Limehouse tidal lock is emptied by Canal Trust to fix leaking seals

Nothing but mud... Limehouse tidal lock is drained

Nothing but mud... Limehouse tidal lock is drained - Credit: Archant

You don’t see the Limehouse Lock quite like this every day—but that’s what it looks like this week with 20ft of water drained out.

Engineer Richard Dewhurst with the lock gate leaky seals

Engineer Richard Dewhurst with the lock gate leaky seals - Credit: Archant

All that remains is 3ft of mud and sludge at the bottom, washed in from the Thames over the last 25 years.

Meanwhile, there is no gateway onto the river from the Regent’s Canal or the Limehouse marina—all the canal boats and yachts are having to do a left up the Limehouse Cut from the marina, then a sharp right at Bromley-by-Bow into the River Lea to reach the Thames.

The Limehouse Tidal Lock at Narrow Street has been drained to allow essential maintenance work by the Canal & River Trust to replace the lock gate seals, with the work lasting till December 16.

“The seals have been leaking badly,” project engineer Richard Dewhurst explained.

“Divers were used to install temporary blocks which were lowered in by crane to stop the Thames tide flooding in, before we could pump out the water in the lock. Now we can start on replacing the seals.

“We thought we might have to dredge the mud silting up at the bottom, but it wasn’t as bad or deep as expected, so we’re leaving it where it is.”

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The original Limehouse tidal lock opened in 1770 to barges from the new Limehouse Cut, London’s oldest canal, which provided a much-needed short-route from the Lee Navigation at Bromley-by-Bow to the Thames.

Grain barges from Hertfordshire heading for the London markets needed to avoid the tortuous curves of the Bow Creek and the need to wait for the right tide on the Thames to make the long detour round the Isle of Dogs.

A new, smaller tidal lock was built in 1989 when the Limehouse Dock finally closed to shipping, ready for marina pontoons being installed.

The cost of the original lock shot up from the £1,550 estimate to almost £1,700—all because the architect miscalculated the length needed for the grain barges.