Whitworth Aqueduct Royal Canal
Whitworth Aqueduct Royal Canal One of the most impressive structures on the Royal Canal is the Whitworth Aqueduct, located near the village of Abbeyshrule, next to its airfield.
The aqueduct was built to carry the Royal Canal over the River Inny, located some metres below. The bridge spans five arches across the river valley, a distance of 165 feet/ 50.2 metres, and is constructed of fine cut-and-dressed limestone, likely from the Terlicken quarry a few miles away.
The aqueduct was named after Lord Charles Whitworth (1752 – 1825), 1st Baron Whitworth, who was lord lieutenant of Ireland from 1813 to 17, at the time of its construction.
The position of lord lieutenant was the most prestigious position in Ireland as the British monarch’s representative in Ireland before independence.
The aqueduct was constructed as part of the extension of the Royal Canal from the town of Mullingar to the River Shannon, an important inland trading route.
The architect was John Kinally, and construction commenced in 1814 under the contractors Henry, Mullins & MacMahon, and it was completed by 1817.
An interesting feature of the aqueduct is a stone plaque on the parapet wall at a height which is most visible from a barge on the canal.
“This Aqueduct with the entire Royal Canal Extension 24 ½* miles in length, having 21 locks, 38 bridges and 40 tunnels with several extensive harbours, quays and other Works of Masonry was designed by John Kinally Esq., Engineer to the Directors General of Inland Navigation and executed under their Direction in the short space of three years by the Undertakers, Henry, Mullins & MacMahon”
(*Note that these are Irish miles, and this length is the equivalent of 30.5 statute miles).