History of the Newboro lockstation

Rideau Canal National Historic Site

Specifications of the lockstation

One lock with a lift of 2.7 m (8.9 feet).

The Construction of the lockstation

The contractor for this site was William Hartwell, who began to work here in 1827. He soon ran into trouble as the wet fractured rock proving difficult to excavate. The summer of 1828 brought malaria with many fleeing the worksite. Hartwell asked to be relieved on his contract in the fall of 1828. He was replaced by a contractor named Stevenson who also quit. In late 1829, Colonel By brought in the 7th Company of Royal Sappers and Miners and hired 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, Daniel McDonald, became the first lockmaster at Newboro.

There was no settlement at Newboro prior to the building of the canal. The location was known as the Isthmus, the watershed divide between the Rideau River watershed to the north and the Gananoque/Cataraqui river watersheds to the south. 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 some 2 km (1.25 miles) in length between Upper Rideau Lake and Newboro Lake.

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.

In 1966 the lock was converted from manual to electric operation by the Department of Transport who was operating the Rideau Canal at that time. The wooden gates were replaced by steel gates, opened and closed with the use of electric hydraulic rams. It was one of only two conversions (the second being Black Rapids in 1969). Public pressure to maintain the heritage character of the manually operated locks stopped the electrification process.

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 0.9 m (3 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 stone abutments of the railway bridge and the previous road bridge remain in the canal cut above the lock.

Date modified :