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Monkland Canal, Gartsherrie Branch, Summerlee

A Scheduled Monument in Coatbridge North, North Lanarkshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.8674 / 55°52'2"N

Longitude: -4.0324 / 4°1'56"W

OS Eastings: 272911

OS Northings: 665674

OS Grid: NS729656

Mapcode National: GBR 008L.SJ

Mapcode Global: WH4QB.1S2B

Entry Name: Monkland Canal, Gartsherrie Branch, Summerlee

Scheduled Date: 16 December 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11340

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Industrial: inland water

Location: Old Monkland

County: North Lanarkshire

Electoral Ward: Coatbridge North

Traditional County: Lanarkshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of the Gartsherrie branch of the Monkland Canal, including the canal itself, the embankments and the towpath along the water-filled sections, and the line of the canal where the embankments and towpaths have been obscured by infilling. This part of the canal runs from the fence marking the northern limit of Summerlee Heritage Park (The Museum of Scottish Industrial Life) to the northern abutment of the West Canal Street road bridge. This monument is one of five that together constitute the known remains of the Monkland Canal. This part of the canal stands at 80m OD.

The scheduled area is linear in plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of: Howe's Basin bridge; the abutments and span of the railway bridge; all electricity poles, fences and gates; all signage, seating, museum display objects and the children's play park; all sluices, sluice crossings and drainage features; and the upper 300mm of all paths, roads and in-filled sections of the canal, to allow for their maintenance. The boat, Vulcan, together with its mooring points, is also excluded from the scheduling.

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The original planned extent of the Monkland Canal was completed in 1794 and it remained in use until the 1930s. It was built to connect the coal-mining areas of Monkland in North Lanarkshire to Glasgow and ran for a total distance of 19.6km (12.25 miles). Construction of the Gartsherrie branch began about 1826 and was originally planned as a waterway to serve the coalmines to the north. It had not been finished by 1830 when the Gartsherrie Iron Works was established by the Baird brothers at its terminus. Summerlee Iron Works, set up in 1836, was also located by this canal. Howe's Basin, which lies immediately E of the branch canal, was constructed as a coal transshipment basin, associated with the Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway.

This section of the canal is in a stable condition and has been actively maintained since it was abandoned as a navigable waterway. It is the only surviving feeder branch of the Monkland Canal to retain much of its original form. The archaeology of the canal is chiefly represented by the embankments, towpath and the navigable channel, even where these have been buried or altered by successive alterations and repairs. Nearly all of the original embankments survive, as does the line of the former towpath. The remains of the former Summerlee Iron Works lie Immediately adjacent to this section of the canal. The Gartsherrie Branch of the Monkland Canal sits mainly within Summerlee Heritage Park, and forms part of an important amenity for the communities of Coatbridge and Airdrie.

Contextual characteristics

The Monkland Canal was constructed in the late 18th century, specifically as a means of transporting fuel from the North Lanarkshire coalfields to the rapidly expanding city of Glasgow. Work on the canal began at Sheepford, near Coatbridge, in 1770, and by 1794 its route extended from Calderbank to Port Dundas, Glasgow, to link with the Forth and Clyde Canal. The Monkland Canal has fewer locks and is shorter and narrower than the better-known Scottish canals (the Forth and Clyde, Union and Caledonian Canals).The Monkland Canal had shorter feeder sections to Dundyvan, Langloan, Coatdyke and Gartsherrie, all in or near Coatbridge.

During the 19th century the trade in fuel was supplemented by the addition of iron from the many blast furnaces established adjacent to the Lanarkshire coalfields, and traffic reached a peak in the 1850s and 60s, with over one million tonnes of iron and coal being transported each year. The proximity of this section of the canal to the adjacent Summerlee Iron Works clearly illustrates this important inter-relationship today. Eventually, most of the canal's trade was taken over by the network of railways servicing the industrial areas of Lanarkshire and Glasgow. The canal fell out of use by the mid 1930s and was abandoned as a navigable waterway in 1942. Large sections of the waterway have since been filled in, and most of its length through Glasgow now lies beneath the M8 motorway. However, sections of the canal have survived elsewhere, either as water-filled or culverted features, and some parts have been actively maintained as an amenity, as in this case.

Associative characteristics

The earliest sections of the canal from Sheepford Locks to Blackhill (constructed from 1770 onwards) are the work of the celebrated engineer and inventor, James Watt.

This section exemplifies how the construction of the Monkland Canal encouraged increased coal and ironstone extraction and production, which led to the region becoming the most important industrial centre of 19th-century Scotland. It is now part of the Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, which celebrates the industrial heritage of Coatbridge and the wider nation.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because, as an integral part of the Monkland Canal, it represents an excellent example of Georgian civil engineering. It has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the design, construction and use of Scottish canals. The earliest sections, constructed from 1770 onwards, are the work of the celebrated engineer and inventor, James Watt. The main canal was completed by 1794, but it continued to be adapted in response to industrial developments, as demonstrated by the Gartsherrie feeder branch. As the main means of transport between the North Lanarkshire coalfields and the rapidly expanding city of Glasgow, the canal epitomises the interdependence of 18th-century Glasgow with the coalfields of North Lanarkshire, which led to the region becoming the most important industrial centre of 19th-century Scotland. The presence of the canal also facilitated the development of iron works in the Coatbridge area. The surviving remains of the canal include rare features such as basins, landing stages, possible wharfs and quays. This section is particularly valuable because it comprises the only feeder branch still to retain much of its original form and includes some of the best surviving canal structures: Howe's Basin, for example, is the best surviving basin. Its position adjacent to Summerlee Iron Works clearly illustrates the important role played by the Monkland Canal in the development of both coal and ironstone extraction. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the importance of the Monkland Canal and its contribution to the industrial success of the west of Scotland in the 19th century.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NS76NW 66.

References

Hutton, G 1993, Monkland, the canal that made money, Lanarkshire Heritage Series.

Lindsay, J 1968, The canals of Scotland, Newton Abbot.

Thomson, G, 1945, The Monkland Canal: A sketch of the Early History, Monkland Library Services Department.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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