers to them thus, but my older Ni­chol­son’s (pub­lished 1995) still refers to Gar­ri­son Locks, but this time they are on the Birm­ing­ham & War­wick Junc­tion Canal.

I as­sume that the Canal & River Trust is re­spon­si­ble for the nam­ing of the com­po­nents of the canal sys­tem, but are we to re­vert to the orig­i­nal names from when the ac­tual wa­ter­way was built or stick with the names they ended up with when it was run by Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways?

I think we should be told what the of­fi­cial des­ig­na­tion of each canal is so that we don’t get con­fused by new/old al­ter­na­tive names. late 1920s / early 1930s, and it was known to work­ing boat peo­ple as the Salt­ley Cut.

As for the locks, I’ve heard them re­ferred to as Gar­ri­son more of­ten than Salt­ley, and per­son­ally I’d use Gar­ri­son.

I’m not sure there’s a ‘bi­ble’ that can be trusted as a ref­er­ence. Brad­shaw’s Canals & Nav­i­ga­ble Rivers (1904) gives some idea of what was used dur­ing the canals’ work­ing life, but I sus­pect that, at times, he made things up (par­tic­u­larly lock num­bers). Also sev­eral canals changed names as a re­sult of amal­ga­ma­tions and takeovers. And any­way, there were of­ten of­fi­cial com­pany names which were dif­fer­ent from those used by the work­ing boat com­mu­nity. I’ve seen a list of GU locks with two or three names for each one.

I don’t see any great need for an of­fi­cial set of stan­dard names – to me, part of the charm of the wa­ter­ways is its com­pli­cated his­tory, its lack of stan­dard­i­s­a­tion, and its gen­eral quirk­i­ness. And if a dis­cus­sion about the cor­rect name leads to a les­son in wa­ter­ways her­itage, that’s a good thing.

Do be­ware of the per­ils of us­ing the term ‘Llan­gollen Canal’, though. Ev­ery time you call it any­thing other than ‘Ellesmere Canal’, you’re di­rectly con­tra­ven­ing the 1793 Act of Par­lia­ment. And I’ve seen a let­ter to a magazine sug­gest­ing that BWB (it was a few years back) should be “re­minded of its duty to obey the law of the land”. Yes, re­ally!”

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