Grand Canal Dock originally opened in 1796, as the terminal to the Central Line of the Grand Canal, at the time was the largest dock in the world. A group of three sea locks, Camden, Buckingham and Westmoreland were built in the same year, to connect the River Liffey to Grand Canal Dock. Camden Lock being the largest of the three could facilitate sea vessels. The three locks including two central dock platforms were constructed from tooled granite and designed to accommodate the tidal fluctuations of the River Liffey.
Within 50 years of the docks completion, the sea locks were deemed obsolete. Advances in steam power, left even Camden Lock too small for the new breed of steam ship. This along with the development of the railway led to a steady decline in the use of and necessity for Grand Canal Dock and the Sea Locks.
The Dublin Docklands Development Authority was set up in the 1990’s and regeneration began. Initial works beginning in 2002 concentrated on decontamination of the land. Redevelopment of the area has continued steadily since then and includes the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Google Docks and numerous new apartment buildings located along the perimeter of the dock.
The existing lock gates at Camden Lock are in a derelict state and have not been operated for over 30 years. They are currently tied open, and the lock has been closed off by the installation of stop logs on the dock side of the chamber. Camden Lock chamber is generally in a good structural condition.
The lock structure; existing timber gates; all associated machinery including sluice boxes and gate winches; stones sets and limestone paving, are all designated and classified as a heritage structure.
In 2018 Waterways Ireland commenced a programme of works to restore the lock chamber and gates in order to bring the lock back into operation. Restoration works are split in two distinct areas and include:
- Installation of temporary steel stop logs,
- De-watering the lock, dredging and sediment removal from the lock floor and initial cleaning of the walls,
- Removal of the existing derelict gates,
- Surveying of the lock chamber and existing gates in advance of construction of the new gates,
- Installation of new timber lock gates (replicas of the existing), including new access for all pedestrian walkway over the breast gates,
- Installation of hydraulic rams, to allow for automation of the new gates,
- Aquatic vegetation removal, racking out and repointing of joints
- Preservation of the integrity of the heritage site, including: all gate machinery, winch mechanisms, wheels, pot and pintels; wall ring insets; stone sets and limestone paving.
Works are currently preparing drawings and methodologies for a planning submission to Dublin City Council.