The Canal Side Walk

When Paddington Canal was flourishing, the bank opposite St Mary Magdalene church was a mass of wharves and small factories, while the south of the canal was one of the most deprived areas in the district. During the Second World War there was a revival of the canal trade, but afterwards the decline continued, until it was suddenly extinguished. It is not often that one can date the death of an industry so precisely, but the canal trade died in the Great Freeze of 1962-63. This is discussed later on page 226.

Slowly the factories and houses near St. Mary Magdalene were replaced by tower blocks and low-rise flats. The area was planted with trees and it has now matured into a most delightful neighbourhood. The ugly old Ha'penny Bridge, in rendered concrete and covered in graffiti, has gone, to be replaced by an elegant steel structure, light and almost ethereal as it floats above the water. The change is like a theatrical transformation.

The Ha’penny Bridge  about 1980

The Ha'penny Bridge was designed to prevent attacks by mischievous boys on the barges passing below. In heavy concrete, built with very high, un-scaleable  walls and sharp ridges on top, so that nobody could sit on them. Nor could one drop anything on the many barges passing below, some full of gunpowder, or 50 gallon petrol drums. This was a very carefully designed bridge, ugly, soon graffiti strewn, but efficient. When the canal ceased to carry dangerous cargos the old bridge could go and a new elegant one built.

Behind was the chimney of Matthew Hall & Co., Heating Engineers, and a typical canal side scene of factories,  a school building and industry and houses. By the end of the 20th Century the industry had been swept away and the site covered with new housing.

The new Ha'penny Bridge in an elegant, tree-lined canal, full of houseboats


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