Canal history

Canalside industry. © The Waterways Trust Archive (Ellesmere Port) / The Waterways TrustCanalside industry. © The Waterways Trust Archive (Ellesmere Port) / The Waterways Trust

The canal age

As the canal was constructed marshland was drained and woodland ‘stubbed’. The construction coincided with the change from water power to steam power, and by making cheap coal available in the valley; the canal must have encouraged the movement of industry and population from the hillside settlements to the valley bottom.

The canal carried the raw materials needed for the textile production alongside coal for the steam powered machinery. Finished textiles, used mostly in clothing could be sent east to Hull and the Baltic market, and west to Liverpool, Europe and the British Empire, providing swift and convenient access to profitable overseas markets. Travel time between Manchester and Halifax was only 20 hours.

A comparison of the 1805 plans of the canal in Hebden Bridge with early Ordnance Survey maps of the same area shows the huge expansion of canalside developments in the 1800s. Many factories were built along the side of the canal including Crossley Mill in 1819. It was steam-powered bringing in coal by canal and used water from the canal.

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