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Victoria Mill

A full list of canal side flowers, flora, and fauna can be found by following <<this link>>

The Leeds and Liverpool canal was the most successful long distance canal in Britain, in 1906 it carried 2,337,401 tons of cargo an average distance of 21.12 miles, producing revenue worth £180,000. In terms of distance and quantity of goods, no other canal could compare.

It is also the longest single canal in Britain, with a total length of 127 1/4 miles.

The canal was also quite unique in its diversity of traffic, carrying all kinds of goods with no discrepancies, wool, coal, cotton, limestone, grain, guano, manure, farm produce and general goods, were all transported in volume, often winning work from the railway companies during negotiations for contracts.

It was in 1810 that the Clayton Le Moors to Blackburn section of the canal was opened.

The shot here is taken from the bridge leading to the Goosebutts footpath, which leads into Tottleworth.

On the canal bridge at the junction of High St and Hermitage Street stands the Canal agents house. This is the oldest house in Rishton ‘town’, and was built in 1836 by the canal company. In 1885 James Hindle Sutcliffe lived there until he moved to Master Barn farm 100 yards down the road. His son David retiring from the family business in 2002.  This is an interesting building with water - shot stone coursing and hood moulds to the windows.

Canal Agents House

Construction of the Henfield (later to be shortened to Enfield) to Blackburn stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool canal was under way at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and was opened in 1810. A large service reservoir was constructed to the west of the township, possible around c1830. This is commonly known as the Rishton Reservoir.

Rishton Reservoir off Cutt Lane, and wharfs at Cunliffe Quarries, Rishton Colliery, Norden and along Spring Street all made use of the canal. The nineteenth century mills were also built along the banks of the canal and made use of the water for their boilers.

On the 29th June 1919, a 10 year old boy, John Ferrell, died in the canal after he had been playing on the barges. John had lived at 9 Clarke Street in Rishton, and even though a passer by had jumped in and tried to save him it proved even more fatal as the passer by, Harold Starky Hatch, aged just 17, who was employed as an engine cleaner and lived at 86 Henry Street, also died while attempting the rescue.

Sunset over Rishtons section of the canal in December 2001.

Meanwhile in July 1979, 2 boys, who were 7 years old at the time, were dragged from the canal by a passer by. The boys were fishing on the canal towpath, when two dogs rushed past while chasing a cat, the dogs ran into the boys, pushing them into the canal. 19 year old Jack Speight, brother of Charles junior, and son of Chuck, was nearby with his fiancée Sarah, when they heard the shouts of the boys. He managed to pull one of the boys out, but had to dive in to save the other, who was bleeding round the mouth. Sarah commented at the time "When Jack pulled the little boy out, I though at first it was too late". Both boys survived the trauma.

Over at New barn Bridge, Edward Machell was swimming in the canal and jumping off the bridge when he tragically drown there, but the date of this incident is unknown. A canal bridge where I spent many hours of my own teenage years swimming off the bridge with friends.

During the early years of the canal, swimming had been frowned on, people being fined if caught. One of the more popular spots for swimming in Rishton was at the Power Station, at Whitebirk. This was due to the warm waters being returned from the cooling towers, being returned to the canal, making the water pleasant all year round.

In June 2003, the Jubilee gate was officially opened at the entrance to the canal at Hermitage Street. Read about it here.

Location of the Canal.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal looking South towards Hermitage Street

The Leeds and Liverpool canal runs via, Wigan, Chorley, Blackburn and Burnley on the Lancashire side of the Pennines, before continuing through Skipton to Leeds.

The Leeds and Liverpool canal extends for a total of 127 miles across the Pennines and was constructed over a period of 46 years (1770-1816) with various sections becoming operational at different times during the construction period. From Liverpool the canal ascends to its summit level at 148.5 metres above sea level descending again to terminate in the city of Leeds at an elevation of 36.5 metres. To achieve these changes in level the canal has a total of 91 locks.

The Council surveyor reported on the 6th March 1941, that he had now got the personnel required for the Canal Protection Squad, and that the squad were now carrying out their duties in accordance with the instructions received from the County Surveyor. This was all part of the war effort and being able to keep the canal open for traffic.


Frozen Canal in January 2002.

As its name suggests the canal connected the major seaport of Liverpool with the industrial city of Leeds and along its length the principal industrial areas of that period in of the north of England. From Leeds that link could be extended further to connect with the canal network to the south and on to the east coast ports of the Humber estuary. During its working life the canal was a major transport system carry all manner of cargoes for the businesses and communities along its length including coal, wool, cotton, limestone, grain, guano, manure, farm produce and general goods.

The L. & L. is a wide canal by British standards unlike those usually encountered further south and was designed to accommodate a particularly wide, high volume work boat referred to as the Leeds and Liverpool "Short Boat" having a length of 18.9 metres (62ft.) and beam of 4.4 metres (14 ft. 4 ins.).

The canal was operated as a commercial enterprise with income being generated by the levying of tolls based upon the types of materials and distances that they were carried. Therefore maintaining the passage of boats at all times was essential to the profitability of the company. To this end the company operated various craft for special operations such as maintenance and repair work, dredging and ice breaking.

British canals, including the Leeds and Liverpool, were nationalised in 1948 and underwent a general decline as commercial traffic transferred to the railways and road. Regular traffic over the summit of the Leeds and Liverpool ceased in 1960 ending on the canal generally in 1964.

Wildlife now live happily along the canal, these geese were taken in November 2001.

Unlike many other canals in Britain, the Leeds and Liverpool was never completely closed to navigation and is now an important leisure and recreational waterway.

To this end people can now enjoy the beautiful sites and scenery along the canal and as one canal traveller described it; “We ascended the Blackburn Locks in the rain and were reminded by the Lock Keeper that the wet Lancashire weather was the reason for the town's existence. The damp climate was ideal for cotton spinning. The Pennines, which divides the climate of the wet west from the drier east, also divided the industries Lancashire cotton from Yorkshire wool. We may have lost our textile industry but the towns and the weather live on.”

The sixteen miles between Blackburn and Burnley typify the mix of rural, industrial and residential use, co-existing side by side, that is such a distinctive feature of many parts of the north.

The environment agency rates the canal as follows;

C, Fairly Good

G. Q. A. Grade Description

Dissolved oxygen

(Percentage saturation)


Biochemical oxygen demand


90 Percentile



90 Percentile


Very Good










Fairly Good



















Church Bank bridge - Closest bridge to halfway along the canal in August 2001.

Rishton Bridge No 108A is 66 miles from Leeds, and the total length is 127 miles.

Closest bridge to halfway is Church Kirk Bridge No 112 - 63.8 miles.

All of the Canal Bridges through Rishton can be found by clicking here.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal Historical Background

The sections highlighted in Yellow are the relevant sections to Rishton.

