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Barnsley Aqueduct Burst

Canal Postcards: NarrowBoat, Spring 2020

Trevor Ellis examines how historic postcards capture the scene of a serious breach on the Barnsley Canal in 1911

In an age when newspapers did not carry much illustration, old postcards played a part in the communication of newsworthy events, including disasters. Publishers often managed to have cards on sale within hours of a local incident taking place and examples show that the cards were posted very quickly afterwards. One disaster that was captured by more than one publisher was the Barnsley Aqueduct burst of 20th November 1911. Some views are clearly taken soon after the burst, as water is still flowing. It is clear that the cards come from a very different age than today when, with health and safety to the fore, the scene would be taped off at some distance to exclude the public. Although policemen appear in a couple of shots, in one card at least 50 people are clambering about the wreckage. Due to the size of the breach and the fact that the repairs were entirely carried out by hand, the canal was not reopened until the following July. Although the aqueduct would today be regarded as a …

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