Canal History from Above

We have now got used to readily accessing aerial images from above since the advent of Google Maps and Earth, but in the early and mid twentieth century they were rare. The Aerofilms Company produced a lot of high quality aerial photographs of Britain from the air over the period 1919-1953. The whole collection is now readily available on the Britain from Above web site and it makes fascinating viewing for history buffs.

For the canal enthusiast there are 1209 images with the tag "canal", including many from Scotland, and there are also many river views notably of the Thames. As canal example I have downloaded and linked to a view of the Grand Union in Lemington Spa. It shows the Sydney Flavel, Eagle Foundry and the Gas Works in 1937 alongside the Grand Union Canal.

The Sidney Flavel and Co Eagle Foundry, Royal Leamington Spa, 1937

The details of this image can be found here.

As a comparison here is a contemporary view from Google. The gas works are long gone but the foundry remains as a factory for AGA Rangemaster - the historic stove/range connection remains.

Leamington Spa from above 2014

The site has a Canal History Group and this allows easy access to some good canal images. Many have been annotated. I found the image below from one of their links.

The Grand Union Canal, Batchworth, from the west, 1921

Walkers Boatyard alongside the Grand Union Canal, in Rickmansworth

 The details of this image can be found here.

You may imagine that some of the historically important canal locations must feature in the images. Some do, but many do not, since the emphasis was on photographs that would sell. Images of factories and industrial locations feature a lot along with stately homes, large hotels and important public buildings. It is a matter of pot luck if your particular location features but if it does you should be fascinated.