The idea of linking Leeds and Liverpool by water had its beginnings in the middle of the eighteenth century and was primarily driven by the well established woollen manufacturing industry in Yorkshire. In 1770 an Act of Parliament authorized the construction of an artificial waterway between Leeds and Liverpool via Skipton, Gargrave, Colne, Whalley, Walton-le-Dale and Parbold. It was also agreed that a branch line from Parbold to Wigan would be constructed. 

Initially limestone from the Dales area had been envisaged as the primary cargo but coal quickly superseded it. However the canal company made just as much money from carrying merchandise such as wool, grain, beer and cement. The canal was efficient and survived the onslaught of the railways in the 1880s and it was not until the lorry came on the scene after WW I that trade began to decline. The last regular commercial traffic on the main line ended in 1964 but coal continued to be carried between the Plank Lane Colliery and Wigan Power Station up until 1972.

The Canal Overflow at New Rishton in April 2002.

1765 Canal from Leeds to Preston proposed by John Stanhope

1766 Public meeting at Bradford to discuss the scheme

In July a meeting was held in Skipton where a proposal was put forward to create a canal link across the Pennines from the Aire & Calder Navigation in Leeds to the west coast. This would make a complete through-route from the east coast at Hull to the Irish sea. Yorkshireman John Longbotham was asked to survey a route.

1767 Proposed canal now to run from Leeds to Liverpool.

Longbotham's report suggested that the best route across the Pennines from Leeds was via Skipton and Barrowford to the River Ribble near Preston. As the crow flies this is a journey of less than 50 miles but as the canal boat sails it was to be a journey of 108 miles. Longbotham had done as he was asked and had avoided most of the major towns to provide the fastest and shortest route possible. This posed no problems on the Yorkshire side but it did not go down so well on western side of the Pennines. Lancastrians and Yorkshiremen have rarely seen eye to eye and this was no exception. The Lancashire men were never happy with Longbotham's route and arguments rumbled on for months.

It had been planned that the Lancashire section should run from Barrowford to the town of Whalley and then continue west into the Ribble Valley and follow the river's course into Preston where it would end with access to the river and thus to the coast. The committee also planned a branch line north from Preston to the River Wyre. However, many unhappy Lancashire promoters pushed for different routes - the businessmen of Liverpool wanted the canal to run all the way to their city where there was already a successful coastal dock. Bit by bit more towns were added to the route, places like Nelson, Burnley & Blackburn whose tradesmen all wanted their silk and cotton industries to be served by the waterway. Wigan too wanted a connection to the proposed canal to serve its many coal fields.

1768 First meeting in Lancashire about the canal.

After much argument a meeting was held at the Sun Inn at Bradford. A route was finally agreed upon which pleased the Yorkshire men but only partly satisfied their Lancashire counterparts. After its "direct" route across the Pennines the canal would continue to the River Ribble near Preston as originally planned but at Parbold another canal section would be created to run to Liverpool. The two sections would be connected by use of the River Ribble and the River Douglas Navigation (which had been navigable since 1742). The committee decided they would attempt to buy the Douglas Navigation to ensure full control of the whole route and also provide access into Wigan. While this now pleased the men of Preston, Wigan and Liverpool, it did nothing to pacify the men of Nelson, Burnley or Blackburn. Longbotham surveyed the route again and it was accepted on condition that a more experienced engineer also okayed the route. It was decided that, to stop any future arguments, two separate committees should be formed and each should look after its own interests on its own side of the Pennines.

The Tow paths through Rishton have been improved for walking, seen here in October 2001.

James Brindley's assistant, Robert Whitworth, re-surveyed Longbotham's route. Whitworth approved the plan and at a meeting in Burnley during August James Brindley gave a report and estimated the cost to be around £260,000. The joint committees decided it was time to seek an Act of Parliament for what was then to be known as the Yorkshire & Lancashire Canal.

1769 Liverpool promoters suggest that the canal should pass through Burnley and Blackburn, instead of via Whalley.

A group of disgruntled Lancashire businessmen, who were still very unhappy about the "short and direct" route, decided to survey a canal route of their own. John Eyes and Richard Melling were asked to survey an alternative line between Barrowford and Liverpool but their plan was not accepted. P.P. Burdett was then asked to see what he could come up with and his report pleased the promoters no end. Burdett proposed a line from Barrowford to Nelson, Burnley, Blackburn, Chorley and Wigan. From there it would travel west on the north bank of the River Douglas Navigation, through Parbold to meet Longbotham's line at Burscough. The Yorkshire & Lancashire Canal committee felt it would be pointless having two canals competing with each other for the exact same trade. They got together with the opposing committee and it was decided that James Brindley should be asked - rather like King Solomon - to decide which route was best.

In October Brindley reported back to the committee telling them that Longbotham's original route was £66,000 cheaper than Burdett's. The committee stuck with Longbotham's route and the disgruntled Lancashire men instantly withdrew their support and - more importantly - their subscriptions. Why should they pay for something which would not benefit them in any way? Worse still, some of them had money in Liverpool Docks and declared they would not allow the new canal to connect with them.

But Brindley's assistant, Robert Whitworth, had been sent to survey the route and reported a 35 foot discrepancy between Rishton and the crossing of the valley at Burnley. He reported that although it wasn't impossible to overcome, the costs would be increased greatly.

1770 First Leeds and Liverpool Canal Act passed, authorising a line via Skipton, Gargrave, Colne, Whalley, Walton-le-Dale, and Parbold.

The Act of Parliament for John Longbotham's route was granted and work began at both ends of what was now to be called the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. James Brindley had been offered the job as chief engineer though he had declined the offer. The inexperienced John Longbotham was given the job though it would seem that the company (probably mainly the Lancashire side) were never 100% keen on him?

The Canal with some of Rishtons Mills

The canal was to be built broad throughout though not to the standard broad dimensions which became common on most canals. The locks were designed to take the 60 feet long barges (or short boats) which already worked the Aire & Calder Navigation and this meant that the 70 feet narrow boats which became common in the south could not use the route.

1771. Yet more unhappy traders began to make themselves heard. The men of Wigan, who had previously supported and helped to promote the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, now threatened to build a route of their own between their town and Liverpool. They felt the Leeds & Liverpool line from Parbold was far too long-winded and the River Douglas Navigation was equally non-direct and often difficult to use in dry months. Alexander Leigh, the owner of the River Douglas Navigation, was hoping to cash in on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. He had been upgrading his route from Wigan to Parbold since 1753 and now he was converting it in a number of places to broad canal dimensions. He got together with the brand new Leeds & Liverpool company and they made an agreement to become partners on the Douglas Navigation. The Leeds & Liverpool company continued Leigh's upgrades while also gaining vital water supplies from the River Douglas.

