A quick history of the Regent's Canal: The Regent's Canal is 180 years old this year. Canals criss-crossed the country during that brief period between the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the advance of the railways, as a cheap means of transporting goods across long distances. The Grand Junction Canal was the first to reach London, snaking 143 long miles from Birmingham, but it reached no closer to the centre of town than Paddington Basin. In 1812 a consortium was set up to build a new canal that would link Paddington more usefully to the docks in east London. Amongst the company's directors was famous architect John Nash, a good friend of the Prince Regent, and it was after him that the canal was right royally named. This new waterway took a full eight years to build, skirting to the north of the capital to avoid upsetting a few large landowners. Twelve locks (and three tunnels) were required to lower the water level by 86 feet on the journey down to the Thames. Within a couple of decades the canal was under threat from the railways, and on several occasions there were even plans to drain the water and lay down tracks instead. But the Regent's Canal survived the gradual disappearance of commercial traffic, and has since been reborn as a green leisure artery through some of the most built-up parts of town.