Grand Canal, Monasterevin

Map Reference: N624106 (2624, 2106)

Work began on the building of the Grand Canal from Dublin to the Shannon in April 1773. A twice weekly passenger service was opened to Sallins in August 1780 and by 1784 the canal was operating a service as far as Robertstown. About this time it was decided to construct a branch to join the Barrow at Monasterevin before the main line was completed to the Shannon. Work on the Barrow Line began in 1783 and by 1785 the canal had reached Monasterevin. However the river from here to Athy was so full of shallows that the company decided to continue the canal as far as Athy. The junction with the Barrow at Athy was achieved in 1791. There are several structures at Monasterevin associated with the canal. Beside the small canal basin is a very fine drawbridge which still carries a minor road over the canal. Drawbridges and guillotine bridges appear to have been common on the branches of the Grand Canal and on the Barrow Navigation. The bridge at Monasterevin is one of the few survivors which is still in regular use. Just downstream from the bridge an aqueduct carries the canal over the Barrow. Just beyond the aqueduct the canal branch to Mountmellick heads off to the NW. The Barrow Line then turns sharply to the left and reaches the 25th lock through which it drops to the lower level.

There are no more locks until the outskirts of Athy. This part of Monasterevin has a fine collection of bridge types. Upstream from the aqueduct the railway crosses a minor road and the Barrow and just beyond this the river is crossed by the main road to Portarlington. At the north end of the canal basin the railway crosses the canal and goes under a minor road to Rathangan. The basin is known as Bell Harbour and contains the former canal agent's house which was built about 1790.This is now almost hidden by modern housing.

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