1772. The disgruntled Wigan businessmen put forward a Bill which proposed a brand new direct canal link between Wigan and Liverpool. The Bill was defeated in Parliament by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal company who continued their improvements on the River Douglas Navigation.

Ducks on Frozen Canal January 2002.

Meanwhile, over in Yorkshire, other Leeds & Liverpool Canal promoters were making waves on the Aire & Calder Navigation. They threatened to by-pass the river completely and put forward a Bill to construct a completely new line. This would extend the Leeds & Liverpool Canal past Leeds and on to Selby where it would join the River Ouse giving direct links to York and the Humber. This was because they felt their coast to coast through-route was threatened by stretches of the Aire & Calder Navigation at its eastern end which were very difficult to navigate. The Aire & Calder Navigation Company countered this and defeated the Bill. They then built their own canal to Selby from the River Aire at Haddlesey which opened in 1778.

By 1773, under the direction of engineer John Longbottom, the lock - free section from Bingley to Skipton was completed; four years later Leeds was connected through to Gargrave but further work on the main line ceased at this point because of a lack of capital. In 1780 Liverpool to Wigan was completely canalized; prior to this time the Douglas Navigation had been used between Gathurst and Wigan .

The first section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to be opened for business was on the Yorkshire side in the middle of the route. This ran from Skipton eastwards to Bingley. The section had no locks or major structures but it only provided a very localised trade at this stage. All the same, this first income was certainly welcomed by the company.

1774 Canal opened from Liverpool to Gathurst, and then by Douglas Navigation to Wigan Skipton to Gargrave, and Bradford to Shipley and Bingley also opened. The branch linking Bradford to the main line at Shipley was completed in 1774 and remained open until 1922. The Rufford Branch, which connects the main line to the tidal River Douglas was completed in 1805 and remains open today. The opening of the Leigh Branch in 1820 connected the L & L main line to the Bridgewater Canal and the narrow canals of central and southern England.

The first section on the Lancashire side to be completed was the 28 miles stretch from Liverpool to the Douglas Navigation at Parbold, west of Wigan. Later in the year a complete canal line from Parbold to Wigan was opened, replacing the Douglas Navigation. The opening was a scene of great celebrations with the firing of guns, playing of bands and ringing of bells. However, the new line was confusingly known as the Leigh Cut (named after the owner of the Douglas Navigation) and should not be confused with the Leigh Branch which was built many years later.

Geese outside Master Barn Farm in November 2001.

In Yorkshire, a new canal opened which connected with the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (which was still under construction) at Shipley. The Bradford Canal was just 3¼ miles long, running south to the northern edge of Bradford.

1777 Canal opened from Shipley to Leeds Work on constructing the main line to cease, all available capital having been spent.

The Yorkshire side of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was fully opened. It ran for 30 miles from a junction in Leeds with the Aire & Calder Navigation to Gargrave, west of Skipton. The newly opened section included a massive climb up the hillside at Bingley where two huge staircase flights of locks had been built. Thirty thousand people turned up to celebrate the opening!

1780 Canal opened from Gathurst to Wigan.

1781 Douglas Navigation closed following the opening of the branch canal from Burscough to Rufford and Sollom Lock

Looking South

The next section of the main line on the Lancashire side was opened. This ran from Burscough into the tidal River Douglas via Rufford and Tarleton. This meant that the whole of the old River Douglas Navigation between Tarleton and Wigan had been completely superseded by canal.

1782. Construction had come to a stop, money was short, mainly due to the War of Independence being fought in America. However, the parts of the route that were open were doing a good trade despite there being no through-route. Leeds was connected to Skipton and the Bradford Canal connected the route to Bradford while the Wigan coal trade was boosting profits on the Lancashire side via the Leigh Cut. However, there was still a very large gap between Gargrave and Preston with no sign of construction being restarted, never mind completed, in the near future. The company probably could have afforded to continued the line by making it narrow but they stuck to their plans to create a wholly broad canal throughout - even though this meant waiting a long time until enough money could be raised to continue.

1783 Second Leeds and Liverpool Canal Act passed.

The company bought out Alexander Leigh's share in the Leigh Cut giving them complete control of the River Douglas and the line from Parbold to Wigan.

1785 Springs Branch at Skipton leased from Lord Thanet.

1788 Hustler, who took control of engineering from 1775 to 1777, suggested lowering the summit level of the canal to the one that is now used. He was discharged in 1782 when the branch to Sollom was completed as the committee though an engineer unnecessary. It was in 1788 that Hustler was commissioned to to make a preliminary survey, and with the advances in civil engineering he did so. At this time the route was still proposed down the Calder Valley, missing Rishton.

In October 1789, he presented his report, recommending to lower the head level by 53 feet, which meant carrying the canal through a tunnel 1,500 yards long. The summit was to be supplied with Pendle water and from Kilbrook, and reservoirs at Foulridge and above Colne. The depth of the canal was also to be increased to 7 feet to act as a mini reservoir on the 6 mile stretch of the summit level.

This was when the route was significantly altered. The line from Colne to Whalley was to be kept to the South of the River, thus eliminated the massive and expensive aqueduct that would have been required at Whalley. The route to the South was altered to allow accommodation of the coalfields at Padiham, which would also offer an improvement of the supply of Limestone. This would require Parliamentary approval though.

In 1790 a new Act of Parliament was passed to raise additional funds and work recommenced on the trans-Pennine section westward from Gargrave with Robert Whitworth newly employed as engineer. The only objection to the act coming from the Hesketh Estate at Great Harwood, through which just over 2 miles of the canal were due to be built. The canal committee though that this opposition arose, not from any damage the canal would cause, but in an attempt to compel the canal owners to agree to the Croston drainage bill, which the Heskeths, based at Rufford, were pursuing in Parliament. Whitworth had examined this drainage scheme in February 1790, and his recommendations for preserving the navigation of the tidal River Douglas, which would have been adversely affected, had been given to those promoting the drainage scheme. The Hesketh interest attempted to include consent for this drainage scheme in the canal bill, but was unsuccessful, though a clause regulating drainage culverts under the canal at Rufford were included.

Once again a shortage of money, this time caused by the Napoleonic Wars, resulted in further delays. During this period East Lancashire was developing rapidly as an industrial area and in 1794 it was agreed that the proposed line should be revised to included the towns of Burnley and Blackburn; a route originally suggested by the Lancashire businessmen. A major milestone was reached two years later with the completion of Foulridge Tunnel.

Tow path heading to Whitebirk in November 2001.

After a very long lay-off, construction began again but by now the small towns of east Lancashire had grown into large industrial areas. Once again, while the canal company was eager to complete the missing links on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, local businessmen wanted to connect their towns to the waterway. After much discussion the plan to go via Preston was dropped and a line was created heading south from where construction had halted in Barrowford, towards Wigan via Nelson, Burnley, Blackburn & Chorley.

