- The Brussels-Charleroi Canal links the Willebroeck Canal at Brussels with the Sambre River at Charleroi. For two centuries, a waterway had been sought as a means to lower the cost of transporting coal from the mines in Hainault to Brussels and beyond. Technical difficulties in overcoming the hilly terrain long postponed action. Studies were begun under Napoléon Bonaparte but estimated costs for construction proved prohibitive. However, after 1810, transport costs rose precipitously and road routes had fallen into disrepair. Studies to build a canal were launched by the government on 7 March 1823, and Jean Vifquain was entrusted by King William I with completion of the project. The first canal barge left Charleroi on 22 September 1832 and arrived in Brussels on 25 September. Grand celebrations were held and the first load of coal was distributed free to the poor. The price of coal in the city subsequently declined with the drop in transportation costs. While coal traveled north, bricks, grain, and vegetables moved south, and the canal sparked considerable industrial development in northwestern Brussels and nearby communes, notably Molenbeek-Saint-Jean.The canal is 68.5 km (42 mi.) long and was widened and deepened from 1882 to 1933. Additional adaptations were later made to accommodate vessels of 1,350 gross tons.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.
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