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An example pound lock.

A pound lock is type of lock that is used almost exclusively nowadays on canals and rivers. A pound lock has a chamber (the pound) with gates at both ends that control the level of water in the pound. In contrast, an earlier design with a single gate was known as a flash lock.


Indirect evidence suggests that pound locks are likely to have been used in antiquity by the Egyptians, the Ptolemaic Greeks and (at least in the Mediterranean area) the Roman.

Pound locks were used in ancient Chinamarker during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD), having been pioneered by the government official and engineer Qiao Weiyo in 984. They are mentioned by the Chinese polymath Shen Kuo (1031–1095) in his book Dream Pool Essays (published in 1088), and fully described in the Chinese historical text Song Shi (compiled in 1345).

In medieval Europe a type of pound lock was first built in 1373 at Vreeswijkmarker, the Netherlandsmarker. This pound lock serviced many ships at once in a large basin, yet the true pound lock (i.e. one for a small basin) came in 1396 with the one built at Dammemarker near Brugesmarker. A famous civil engineer of pound locks in Europe was the Italianmarker Bertola da Novate (c. 1410-1475), who constructed 18 of them on the Naviglio di Bereguardo (part of the Milanmarker canal system sponsored by Francesco Sforza) between the years 1452 and 1458.


  1. Frank Gardner Moore "Three Canal Projects, Roman and Byzantine." American Journal of Archaeology, 54, (1950), 97-111 (99); James Ellis Jones (2009) p 49.
  2. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 350-351
  3. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 351-352.
  4. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 351.
  5. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 357.
  6. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 358.


  • Jones, James Ellis (2009). The Maritime and Riverine Landscape of the West of Roman Britain, British Archaeological Reports British Series 493, Archaeopress, Oxford.
  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 3, Civil Engineering and Nautics. Taipei: Caves Books Ltd.

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