The new route was much longer than the original one and there was a certain amount of risk in building the line through so many towns. Other more direct cross-Pennine routes (namely the Rochdale Canal and Huddersfield Narrow Canal) were being proposed by now but the company felt that any losses suffered from a longer route would be regained by passing through large trading areas. Ironically the change of plans meant that Burdett's route through Nelson, Burnley & Blackburn that had caused so much argument over 20 years earlier was now to be the route that the canal would take. The growing cotton trade from the towns of Lancashire were now more important than the original "fast" through-route, the original Lancashire promoters from over ¼ of a century earlier must have raised a broad smile!

Had it not been for the shortage of money in 1781, the East Lancashire section may never have been built. The original route to Whalley with a Blackburn Branch would have avoided Clayton, Church, Oswaldtwistle, and Rishton altogether, but because of the improvement in the economy of these towns, the route was altered.

Work recommenced from Gargrave with Robert Whitworth (a former assistant of James Brindley) now in charge. This was much to the dismay of John Longbotham who felt slighted when the company did not re-employ him after the long lay-off. However, this was probably because the Lancashire men held sway over the route which was coming to their towns and they'd clearly always disliked Longbotham for adamantly avoiding them all those years before.

Just passed Bridge Street, the Tow path with horse pulling barge.

1791 Building of the canal recommences westward from Gargrave.

When the traders of Preston heard that their town was no longer to be part of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal's route they were (not surprisingly) a little angry. Two decades they had waited, only to find they'd been waiting in vain. They joined support for a canal that the businessmen of Lancaster had been promoting which would link the Lake District, Lancaster and now Preston to Wigan. From there they would connect with Manchester - an important link which the Leeds & Liverpool company had not yet even thought about. Moreover, the newly proposed Lancaster Canal would block the path of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal when it eventually reached the south side of Blackburn, the Lancaster promoters must have had a fair idea that they could cash in if the Leeds & Liverpool company wanted to reach Wigan from the north.

1793. The Leeds & Liverpool company's worries over what to do about the Lancaster Canal when their paths met was partly helped when the Lancaster company started to have problems agreeing with the other canal's it had hoped to connect with. Both the Bridgewater and the Manchester, Bolton & Bury canals had not agreed to allow the Lancaster Canal to connect with them. Talks began between the Lancaster and Leeds & Liverpool companies though nothing was settled at this point.

A Swan now has a family which live on the canal, seen here in November 2001.

The Lancashire interests finally prevailed and asked Parliament for a new act to be passed, to complete the line through East Lancashire. Earlier in 1791, The Manchester, Bolton, and Bury Canal Co had obtained an Act to build a canal. Mathew Fletcher, a colliery owner, immediately approached the Leeds And Liverpool canal committee with a view to them changing their route to Bamber Bridge via Duxbury, to join this canal. They argued that from this junction they could lock to Wigan, passing Westhoughton and Hindley.

In September, Whitworth reported that he had taken levels, and in view of the lockages required to Wigan, from Bamber Bridge, recommended that the whole line should be altered through East Lancashire, taking it to a higher level through Burnley, Accrington, Blackburn, and Chorley. Over the next month he surveyed the route and recommended that the canal should leave the existing route at Barrowford, but the level of the line was to be critical. The high ground at Cunliffe, between Rishton and Blackburn, needed to be passed with minimum excavation because of the expense.

This new line was to increase the distance of the canal, but took advantage of the junction to join the Upper Douglas, and the Manchester, Bolton and Bury canal. It would also decrease the number of locks required by 30 feet, and only 4 miles extra cutting. This would only increase the cost by between £8,000 and £10,000.

More critically, it was realised that this line would have a far greater potential for traffic that the previously thinly populated one.

Meanwhile, Longbotham had also proposed a new line, avoiding the tunnel at Foulridge, and included a higher summit level. The line went via Colne, Marsden, Cliviger, Huncoat, Upper Darwen, and Rivington to Wigan. Both earthworks were equal in costs, but the final blow to this route was its distance from from developing industries. Part of the route from Red Moss to Wigan was incorporated into Whitworths plan though.

Other options were also looked at, Taking a Northern line from Burnley meant workings on embankments, but these had to be set against the excavation required to pass the high ground at Sidebeet, Rishton, and that was without taking into account any raising of the ground.

There were much opposition from landowners to the new route, but none from the Rishton section.

1794 Fourth Leeds and Liverpool Canal Act passed, with new line through East Lancashire.

1795. The first section of the Lancaster Canal opened. Not too surprisingly this was a stretch from Bark Hill, near Wigan, heading north across part of the route already planned by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

1796 Canal opened to Burnley after Foulridge Tunnel completed.

The only major tunnel on the Leeds & Liverpool route, the 1,640 yards long Foulridge Tunnel, was completed. An even bigger structure was under construction to the south in Burnley where an embankment across the town was being built 40 feet high and nearly one mile long. This was a big money eater, work was halted during construction of the embankment until more cash could be raised.

Major Clayton of Little Harwood, the Committee member responsible for obtaining the land in East Lancashire, wrote to Lord Petre regarding his land in Rishton:-

We have always appreciated so much friendship from your Lordship, in support of that project, that you are strictly entitled to every information respecting its progress; and the more so, when we are advanced so far Westward, as that it shall become necessary to begin to trespass upon your Lordships property. We have taken the liberty to order the surveyor to set out the line, in one part of the township of Rishton, where there is some deep cutting and difficult work. It is the rule with us, never to break the ground until we have settled with the owner thereof. Your Lordships property in Rishton happens to be in life lease, therefore separate bargains must be made, not only with your Lordship, but with the tenants who hold separate leases.

The deep cutting mentioned was from Whitebirk to Rishton, where the canal crosses the high ground between the Rivers Darwen and Calder. Although the line appears to have been set out in 1796, it was not until 1807, with construction about to begin, that the price for the land was agreed. Mr. A. Cottam had assessed the land for George Petre the previous year and the canal company obtained their own valuations from Mr. Eccles and Mr. Brantwood of Blackburn. When the two prices differed it was settled by Mr. Binns of Gisburn. The price paid for the land was based upon its yearly rental, usually being equal to the income over 30 years. Rents varied from 20/- to 155/- per acre, dependant upon weather it was pasture or arable land, and also whether it had been regularly limed or used for industry. The highest value was for that containing housing; the lowest for moss land. The tenants agreed to accept the value which was arranged with George Petre.

The damage done to the land not used upon the completion of the building of the canal was assessed. Payment had to be made for stone used from the local quarries, and the repair of fences. Where soil had been removed, the company had to pay the equivalent of 20 years rent, while half that was sufficient for the slopes alongside the canal. In these cases the landowner retained the land and was in effect, being paid for the time taken for the land to recover.

