Flint Carriers of the Grand Junction Canal

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2022

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones looks at the little-known flint traffic carried over the Grand Junction Canal

Flint has one of the longest associations with human civilisation and was used in the pottery industry long before the canals were built. Getting this raw material to the Staffordshire Potteries involved a combination of various transport methods, including seagoing craft, river barges and pack animals. But once the Trent & Mersey Canal was completed, flint was taken from Runcorn directly into the Potteries. During the 19th century the Grand Junction, Oxford, Coventry and Trent & Mersey routes were used in competition with the sea, then later the railways. Carriers were always seeking profitable backloads, and for a time flint was one such cargo. Two types of flint were used in the Potteries, the most accessible being ‘boulder flints’ which were embedded in chalk deposits and, due to erosion by the sea, were found lying on the beaches of south England and the Normandy coast. Local workers collected them into baskets at places in Sussex such as Rye and Newhaven, an…

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