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London Canal Museum

Model boat by Barbara Ballard The London Canal Museum, the only one on inland waterways found in London, is home to artefacts and archives relating to the canals of London and the history of building in which it is located. Visitors can learn about the history of London's canals, the engineering of canals and locks, cargoes carried, the people who lived and worked on the waterways, and the horses that pulled their boats. There is a Bantam IV tug, built in the 1950s, on view. Its working life was spent on the Kent and Avon canal. There are displays of model boats. Visitors can view four archival video shows: Barging through London, a silent film from 1924; the Barge Fellows from the same era; two other films showing canal horses at work and an explanation of how locks work.

Grand union canal boat by Barbara Ballard There is a large map of London’s canals. Information on the horses that pulled the boats is included in the museum. Horses actually lived in the building on the first floor when the ice company turned the building into a stables and cart shed in the early 1900s.

At the back of the building is Battlebridge Basin on the Regent’s canal. It was built in 1820 for William Horsfall and named after him at the time. Guides offer walking trips of the Regent’s canal towpath.

Narrow boats by Barbara Ballard The museum building has its own unique history. It was built 1862-3 for Carlo Gatti, an Italian ice cream maker. He is thought to be the first person to offer ice cream for public sale in London. He started business as a seller of refreshments, then owned a restaurant and chocolate making machine. He imported ice by boat from Norway and brought it to the building by canal boat. Gatti’s first cargo of ice was received in 1857 and stored in an ice well on this site (this can be seen). Between 1904-06 extensive new building and reconstruction took place on the site. A stable and ramp for horses was added as well as accommodation for a caretaker. After 1926 the building saw a number of different uses including bus part storage during WWII. From 1956 it was used as a food warehouse and eventually became a museum from 1989. Gatti, in later life, became an investor in music halls.

Visitor Information

London Canal Museum
Gatti's Ice House, 12-13 New Wharf Rd
Tel. 020 7713 0836
Open: Tue-Sun and BH Mon, 10am-4.30 and until 7.30pm first Thu of the month; last admission 45 min before closing; closed 24-26, 31 Dec
For details and to book the walks and three tunnel trips on offer during the summer check the website. Special activities and events detailed on the website.
Web: London Canal Museum

The London Waterbus Company runs a tourist boat from Camden Lock, Camden town to Little Venice. Tel. 020 7482 2550. Trips take 50 minutes. You can buy a London zoo trip on the boat and get off at the stop there. Booking not necessary. Little Venice is a pool at the junction with the Grand Union Canal. Browning’s island sits in the centre of the junction. 18th century Nash houses can be seen along a short distance of the canal. The Maida Hill tunnel runs 272 yards under Edgware Rd and the boat goes through it on the trip.

All photos © by Barbara Ballard

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