An initial payment was made to Lord Petre in 1807 of £2,000, and a further payment of £902 in 1811 for the land used. A final payment of £981 for damages was made in 1812, following a letter from Petre's agent, John Harper, demanding a settlement. Petres tenants rent had already been reduced by an amount equivalent to the land taken by the canal, and he had already paid them for damages during construction; the canal was open, and earning revenue for the proprietors, so he was the only party not receiving any benefits from the canal. There were still matters outstanding in 1822 however, when he complained to the committee about repairs needed to fences and watercourses. He was also worried about trespass, stating in a letter that:-

"Persons employed by the canal proprietors bring men from Blackburn or other places with nets and dogs pretending to fish in the canal through Rishton etc."

The canal company tried to keep on the right side of the large land owners, from whom they rented land for their reservoirs, like the one at Rishton, and their warehouse at Henfield. In 1851, John Croasdale built a cotton mill alongside the canal in Rishton, on land belonging to Petre. When Croasdale tried to obtain access for carts to his mill along the tow path, he was only granted its use as a footpath for his workmen on payment of 5/- per annum. He appealed to Petre, who approached the committee, which granted Croasdale the required access for £1 per annum, provided a suitable fence was built along the canal side.

1799 Lancaster Canal opened from Haigh to Wheelton.

Canal Mills by Allan McNamara

The Lancaster Canal was opened from Bark Hill towards Preston. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal was still miles from reaching this area and there was now no way through to Wigan for it without an agreement being settled allowing it to cross the Lancaster Canal's route at some point. Nothing was done at this stage as the Leeds & Liverpool Canal had a lot more barriers to cross before getting anywhere near Wigan.

1800 The canal company were approached by Jonathon Peel, who was the owner of a textile printing and dying works at Church, one of the most important factories in Britain at that time. He requested that the line be altered, so that instead of being carried up the valley of the river Hyndburn, towards Accrington, the canal should pass to the West of his works rejoining the route at Church. It seems he was worried about clean water, essential in textile printing, which would have been interrupted during construction of the canal. This deviation was agreed, despite the increase in size of the embankment needed to cross the Hyndburn further down the valley, although there was some decrease in the length of the route.

The permission of Lord Petre was needed, who was the land owner, which he duly granted, provided that on the length of the canal next to Dunkenhalgh Park, the towpath was built on the opposite bank, to reduce the opportunity for poaching and other interference to his lands.

1801 Canal opened from Burnley to Henfield (Later to be shortened to Enfield).

After a number of years of little progress Burnley embankment and the whole section of canal to the north was opened, connecting with the already open Yorkshire side of the route. South of Burnley turnpike roads were used to transport goods to and from Blackburn while the canal was being completed to that town.

Longbotham dies of old age. One of the pioneers of the canal, he had for a short time, run his own haulage business on the canal, as well as summiting plans for work to the canals in Lancashire.

1804. The Napoleonic Wars in Europe were crippling Britain's wealth and this brought financial troubles to the canal, construction was halted yet again.

1805 The Rufford Branch is extended from Sollom Lock to Tarleton.

Swans on the Canal in November 2001.

Work recommenced (again), heading south from Burnley. However, it is thought that the company probably didn't care whether a through-route was completed or not by this stage. The Rochdale and Huddersfield canals were well under way and would provide much shorter cross-Pennine through-routes than the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, besides, the company were already doing very well out of local trade along their line so completion was not essential.

Rishton Common land was let to the canal company.

1808 Canal opened to Church. The next stage to Rishton needed 3 large embankments to be built, which took several years to consolidate before they could be filled with water. Continually wet weather during 1808 and 09 hampered construction even more, and the high ground work between Rishton and Whitebirk were affected as well.

1810 June. Canal opened on the nine mile stretch from Henfield (later to be shortened to Enfield) to Blackburn.

The Blackburn Times reported:-

"Never since this publication was first started has it been in the power of any editors to record so pleasant a scene as was exhibited on Thursday last, viz. the opening of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. There is now a direct communication between this town and Hull; and should the Corsican Tyrant ever consent to peace, and free trade with the Continent, Blackburn may with facility send her manufacturers by water to most sea ports of Germany. If a person who had been absent from this town for 5 years were to come to from Burnley, he could hardly recognise that he had ever seen this place before... The canal has caused so great an alteration in the South Easterly part, where many new houses are erected.

27 boats left Henfield for Blackburn in celebration, carrying vast numbers of people including the canal committee and many of the canal proprietors. The paper continued:-

All the vessels except the coal flats, had flags and pendants flying; this tended to much beatify the scene; and the bands alternately playing, rendered it a treat both for the ear and eye. When the procession passed Messrs. Peels print works, it was greeted by a number of ladies, who stood upon a temporary balcony, and, in return, repeated cheers were given them from the barges.

When the procession approached near Blackburn, the vessels were much crowed by persons forcing themselves on board under the different bridges. On its arrival at Eanam, we suppose were not less than 7,000 persons on the water. Multitudes kept pace with the vessels all the way from Henfield; which, when joined to the great number of spectators assembled at Eanam, formed a concourse of at least 25,000 persons, besides the persons on board the different vessels.......

.......... We are happy to say, no fatal accidents occurred........

A man on board one of the vessels at Eanam, imprudently thrusting a red hot poker into the mouth of a small cannon, which was charged with powder and wadding, had his hand most dreadfully shattered. Two children and three men fell in the water during the passage from Henfield. These were the only accidents worthy of note.

The celebrations carried on into the evening when, after a suitable repast, there was dancing and marital music. Surely a memorable occasion.

After 5 years the route reached Blackburn but south of the town the company had the problem of crossing the Lancaster Canal which ran across the Leeds & Liverpool Canal's proposed route. Numerous plans and negotiations were begun but nothing was agreed at this time.

1815. The Lancaster Canal problem was solved when the Lancaster Canal company (at considerable cost to the Leeds & Liverpool company) agreed to allow the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to share the southern most part of its route. A junction would be created at the bottom of Johnson's Hillock, north of Chorley, and another junction would be made at Bark Hill where the Lancaster Canal ended. At Bark Hill the Leeds & Liverpool Canal would have to connect the Lancaster Canal to its own canal in Wigan town centre. To do this it would have to create a flight of over 20 locks. This new plan left part of the original main line, from Burscough to Tarleton, as a branch line connecting the canal to the tidal River Douglas. The Leigh Cut would now form part of a new main line from the bottom of the Wigan flight to Burscough.

1816, after 46 years, the longest single canal in the country was completed and became one of the most prosperous waterways. In actuality the authorized route of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was never completed. Rather than continue the line to Liverpool, as authorized by the Act of Parliament, the company worked out an arrangement with the Lancashire Canal Company whereby they could use the southern section of their canal between Johnson's Hillock and Wigan thereby completing the link through to Liverpool. Control of this 10 mile stretch of canal was assumed by the L & L Co. in 1864.

