New exhibition from Islington Museum celebrates 200 years of the Regent’s Canal

PUBLISHED: 15:17 29 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:29 29 July 2020

Regent's Canal, by Shepherd, 1822. Picture: Islington Local History Centre

Regent's Canal, by Shepherd, 1822. Picture: Islington Local History Centre

Islington Local History Centre

A new exhibition from Islington Museum celebrates two centuries of the Regent’s Canal.

Thornhill Bridge from Islington Tunnel, 1973. Picture: Islington Local History CentreThornhill Bridge from Islington Tunnel, 1973. Picture: Islington Local History Centre

Barging Through Islington: 200 Years of the Regent’s Canal is the new digital exhibition from Islington Museum celebrating the bicentenary of the canal’s opening on August 1.

Once providing an essential transport route for industry, many Islington businesses relied on the Regent’s Canal for the supply of materials for one and a half centuries.

Since the 1970s the canal has transcended its industrial purpose and become a place of leisure and enjoyment. Barging Through Islington highlights the key developments on and around Regent’s Canal over the past 200 years.

Islington is no stranger to water, both natural and man-made.

For centuries, the River Fleet flowed south through Clerkenwell towards the Thames and the area’s springs have provided drinking water and entertainment. Sadler’s Wells dates back to 1683 and continues to be living example. The 17th-century engineering feat that is the New River brought fresh drinking water to the City of London from Hertfordshire, via Islington, and still supplies London with much of its water.

But 200 hundred years ago the Regent’s Canal appeared as a new water feature, which wound its way from Paddington to the Thames at Limehouse and through Islington between King’s Cross and Shoreditch.

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The exhibition discovers how the canal was built, how the ice industry the canal supported brought ice cream to the masses in London, and how Hollywood arrived on the canal via the Gainsborough Studios.

READ MORE: ‘You wouldn’t want to do that now’: The East End Canal Tales recounts people’s memories of taking regular baths in the Regent’s Canal

Comparisons are made between key points of the Regent’s Canal through historic photographs and there is the chance to take part in an interactive tour and quiz.

The council’s heritage chief, Cllr Asima Shaikh, said: “The Regent’s Canal is a hugely historic waterway of vital economic and cultural importance to the borough and this innovative exhibition does a brilliant job of telling its story.

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect our lives and our access to cultural resources, I have been hugely proud of the way our museum and Local History Centre have continued to produce interesting, informative online exhibitions that people can enjoy from the comfort of their own home.

“I encourage all local residents to get online and check out this new exhibition and take a trip throughout history along the Canal.”

The digital exhibition has been produced in conjunction with Regent’s Canal Heritage.

See the exhibition at until September 26.

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