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Grand Union Canal

The Grand Union Canal is a canal in England and part of the British canal system. The Grand Union was constructed in the late 18th century as a series of separate projects: it links London to Birmingham and also London to Leicester.

Table of contents
1 Route
2 History
3 Branches
4 New extension
5 See also
6 External links


The canal starts at Brentford on the river Thames in west London, heads north and northwest to the Midlands. Near the village of Braunston in Northamptonshire the Grand Union splits into two separate canals. As is detailed below:

The Birmingham "main line"

The first being the main part, which travels west through to Birmingham. At Braunston the Grand Union joins with the Oxford Canal. From Braunston, a ten mile stretch of the Grand Union shares it's route with the Oxford Canal, until the two canals diverge again at Napton, the Oxford diverging south, the Grand Union diverging north-west.

It then travels through the towns of Leamington Spa and Warwick. In between Warwick and Birmingham the Grand Union forms a junction with the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, it then travels into Birmingham.

The Leicester Branch

The second part of the Grand Union, called the "Leicester Branch" runs north from near Braunston for about 35 miles until it reaches Leicester, where it joins the River Soar. On this part of the Grand Union the famous Foxton Locks are located, near the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough.

The waterway stretches for 217km (135 miles) and has 160 locks.


The Grand Union was a key transportation artery in the Industrial Revolution. The main London to Birmingham stretch of the canal was widened in the 1930s as part of the government's public works programme to relieve unemployment. But, as on most of the British canal system, commercial freight on the Grand Union Canal had ceased by the 1960s and it is now used mainly for leisure.


Several branches run off from it: one branch runs to Paddington where it connects to the Regent's Canal. There is also a branch that runs to the town of Aylesbury. And a branch which runs to Northampton where it joins the River Nene.

On the Leicester branch of the Grand Union Canal there are two short branches, one short spur to the village of Welford, and one to the town of Market Harborough.

New extension

On 28 February 2003 British Waterways announced the plan to build Britain's first new canal for about 100 years, a connection from the Grand Union at Milton Keynes to the River Great Ouse at Bedford. The canal will be built by the B&MK (Bedford and Milton Keynes) Partnership, which will include British Waterways, waterways campaign groups, and local councils. The new waterway will cost about 150M (220M,US$240M) and will create a new cruising ring connecting through from the Grand Union to the waterways of East Anglia. Rings are very important to the leisure cruising business because many holiday boat hirers prefer a "circular" route to a there-and-back linear trip. If all the necessary permissions and funding are obtained, construction could start in 2007 and finish in 2010. More information is available at the external links below.

See also

External links

New waterway external links