As you can imagine, Toulouse owes its wealth and development to the Garonne river. This waterway was once one of the main routes of communication and trade. The centre of Toulouse was given a real boost and the port business began to develop at three sites, Port Garaud (close to St Michel district), Port de la Daurade, left bank of the Garonne, and Port de Viguerie, right bank.
Less than a century after the opening of the Canal du Midi (known as the Canal Royal du Languedoc back then), Joseph Marie de Saget, Public Works Engineer for Languedoc, launched a programme to modernise the ports of Toulouse. The goal of these improvements was to make the handling of goods easier, which were up until then, transferred from one ship to another.
Saget's idea was to propose a direct link between the ports of the Garonne and the Port de l’Embouchure in creating the Canal de Brienne. To do so, Saget chose to place the entrance of the Canal de Brienne in the town's ditches near Porte Saint-Pierre, upstream from the Bazacle mill, and the other end of the canal at Port de l’Embouchure on the Canal du Midi.
Today, the Port de l'Embouchure is where the Canal du Midi, Canal de Brienne and Canal de Garonne all merge.
The construction of the Canal de Brienne took place between 1768 and 1775. It was opened to navigation in April 1776. The canal provided a link between the Garonne river and the Canal du Midi.
This 1,450 metre long canal provided a detour around the dam at Bazacle mill, which was an obstacle for navigation. This creation significantly helped the flow of navigation and so allowed for better exchanges between the upstream part of the Garonne (the Pyrenees) and the canal!
Saint-Pierre double lock (named after the church of Saint-Pierre nearby) is the contact point between the Canal du Midi and the Garonne in Toulouse, and was also built by Joseph-Marie de Saget.
Have you noticed its oval shape? This is characteristic of the Canal du Midi! Just like Castanet lock, this sort of lock is the same as the model put forward by Pierre-Paul Riquet a hundred years earlier!
Over Saint-Pierre lock, there's a bridge that provides an extension to the docks between Saint-Pierre bridge and Bazacle dam. This site is set between two rows of buildings dating from the late 18th century.
The lock keeper's house was built between 1776 and 1777 on the left banks of the Canal de Brienne, to provide housing for the lock keeper responsible for opening and closing the lock chamber. The guard in charge of enforcing canal regulations back then also lived there.
Saint-Pierre lock to the Garonne is the last lock in Toulouse to have had a lock keeper, up until the lock was transformed into a mechanically operated lock in 2013. The former lock keeper's house is now used as a restaurant and show venue.
Did you know?
Lucien Lombart was the husband of the Saint-Pierre lock keeper, and member of the Resistance. In 1943, he was arrested by the Gestapo in his shop before being shot. This is why one of the docks on the Garonne is named after him.
The bas-relief at the Ponts-Jumeaux is a unique work of art! It was sculpted into marble and is 25 metres long, making it the emblem of the Ponts-Jumeaux (twin bridges).
It symbolises the union of the Canal de Languedoc (Canal du Midi) and the Garonne.