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Strange iron structures along the canal in London: what are they?

These guards were installed with the simple purpose of protecting the masonry from the wear and tear caused by the horse tow ropes.

Iron Structures Canal London
© Wonders of London

Have you ever noticed these strange iron structures along the canal in London?

We have to go back in time to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Two dates are very important here: 1840, with the growth of the railway network which was obviously a more efficient means of transporting goods, and 1886, with the introduction of motor boats.

Until then, the canal was a very important means of transporting goods through the city, and horses played a fundamental role in river and canal life, in fact they were the ones who pulled the barges along the canal.



Iron Structures Canal London
© Wonders of London

The tow rope, although it was made of cotton, was quite abrasive because it constantly got wet and covered with sand and ash from the towpath.

These ropes quickly began to cause damage to bridge masonry, lock walls or wooden gates.

And it is precisely for this reason that these iron guards were installed, with the simple aim of protecting the masonry.

But, as you can see, even these structures have suffered from the abrasive force of tow ropes over the years, with these deeply ingrained signs of wear and tear.

If you’re curious you can watch the video of these iron guards along the canal in London on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin!


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