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Date(s) - 10th February 2018
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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Friends Meeting House


The Development of the Chamber Lock by Mike Clarke (President: 2016-18)

The chamber lock is one of the most important features of canals, and their design has often been considered as part of a long and continuous sequence of development. This view tends to ignore local influences, and yet these were highly significant in the design of individual locks. Their design and construction was usually the work of local craftsmen who would have had little or no opportunity to see or discuss developments outside of their own area. In Europe, transfer of technology was probably not an important factor in canal design and construction until the 18th century.

It was only with the publication of books describing the technical aspects of waterway design, such as Zonca’s Novo Teatro Di Machine, published in Padua in 1656, Sturm’s Fang-schleusen und Rollbrücken, published in Augsburg in 1720, and, most importantly, Belidor’s four volume Achitecture Hydraulique, published in Paris in 1753, that local influences on waterway design became less important.

The talk looks at some of the influences on the design of the lock, and how local conditions affected the way in which lock structures were built. In particular, it looks the development of locks in China, the Low Countries, Italy and France, comparing the major influences affecting lock design, and how local craftsmen coped with these in their design for locks and other hydraulic structures.

The Thouet Navigation was probably improved by da Vinci but very little is known about it. Three of the converted flash locks survive.

The mural alongside Shabo Locks on the Grand Canal shows one of the inclined planes which replaced locks around the seventeenth century

The Canal de Bereguardo locks date from around 1458, predating those built by Leonardo da Vinci in Milan by 40 years