Finally, on October 19th the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was fully opened - 50 years after the first meeting had been held in Skipton. It had not only taken longer than expected but also cost many times the amount originally raised. It had also grown considerably in length, to over 127 miles.

There was still one strange omission in the canal route however, for some strange reason nobody had bothered to build a link into the Mersey at Liverpool. The canal ended in the centre of the city just ¼ of a mile from the river. An arm with locks would be needed to lower the canal down to the river but at this time it was decided that trans-shipment up and down between the two waterways was acceptable.

In September of this year, a new service was introduced between Burnley and Blackburn, that of the Canal Packet Boat. This was initially run by Silvester Bracewell, who was charged £6 per month, but the following year this was reduced to 5 shillings per trip. Mr. Lawrence Houghton, of Altham recalled these boats during the 1830's and described them thus:

Each boat was drawn by two horses, both of which were ridden, and one of the riders blew a bugle from time to time to give notice of the approach of the boat to would be passengers. Between the stopping places the horses went at a trot after the boat had gathered speed. These boats, which carried mails for the post office, were seated for passengers on both sides, and had their decks covered over, there being windows in the sides which gave an ample supply of light. The covering, or roof, that enclosed the deck had a flat top, on which accommodation was provided for the additional passengers when the interior of the boat was full. I have seen them sometimes on Sunday nights, festival occasions, and the like, so crowed with passengers that they appeared to be in danger of being swamped.

These boats were illuminated during the dark evenings, and Mr. Bracewell thought the boats to be beautifully painted, although their is no knowledge of their colour scheme. They were 12 yards in length.

This boat service was still running in 1843, but by now was owned by Mr. Crabtree of Burnley, who also had a fleet of cargo boats. He was to particular about the passengers, the canal police complained that people ran along the tow path after the boat, swing bridges were damaged, and sundry fences along his route. Often there was drunkenness on board, and even on Sundays, riotous behaviour and loud music.

The Company warned him several times, but to no avail. The commissioners of Excise were finally asked to revoke his license for the sale of ale and spirits, but they found no grounds for this, and the request was refused.

The boat was still running in 1847, then the company refused permission for the passengers to disembark at Eanam Wharf on Sundays, due to goods going missing from the canal side. Towards the end, the packet boat was used more as a pleasure boat, rather than a means of transport, and by 1851 Crabtree had died, his widow selling the fleet in 1854, running it on her own.

1817. Now that Leeds, Bradford, Wigan and Liverpool had been reached, a new line was begun to connect the canal to another major industrial area of the north - Manchester. The easiest way to do this was to connect a branch from Wigan to the western end of the Bridgewater Canal at Leigh. The route was accepted and work began.

Meanwhile, the canal's Superintendent, Joseph Priestley, died after working for the company since construction had first begun. He was buried with honour and in Bradford Cathedral there is a memorial bearing canal images which is dedicated to him. In 1831 another Joseph Priestley (possibly his son) published the best contemporary account of canals and navigations in Britain. (Neither should be confused with Joseph Priestley the preacher and politician who discovered Oxygen and died in 1804).

1819 Fifth Leeds and Liverpool Canal Act passed, for the construction of the Leigh Branch

1820 Leigh Branch opened.

The Leigh Branch opened allowing a through-route from Manchester to Liverpool without the River Mersey having to be used - an idea that was first put forward some 60 years earlier by the Duke of Bridgewater. It also, of course, connected the towns of Burnley, Blackburn and Wigan to what was fast becoming the "capital of the north".

1822. The Leigh Branch also created access to the rest of the canal network - the Peak District, the Potteries, the Midlands and North Wales could now be accessed if desired without having to travel on any rivers. However, there was a problem; the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, although broad, was still only capable of taking short boats of 60 feet or less. Normal narrow boats wishing to access Liverpool from the rest of the network were unable to do so. The Leeds & Liverpool company lengthened all the locks between Leigh and Liverpool but left the route across the Pennines as it was. They felt it would be far too expensive to convert the whole trans-Pennine route when most traffic was very localised. However, we shall never know if this would have changed because by leaving the locks at 60 feet it meant the Pennine route was stuck with just local traffic whether it liked it or not.

Although the cost of building the whole route was many times that of Brindley's original estimate, it is important to note that the canal was an instant success once fully opened - in fact it had been for many years before it was fully opened - and its income was also many times the amount that Brindley had predicted.

While things were going from strength to strength for the Leeds & Liverpool company, there was disturbing news on the horizon. There was talk of a railway being built from Manchester to Liverpool, one of the first in the world. Several Bills were put through Parliament but each was successfully opposed by the canals and river navigations in the area. However, a different railway, from Bolton to Leigh, was authorised.

1824. A partial collapse at Foulridge Tunnel caused the canal's through-route to be closed. It took 18 months to repair the damage. Other non-enforced improvements were also made during the 1820's. These included widening and deepening stretches of the route.

1828. The Bolton & Leigh Railway opened causing the Leeds & Liverpool Canal no end of worry. The company were ready to lower tolls to compete but this turned out to be unnecessary when it became obvious that this very early railway was struggling to get going.

1830. After many attempts, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway finally got its authorisation.

1831. Next came the Liverpool & Leeds Railway which sought an Act of Parliament which would have seen it running right alongside the canal through the important Wigan coal fields. The railway's first attempt to gain authorisation was defeated.

Down by Whitebirk Power Station in November 2001.

1833. The canal agreed toll terms with the Bolton & Leigh Railway in order to save the railway from bankruptcy - a charitable move considering how many canals were put out of business by successful railway companies.

1834. During the 1830's the company constructed a number of reservoirs. Initially all water had been supplied by streams and rivers but the short summit level and the 91 huge locks were simply too thirsty. Eventually the company owned 7 reservoirs but even then it was not enough to cater for long dry summers.

1836. The Manchester & Leeds Railway successfully gained the right to construct a track which would be in direct competition with the canal. Worse still, the Act also allowed the railway to extend its line to Liverpool.

At first the railways failed to make any inroads into the canals trade because most of the industries that the canal served were right on the canal's banks - the railway simply couldn't get near enough. Bit by bit new industries were built along the railway routes and some canal side businesses also moved nearer to the tracks but this was a relatively slow transformation.

Throughout this period the canal continued to grow, the industrial revolution was still bringing more and more industry to the towns and even when the railways were thriving there was still more than enough left over for the canal to annually exceed its previous income.

1845. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal company began talks with a view to taking over the Lancaster Canal's part of the route between Johnson's Hillock and Bark Hill, near Wigan. The Lancaster company had no real use for this portion of their canal and were eager to sell it off. However, no agreement was made at this stage.

