John Evans 12.7 (8)

From Hay-on-Wye, he came. Armed not with a shed-load of second hand books on Celtic Runes, but carrying information in his head that maybe only two other men alive have knowledge of.  John Evans, former Swansea Council engineer, had returned to the scene of  a heritage  disaster that took place in 1973 on what was then the site of the proposed Highways Depot in Pontardawe Road, Clydach.

The canal ran through a lock at the back of the 100 yard site and the council decided to bury the lock and pipe the canal under the yard. John, then in his thirties, was entrusted with carrying out these instructions. It meant he had to demolish the top five feet of the wall of the lock chamber, as well as dropping the level of the canal over a six foot weir at the northern end of the site into the pipe. So reluctant was  John to carry our this desecretion of the lock that he repointed what was left of it (roughly half of its original size) in the hope that one day it would be resurrected.

The Swansea Canal Society and the Canal and River Trust are determined that that day will come. So John arrived to share his knowledge of the burial with us. In the photo above he is the debonair gentleman in the red sweater standing above the buried lock next to Rhodri Bowen of the Canal and River Trust and Gordon Walker, Chairman of the Swansea Canal Society. John prised open a slab in the yard to reveal just a glimpse of the bottom of the old lock.


John Evans 12.7 (2)






John Evans 12.7 (14) Clive Reed, the SCS Heritage Consultant, and a man who saved much of the Swansea Canal from complete destruction in the 1980s, was another honoured guest. He brought along a rare memento of the lock from his archive. He is seen above holding a photo of the lock as it would have been seen in the 1960s. His wife, Lynne, who stands on his left, also performed stalwart work over many years for the Society.

The photo on the right shows John Evans talking to John Davies who assisted Clive in working out a possible new route for the Swansea Canal back to the Swansea docks. This route from Clydach down to Llansamlet woud later be included in the the Atkins report of 2002, the most recent feasibility study for the linking up of the Neath, Tennant and Swansea canals.

I mntioned that only, perhaps, two other men alive would have the first hand knowlede of what happened to the lock over those few days in 1973.  One of them is John Hutchings, the British Waterways Manager for the Swansea Canal at the time. He would have been with us too last Tuesday but unfortunately he had a fall at his home in Clydach and is in Morriston hospital. We all wish him a speedy recovery.


Oh, and the second man. That is Richard Dommett, who was working on the Swansea Canal in 1973. He could not come as he is now overseeing the restoration of the Brec and Mon Canal south of Cwmbran and could not join us due to work committments. As those committments have just led to the re-opening of the Tredegar Lock in Llantarnam  (see our recent blog on the blessing of that lock) we fully understand his absence.

We are grateful to John Evans and Clive Reed for coming to see us and we hope they will be able to rejoin us again when the lock is ‘disinterred’.


Blog and photos by Martin Davies.