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Islington Tunnel
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London Canal Museum
12-13 New Wharf Road King's Cross
London N1 9RT
United Kingdom

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Islington Tunnel

Listen to the audio recording for a full history of Islington Tunnel.

Islington Tunnel is one of three tunnels along Regent's Canal, the others being Maida Hill Tunnel and the very short Eyre's Tunnel. Islington Tunnel is 960 yards or 886 meters long. It was opened in 1820, along with the completed canal.

The Regent's Canal Company promoted a competition for the design of the tunnel in 1812. However, the entries were all so poor that none could be accepted. The directors therefore instructed James Morgan, the canal's Engineer, to get on and design it himself. He faced numerous challenges, including reluctant landowners and unstable earth. It is almost straight, which is not true of all canal tunnels.

Despite the challenges, Morgan completed the tunnel in 1818, for a staggering £400,000, although it was not opened until 1820.

The traditional manual method of working a boat through the tunnel was called "legging" and involved men lying on their backs on board the barges, pushing with their feet against the tunnel walls.Between 1826 and 1927 boats were hauled through the tunnel by a steam tug that would itself along a very long chain that ran from one end to the other. This hi-tech solution, for its day, enabled far more boats to pass through and to do so faster.

In 2000, the tunnel was closed for extensive repairs. Islington Tunnel has held up remarkably well, thanks to Morgan's solid design. Upon its initial completion in 1818, Thomas Telford inspected the tunnel and was quoted as describing the tunnel as "Perfect, the materials and workmanship excellent, and its direction perfectly straight". It has lasted more than 180 years.

Did you know?
A procession of boats and a band playing inaugurated Islington Tunnel's completion. As the boats exited the eastern end of the tunnel, cannon fire saluted them.
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Islington Tunnel is one of three canal tunnels on the Regent\
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Regent's Canal
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