Horwich: Canal Town?

Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Spring 2024

Richard Dean

Richard Dean looks at how the Lancashire railway town almost became an important canal centre

In 1884, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company bought 350 acres of land on Red Moss, near the village of Horwich, on which to build its new locomotive works. Within less than a decade, the village had tripled in population to become known as Lancashire’s biggest railway town. But it had earlier become close to being an important canal junction. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal was authorised in 1770 as a relatively direct cross-country project through rural areas (NB Autumn 2009). But, after sections were opened at each end, pressure grew to divert the central part through the rapidly expanding east Lancashire towns of Burnley, Accrington and Blackburn. This lengthy deviation would take a more southerly route through these towns, then onwards along a high level following the 363ft contour through Horwich, which would enable an easy link from Red Moss to Bolton, finally dropping down by 27 locks to meet the company’s existing Upper Douglas Navigation at Wigan. An al…

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