Ulster Canal, Templetate

Map Reference: H577296 (2577, 3296)

Location: About 1km SW of Smithborough

Proposals to build a canal link between Lough Neagh and the Erne were made as early as 1815 but it was not until 1831 that construction began on the project. One of those involved was Thomas Telford, an engineer whose built several of the English canals and many notable bridges. Telford died in 1834 and was succeeded by William Cubitt. The principal contractor was William Dargan, who would later achieve fame as a railway builder and creator of Belfast port and harbour. The work was finally finished in 1841, by which time railways were beginning to appear all over Ireland. Throughout its life the canal suffered from poor water supply and from the fact that the locks were smaller than in most of the other Irish canals. The railway competition also hastened its demise. It had a working life of less than 90 years. The last commercial boat passed through the canal in 1929 and the canal was finally abandoned in 1931. Most of the canal bed has now been filled in or lost under roadways or housing schemes. However several distinctive canal buildings have survived.

Most notable are the lock-keeper’s houses at Blackwatertown, Milltown near Benburb, and here at Templetate. This building is a single-storey T-shaped structure with a five-bay projection facing the canal. It appears to be constructed mainly of grey limestone. There is a very fine octagonal chimney stack.

Although most of the canal bed is filled in at this site the stonework of the lock can be seen as short distance west of the house. The canal bridge a shorter distance to the east of the house is still intact but it no longer carries the main road. The void under the bridge is packed with rubble.

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