The Glamorganshire Canal, which ran from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff, was constructed between 1790 and 1794. It was created so that iron produced at the heads of the valleys could be transported south to the city docks.
In 1818 the Brown Lenox Chain Works was built next to locks 31 and 32 in Pontypridd. Transportation of iron, coal, flour and many other raw materials were made convenient by the canal, which provided a means of transport for goods well into the 20th century.
Brown Lenox made anchors, chains and fittings for many of Britain’s most famous naval ships, including the Queen Mary and QE2.
The canal boats themselves were strong vessels capable of carrying up to 25 tons each and such was the demand for materials that several hundred were built.
Many local industries grew up around the canal and depended on it. The Bunch of Grapes Inn served the area in the 19th century, as did the Hopkin Morgan bakery at East Street, Trallwn.
However, it was the spread of the railway network that dealt the final blow to the canal, and by 1886 when six different railway companies were running trains north and south of the valleys th ecanal just couldn’t compete anymore.
The use of the canal for Brown Lenox products ceased well before the closure of the canal for commercial transport in 1942.
During the 1960s and 70s major changes to the area resulted from the development of the southern Brown Lenox works on the Bush playing field. The company also purchased canal land which resulted in a reduction in size of the basin and the loss of the central canal section.
The old northern works were sold and the site developed as the Brown Lenox Retail Park, a part of the former canal basin then becoming an extension to the overflow car park.
In the 1970s about 150 metres of the southern section were purchased by The Glamorgan Naturalist Trust. This Trust carried out clearance work on this section, this work being recognised by a Prince of Wales Award.
The 1970s also saw the building of the A470 trunk road during which much of the canal bed and locks in other parts of Pontypridd were destroyed. In 1990 the only other lock remaining, Lock 26 at Coedpenmaen, was demolished for housing development. Lock Cottage, which overlooks the basin, was purchased from Brown Lenox in 1986 and converted into a two storey residence.
In 1990 the locks, bridge and canal basin were purchased by Pontypridd Town Council. In 2001 they were granted Grade II listed status.
After the closure of Brown Lenox in 2000, commercial interest in the site led in 2005 to an unsuccessful planning application by Morrisons for a food retail store. The developers promised to carry out a degree of restoration of the canal-side environment but councillors decided they wanted Sainsbury’s instead.
In 2010 the Pontypridd Canal Conservation Group was formed and work by volunteers has gone a long way to improving the old site.