New Cut construction

In 1807 a traveller, surname of Malcolm, passed along what is now Lower Guinea Street and crossed the line of the New Cut, then under construction. This is an excerpt from his description of the works. It is apparent that even at that time manual labour was being replaced by steam power.

“An unpleasant lane leads from the (Gibb) ferry to the verge of the new canal. As I passed this, a labourer advanced, and requested that I would return, as a person had at that instant fired the train of a ball of gunpowder, by means of which the workmen loosen the otherwise immovable rocks of the site. In an instant the explosion occurred, and I saw a thousand splinters of various sizes hurled into the air, that as instantaneously fell, in a dangerous shower, in a circle probably 400 feet in diameter. The shock had not only rifted the rock immediately surrounding the powder, but immense fragments were removed from their beds, where wedges were driven into them, and they are thus reduced small enough to be raised with cranes by four men, into the carts which are conveyed up the sides of the banks on stages, by operation of steam-engines erected on the verge of the canal, that turn several wheels, and those two others, with chains of vast length and strength round them, which by their revolutions lower empty, and raise the filled carts attached to the chains. A temporary bridge, erected with the stone and intended mortar, crossed the canal at that time; but the fierce red of the sand in the latter ruined the appearance of the work. Iron bridges are, however to be exclusively preferred.”

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