Built by George Tennant and completed in 1824, the Neath & Swansea Junction Canal, or ‘Tennant Canal’, provided a waterway connection between the Neath Canal basin at Aberdulais and Fabian Bay in Swansea, where a sea-lock linking the canal to the tidal waters of the bay had been constructed near Salt House Point. George Tennant named the Swansea terminus of his canal ‘Port Tennant’, a name now associated with the large residential area on the east side of the River Tawe.
In 1881 the Swansea Harbour Trust opened the Prince of Wales Dock - the construction of which had swallowed up the whole of Fabian Bay, including the aforementioned ‘Port Tennant’ canal terminus. To make up for this loss, the canal company was given exclusive use of the wharf at the eastern end of the Prince of Wales Dock - this being the original ‘Tennants Wharf’ - and a lock was also built to connect the canal to the eastern end of the new dock to accommodate the company’s ongoing requirement for access to tidal waters.
The Prince of Wales dock was extended in 1898, once more obliterating the canal company’s terminus facilities, and to compensate for this further loss, the company was granted sole use of the entire south wharf of the new dock extension - this again becoming known as ‘Tennants Wharf’. Statutory provision was made for the building of a canal lock into the new Prince of Wales Dock extension, but such a lock was never constructed.
With the construction of Kings Dock, which opened in 1909, a branch of the Tennant Canal was built to link the canal to a lay-by berth on the north side of the new dock, to the east of what is now known as ‘D Shed Wharf’. Also, at the canal company’s expense, a new lock was built at this point, connecting the canal extension to the Kings Dock. By this time, however, the traffic on the Tennant Canal, as with all port-related canal systems, had been significantly reduced by the massive expansion of the country’s rail network, which could now provide direct links between ports like Swansea and all of the nation’s major industries such as coal, iron and steel. This decline is more than adequately illustrated by the following annual tonnage figures for the Tennant Canal:-
1905 – 24,252 tons
1910 – 14,688 tons
1915 - 1,216 tons
1920 - Nil
The Swansea terminus of the Tennant Canal was eventually built over by roads, railway lines and other new port facilities, but the canal itself is still linked to the Prince of Wales Dock by way of a large culvert, and it continues to provide a steady flow of water into Swansea’s impounded dock system.
(Article contributed by Ian Rogerson)
The above map from 1884 shows the eastern end of the Prince of Wales Dock before it was extended. The lock linking the canal to the dock is in place, together with an additional length of canal alongside the newly built ‘Tennant Wharves’. Also shown on the map are Charles Lambert’s Copperworks, established in 1852.
Shown on the above plan from 1903 is the Prince of Wales Dock after the building of the extension, which was completed in 1898. The relocated ‘Tennant Wharf’ can now be seen on the south side of the new dock extension.
The above map dated 1909 shows how the Tennant Canal was diverted from the Prince of Wales Dock to the newly built Kings Dock. A canal lay-by berth has been constructed, together with a lock to connect the canal to the new dock.
The above plan of 1926 shows the route of the Tennant Canal as it enters the eastern end of the dock estate and terminates at the lay-by berth to the east of ‘D’ Shed. By this time, carryings on the canal had ceased and the lock into the Kings Dock had been blocked off.
Tennant Canal at Burrows entrance in 1925. (Burrows Inn is seen behind the bridge )
Bridge over the Tennant Canal opposite the Mile End Public House in the 1920s
View of the Burrows Inn from Port Tennant.
Tennant Canal lay-by Kings Dock. D Shed in the background.
Tennant Canal lay by and lock into the Kings Dock in 1931.
Neath & Swansea Junction Canal at Aberdulais from where the Lower Tin Plate works (behind camera) sent its output down to the Docks.