Leeds to Liverpool - 1770

Canals That Never Were: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2009

Richard Dean

Richard Dean looks at how the Leeds & Liverpool Canal might have used the Ribble Valley for its route

Although conceived nominally as part of a sea-to-sea route, it was the local traffic to and from the ports which justified building the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (Winter 2006 NB). The engineer John Longbotham laid out a route that was as direct as the country permitted; west of the summit at Foulridge his line closely followed the rivers Calder and Ribble, descending nearly to Preston, then through Leyland, Parbold, Burscough and Maghull to Liverpool. In this form the whole scheme was approved by Parliament in 1770. Near Eccleston it was to be joined by an early project for a separate canal to Lancaster and beyond, which later developed on a different route as the Lancaster Canal. The Yorkshire portion and the easy Parbold to Liverpool length were soon built largely according to this plan, together with a branch up the Douglas Valley to serve the Wigan collieries. Longbotham had planned a short summit at Foulridge passing through a basin or reservoir at the 521ft level, with most…

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