This ribbon is believed to have been ceremonially severed at the opening of the Grand Junction Canal, Paddington Arm, on 10th July 1801. It remained in a family for generations and was donated to the London Canal Museum a few years ago. The writing on the ribbon in gold leaf reads "Paddington Canal and Trade Opened 10th July 1801". "Trade" was a by-word for prosperity - the sort of thing to which a toast might be drunk. The ribbon has been cleaned by a conservator but is too fragile to display in the museum.
The Grand Junction Canal was opened in several stages, having reached Brentford in 1794. The final section, through a long tunnel in the south Midlands, did not open until 1806. The ribbon marked the opening of the part known as the Paddington Canal (also variously called the Paddington Arm, or Branch) from Southall in west London to Paddington, then a sleepy village. From there the New Road led to the City, so there was onward transport available. This was the first time London had been linked to the rest of the country by a canal. Previously a circuitous route via the river Thames and the Oxford Canal had been the only way to Birmingham.