Hanwell Flight; continued


Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 'Three Bridges'.

Although the Victorian lunatic asylum of Hanwell was shut down in the 1980's when Margaret Thatcher introduced the country to her tender 'care in the community' policies, there remains a psychiatric wing attached to the adjacent Ealing Hospital (now itself under threat of closure as the Thatcher, Blair, Cameron road to destruction continues) named the St Bernards wing; St Bernards being the name of the original asylum. As well as the wing there are also on the site large 'Regional Secure Units' which house criminals with serious mental health problems, who some times do a bunk and attract a great deal of search helicopter and police activity! Much of the grounds of the former asylum have been sold off and developed for housing but fortunately for the canal area the old asylum wall which is a listed structure, has remained, so ensuring the continued seclusion of the canal flight and its environs.
At the top of the Hanwell flight is situated the Three Bridges ancient monument. Three Bridges was one of the iconic engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel's last works and was built in order to carry a branch of the nearby Great Western Railway to Brentford Dock on the Thames at an intersection already used by road and canal. The railways rapidly overtook the canal system in importance during the 19th Century but often followed the routes the canals had forged often only a few decades earlier. The railway runs parrallell to the Grand Union Canal after passing beneath it and Windmill lane at Three Bridges. Brunel also constructed the nearby Hanwell Viaduct for the Great Western. Both the the Viaduct and Three Bridges are very much in use today.

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