In the Beginning...

In 1772 a group of influential Lancaster merchants came together with the idea of constructing a new canal from a junction with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, near Wigan, northwards through Preston and Lancaster to terminate at Kendal.

Trade to the port of Lancaster had been suffering from the silting up of the Lune estuary, and unfavourable competition from the upcoming port of Liverpool had caused further problems. A canal access from the south was seen as a way of overcoming them and providing a much-needed boost for Lancastrian trade.

The merchants approached the canal builder, James Brindley (formerly a mill-wright), whose reputation had been established by the construction of the Bridgewater Canal between Worsley and Manchester in 1761. Unfortunately, due to ill-health, he was unable to undertake the survey and this was done by his pupil and son-in-law, Robert Whitworth.

The merchants were not happy with Whitworth's proposals and asked for a revision of his plans for the crossing of the River Lune at Lancaster. Several other surveyors offered proposals, none of which suited the merchants, and the mattered puttered on until 1791, when thirty of the traders and merchants from Lancaster petitioned the Mayor for a public meeting to decide whether or not a canal link to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal would be pursued.

Shares Four days later, at the meeting, a resolution was passed to promote the new canal and to open a subscription list. In October 1791 the engineer, John Rennie, was asked by the committee to survey a line for the proposed canal, which he did, completing it by January 1792. The plan was for a broad canal to start at West Houghton, in Lancashire, and to proceed north to Kendal, in Westmorland - a total length of 75.5 miles.

The next step was to obtain an Act of Parliament authorising the new navigation, which was promoted by two Lancaster bankers, John Dilworth and Thomas Worswick; John Brockbank, a ship-builder; the colliery-owning Earl of Balcarres, and Thomas Crewdson and John Wakefield of Kendal.

The Act was passed in June 1792, and incorporated the Lancaster Canal Company, which appointed Rennie as its Chief Engineer, at an annual salary of 600.

Above right: An advertisement for Shares in the Lancaster Navigation, dated 1821.

 

MAP OF THE LANCASTER CANAL IN THE BEGINNING THE NAVVIES START WORK THE GRAND OPENING
THE PLAN AND THE REALITY NORTHWARDS TO KENDAL AND THE WATERS CAME LINKS WITH THE SEA
PASSENGER TRAVEL THE DOWNWARD SLOPE THE END IS NIGH NEW HOPE
FURTHER READING PLACES TO VISIT BOAT TRIPS CANAL GROUPS

Copyright: Canalcaholic 1999
Last revised: August 2004