Lockhouses, Past & Present

Structures of the Waterways

Last updated: 21 May 2024

Lock-keepers often lived on site in a purpose-built cottage, or lock-house, from where they could keep a close eye on passing traffic and control the water levels of the locks and levels (the sections of the canal between the locks).

Design for Tarmonbarry Lock-house, 1845

The most impressive lock-houses were the classical, ornamented, two-storey structures that still stand at Banagher, Shannonbridge and Cloondra on the Shannon and the 11th and 12th lock-houses on the Grand Canal. These were designed by Thomas Omer, a Dutch canal engineer, who worked on most Irish canals during the 1750s and 1760s.

​Nowadays redundant and abandoned lock-houses are being redeveloped. New life has returned to the Royal Canal's Boyne Dock near Enfield, County Meath, close to the Boyne Aqueduct, were the Ribbontail Paddlers Canoe Club has converted the old collectors toll-house into its clubhouse, and regenerated the adjacent Longwood Harbour as a base for its canoeing and kayaking venture.

The Ribbontail Paddlers Canoe Club in the refurbished toll-house

​New life has returned to the Royal Canal's 44th Lock near Enfield, where the Ribbontail Paddlers Canoe Club has converted the old lock-house into its clubhouse

Carlow Lock-house on the Barrow Navigation has likewise been restored by the Carlow/Graiguecullen Sub Aqua Club to serve as a boathouse and training centre, complete with diving tank and changing rooms.

At Lock 1 on the Royal Canal, near Dublin's North Strand, the lock-house was renovated by the Adventure Project, a non-profit organisation, to serve as the headquarters for its innovative adventure therapy programs. Unfortunately the property is now vacant but plans are underway to explore its sustainable restoration and reuse which will hopefully result in an exciting chapter for the site and building in the coming years. 

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