1846 Liverpool Dock Branch opened.

Over the years many improvements had been made at the western terminus of the canal and now a link into the River Mersey was finally begun. It was to be less than ½ a mile long as the canal terminus was already very close to the river. Four locks were to take the Leeds & Liverpool Canal down into the newly built Stanley Dock.

The 91 massive locks which carried the canal across the Pennines were causing immense water supply problems despite the building of several reservoirs during the previous decade. The cross-Pennine route was often completely dry in summer and could be closed for months on end. Expensive pumps were installed by the company but even this did little to help the problem. Through-traffic became very rare in summer with most trade being localised on either side of the Pennines. There was often no through-traffic in winter either, with freezing weather preventing passage across the hills.

1847. After approximately 80 years the company finally paid off all outstanding debts. This was the company's peak year though the railways were beginning to take more and more trade on the Lancashire side. The canal company began its own carrying company in an effort to boost profits and compete with the railways.

1848. The short arm from the Liverpool terminus into Stanley Dock was opened. Meanwhile, income went down for the first time. This was due to the lowering of tolls rather than a loss in tonnage. In fact, tonnage was equal to previous years but the bigger and bigger threat of the railways meant tolls had to keep coming down. However, even the railways were not exactly thriving because they too had to cut tolls in the battle to compete against each other. Because of this a number of companies met to discuss their financial futures. It became a lengthy debate which took 2 years to settle.

1850. A deal was finalised with the Lancaster Canal allowing the Leeds & Liverpool company to take control of the Wigan section of their route on a lease of £4,335 per year for 21 years. The Leeds & Liverpool company also took on the Walton Summit Branch, a former part of the Lancaster Canal main line, which connected Johnson's Hillock to a tramway which ran into Preston - though the northern half of the tramway, Walton Summit to Bamber Bridge, had already fallen into decline.

In a year of "friendship" and "co-operation" a deal was finally struck between the numerous Lancashire railways and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. It was agreed that the railways would lease all the canal's merchandise cargoes (things like foodstuffs, flax and cast iron) for £41,000 a year until 1874. They also bought out the canal's short lived carrying company for £13,800. The company must have been laughing themselves silly when the deal was finalised. If the agreement hadn't been settled they'd have probably lost the merchandise cargoes anyway within a few years. Now they would make money without having any outlay. Moreover, they had been paid to get rid of the carrying business which they had never wanted to run in the first place. All in all, a very satisfying year. Over the next decade and a half the canal continued to see good profits despite the loss of its merchandise cargoes. Its coal carrying however was positively booming and things were going from strength to strength.

1858 The railway bridge over the reservoir was replaced from its original wood structure, whilst the reservoir was drained for cleaning.

1864 Southern section of the Lancaster Canal leased by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

1866. Due to water supply problems and the general horrid state of the Bradford Canal (which joined the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Shipley) its owners closed the top ¼ of a mile in Bradford and offered the remaining 3 miles on lease to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. The Leeds & Liverpool company weren't the slightest bit interested in running Britain's dirtiest waterway and flatly refused the offer. They knew they could not afford to provide an adequate water supply and weren't prepared to build the new wharves and basins which the Bradford Canal desperately needed to keep business growing.

1867. The Bradford Canal company closed the whole of their waterway and drained it. As well as being a great loss to local industries in Bradford, it was also a loss of income to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. However, the canal was enjoying unknown prosperity elsewhere on the route, carrying coal and being paid by the railways NOT to carry merchandise. They used the money well by improving the route and installing steam tugs which could pull many times the amount that a single towpath horse could manage.

1870. Talks were held between the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the Aire & Calder Navigation and businessmen from Bradford with a view to re-opening the Bradford Canal. Although the Leeds & Liverpool Canal did not officially agree to do anything to help, it is almost certain that they worked behind the scenes to help re-open the beleaguered route. After all, a successful Bradford Canal meant more income for the Leeds & Liverpool Canal whose junction at Shipley was the Bradford Canal's only outlet.

1873. The Bradford Canal re-opened and quickly brought renewed traffic to its waters and to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

1874. The railway merchandise lease came to an end in August after 24 years. This was not a great loss to the canal as it had done very well during the lease years and was now in such a good financial position that it could compete with the railways. This was helped by the railway system itself which was steadily becoming very inefficient. The canal company immediately started up its own merchandise carrying company once again and took advantage of the railway's poor efficiency.

1878 Bradford Canal purchased by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and the Aire and Calder Navigation. The people who had restored the Bradford Canal had clearly never intended to run it for long. As soon as it was up and running they sold out to a joint committee of Aire & Calder Navigation and Leeds & Liverpool Canal owners. The Bradford Canal continued to be a success until WW1.

1880. The Leeds & Liverpool Company (always keen to improve) started running a steam powered cargo fly boat service which could pull 3 unpowered boats at once. Running on a very efficient timetable, similar to passenger services, the fly boats attracted much of the merchandise cargoes which the canal had previously given up to the railways. It was said that the canal's warehouses were better than the railway's and short journeys were much faster, as well as more reliable.

Canal with the mills disappearing in the 1980s.

1888. The Government created the Railway and Canal Act which was designed to ensure that both charged equal tolls. In many cases across the country this helped canals who were struggling to compete against good railway services but it hit the Leeds & Liverpool Canal badly as they were actually in a better state than the railways. The Act forced them to cut their tolls by nearly half.

1891 Sixth Leeds and Liverpool Canal Act, authorising construction of Winterburn Reservoir.

A dramatic decline in income hit the canal and it saw its dividends drop from £15 to just £4 in one year, although most of the actual cargo carried rose by 25% in some cases. The Government Act of 1888 was partly to blame but so was the canal company itself who obtained an Act of its own authorising it to raise money for improvements. They wanted to upgrade the canal to carry much larger boats and the Act also allowed them to restructure the company and its finances. However, events over the next few years caused the company to wish they'd never sought the Act at all.

Stonework in the banking of the canal can be seen all along its route. This is taken in December 2001.

1892 Seventh Leeds and Liverpool Canal Act, altering the rating of the canal.

1895. A very bad winter caused the canal to be closed for two months, before the company had recovered it was hit by a long dry summer with another one following the year after. Plans to improve the canal were scaled down dramatically though trade remained constant - when the canal was open.

1899. The canal sold its old terminus basin in Liverpool to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway for £185,000. As usual the money they earned was well spent. The company made improvements to their newer terminus at Stanley Dock. Work was due to be started on the canal at Norden and Altham, at a cost of £5,000, to strengthen the canal, but because of poor finances the work was cancelled.

1900. The steady fall of dividends paid to shareholders continued until the turn of the century when there was finally no pay out at all.

