Canal history

Littleborough Church school annual trip. © The Waterways Trust Archive (Ellesmere Port) / The Waterways TrustLittleborough Church school annual trip. © The Waterways Trust Archive (Ellesmere Port) / The Waterways Trust

Canal mania begins

Towards the end of the 18th Century the whole country was gripped by ‘Canal Mania’, with many people wanting to invest money in canal building in the hope of making a substantial profit.

For hundreds of years, boats had carried cargoes up and down bigger rivers, and in places these rivers were adapted so that boats could do this more easily. By 1698 it was possible to bring boats up the rivers Aire and Calder as far as Leeds and Wakefield. This ‘Navigation’ was extended up the Calder Valley, reaching Sowerby Bridge in 1770.

Meanwhile, across the Pennines in Lancashire, the Duke of Bridgewater’s canal opened in 1761 to bring coal and other cargoes into the centre of Manchester.

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