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Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

The History of the Rideau Canal


Specifications of the Lockstation:

One lock with a lift of 7 feet.

Construction of the Lockstation:

The Blockhouse at Newboro Locks The Blockhouse at Newboro Locks
©Parks Canada / Steve Weir / Rideau Canal

There was no settlement at Newboro prior to the building of the canal. However, as work progressed on building the lock and canal cut, dozens of logs buildings were erected to provide offices, workshops and housing for the hundreds of workers and their families. The Newboro project was a major undertaking because it involved the excavation of an artificial channel one and a quarter miles in length between Upper Rideau Lake and Newboro Lake to connect the Rideau and Cataraqui Rivers.

The contractor, William Hartwell, began to work in 1827 but it was not long before he ran into serious problems. A number of his men were stricken with the deadly "swamp fever," malaria, and many others fled the work site. In addition to the dangers posed by disease, the blasting required by such an extensive excavation posed a threat to workers, and accidents took many lives. Eventually, Colonel By decided to bring in the 7th company of Royal Sappers and Miners, and hire of hundreds of his own labourers to do the work as an alternative to the more common operation of contracting out the work. One of the members of the company, D. McDonald, eventually became the first lockmaster at Newboro.

Following construction of the lockstation, a small community remained and, by the mid-1800s, the industries in Newboro included numerous mills, foundry, tanneries, a distillery and a furniture factory, all linked to outside markets by the Rideau Canal.

Structures of the Lockstation:

Blockhouse: The Newboro blockhouse was built on a hill to the north of the lock by William Tett and was completed in 1833. It was one of four built to protect the canal against American attack, the others being at Kingston Mills, the Narrows and Merrickville. It is a two storey building built of three foot thick stone walls on the ground floor, with a frame upper storey. The ground floor was intended for the storage of arms and ammunition, while the upper floor was intended as the residence for the lockmaster and a barracks if troops were stationed there.

Engineering Structures: The present road bridge at Newboro was built in 1952, the fourth at the lockstation. The first railway bridge at Newboro was built in 1886. It was replaced in 1919 by a steel girder span bridge which remained in use until 1953 when the railway line was abandoned. Today, only the abutments of the two bridges remain.