1905 Eighth Leeds and Liverpool Canal Act extending time for new reservoirs to be built at Winterburn.

1917. During WW1 the government took control of the canal. Although the government paid the company compensation it was not enough to allow the company to maintain its income. The already low usage of the route due to the war was now virtually wiped out all together under government control. Even when the war ended the government kept control of the waterway, only handing it back to the company in 1920. By that time trade was hopelessly lost forever and the canal's own carrying company was flat broke.

1921 Canal Company disposes of it's carrying fleet of 298, including in this 46 steamers, the last 3 boats built for the company had been built the previous year.

The company gave up its carrying service because it was unable to find the money to employ boat crews. Profits were so low that wages had been severely cut and nobody wanted to do the job. All the carrying vessels were sold after the company gave up on the 30th April 1921.

1922 Bradford Canal closes.

The Bradford Canal (which was partly owned by the Leeds & Liverpool company) was completely shut down after many years of very low usage. Over the next two decades the Leeds & Liverpool Canal slowly declined and numerous warehouses, boat yards, basins and wharves were closed down and sold off.

£26,079 had been raised by the company in the sale of their boats by March.

By now, Whitebirk power station had been built, and this was raising funds once more, the need for coal, and the sale of cooling water from the canal helped the company a little.

1928 Ninth Leeds and Liverpool Canal Act, altering the tolls.

On the 10th August 1944, thanks were expressed to Mr. R. H. Clarke and his son for their assistance in rescuing the horse from the canal, and they were paid ten shillings, by the Rishton Urban District Council,  for services rendered.

1948 Following nationalisation, canal passes to the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive.

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal was nationalised along with most of the country's waterways. Unlike most others however, it was deemed to be worthy of retention as commercial traffic was still using the route, albeit at a lower and lower amount every year. By now the canal was declining rapidly, some bridges and locks were in a serious state of decay and the whole route was suffering from lack of proper maintenance. However, its new governors, the British Transport Commission, did make moves to keep the canal in business. They took over the running the carrying companies on the canal and even made innovative changes such as the building of new barges made of high-tensile steel which was lighter, stronger and allowed carrying capacity to be increased. Warehouses were also extended to take more cargo in Liverpool but while these helped the government to run a business, it did next to nothing to increase canal traffic.

1950s and 60s Tug of War teams meet from all over the surrounding districts to complete in a Tug-O-War over the canal at Whitebirk. The location was a disused swing bridge, making it the ideal place. On occasions up to 30 teams would attend.

1953 British Transport Waterways set up and takes over responsibility for the canal.

A letter was submitted from British Waterways agreeing to the erection by the Council of a barrier gate leading to the path from Hermitage Street to the canal on the 12th November 1953. Resolved—That British Waterways be asked if they are agreeable to a spring gate being erected in lieu of a locked gate, and that the County Council be asked if they are prepared to make a contribution towards the cost.


1960 Regular traffic over the summit level ceases.

1963 British Waterways Board formed.

After the harshest winter on record, with the canal frozen and unusable for months, the small amount of carriers who had stuck with the canal finally gave up. The canal's governors, now the British Waterways Board, also gave up when Parliament decided that small canals and barges were no longer economical - large craft and large waterways were the only way to go. They sold off their fleet of barges on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal leaving what little trade there was to small independent carriers, most of these being at the eastern end near the Aire & Calder Navigation.

1964 The last regular traffic on the main line finishes.

1968 The government's Transport Act demoted the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to a cruising waterway. This meant it was no longer thought worthy of maintaining to commercial standards but should be kept open for pleasure use. However, at this stage there were still a small number commercial carriers using the route. These were now mostly on the Lancashire side where they carried coal to power stations.

1972 Regular trade on the canal ceases when the coal traffic to Wigan Power Station stops.

1973. The last recorded commercial delivery was a cargo of coal from Plank Lane Colliery on the Leigh Branch to Wigan power station.

1985 Leeds and Liverpool Canal Corridor Project initiated.

1997. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is one of only a few never to have been closed down. Unlike its trans-Pennine rivals, the Rochdale and Huddersfield canals, it stayed in use, was never bought by a railway and was ready and willing to take the pleasure boat onslaught of the late twentieth century. At the time of writing, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal provides the only cross-country canal through-route north of the Midlands.

Lancashire Canals in the UK.

Canal Network

2002. May saw the opening and unveiling of a new entrance ramp from Hermitage street onto the canal towpath, the gate was named the jubilee gate.

On the 2nd of June of the same year, at an area Council meeting, Vaughan Jones, of the British Waterways, reported that there was a problem with litter on the canal, although they were cleaned on a regular basis, He informed the meeting that they were only provided with a budget of £3,000 per annum to maintain the stretch of canal throughout the Borough of Hyndburn and consequently, had limited resources. He inferred extra funding could be acquired, through working in partnership with other agencies, and highlighted Rishton Prospects Panel as being particularly active in this respect.

A resident suggested that more sophisticated machinery should be purchased to ensure that the canal remained clean, however, the Area Council were informed that this would be too costly, although, they were constantly investigating the use of different technology. Further discussions related to the provision of dog bins along the canal, although the meeting was informed that difficulties arose from the bins being emptied as it would require separate maintenance from the rubbish bins located there.

2004. In February 2004 it was no longer necessary for cyclists to apply for permits to use the canal towpaths, British Waterways scrapped the cycling licence.

2005. The canal from Hermitage Street bridge to Church is declared a site of scientific Interest (SSSI), for its plant life found along its bankings. A guided walk was given on the 15th October 2005 by John Lamb of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Steve Taylor of Gawthorpe Environmental (GEM) to celebrate this event and the opening of Norden Bridge Gate.

2006. The Prospects foundation (including Rishton Prospects) continue their work along the canal tow path with the opening of a picnic site at the side of Spring Street bridge. The tow path from Eanam Wharf at Blackburn to Accrington was declared amongst one of the top 10 cycle routes in the UK, passing through Rishton. It was described as "leaving Blackburn stunning views could be found".

2010. On the 14th July 2010, it was announced that due to current drought conditions in East Lancashire, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was going to close the canal to boats from the 2nd August. British Waterways experts were predicting that water levels in its six local reservoirs would only be running at just 10 per cent by early August.

Restrictions had been in place since the end of May and were tightened again in June, with boats only allowed to move freely from 10am to noon, and 2pm to 4pm. Previously, the only time such restrictions were put in place was during a similar drought in 1995.

Excess water was lost every time a lock was operated, and poor rainfall was being blamed for the current low reservoir levels. The affected East Lancashire reservoirs were Rishton, Barrowford, Foulridge - Upper and Lower, Slipper Hill, and Whitemoor in Barnoldswick.

Waterways officials say the situation would be reassessed once reservoir levels reach 20 per cent, or over.


Lancashire Hotpots web site. (See Links Sections)

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal, A History and Guide by Mike Clarke, Published by Carnegie Publishing, 1994. ISBN1-85936-013-0