The Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal was the first of the trans-Pennine canals to be started – and the last to be completed.

The 127 mile route flows from Leeds River Lock – where it joins the Aire and Calder Navigation – via Skipton, Colne, Burnley and on to Liverpool.

In 1765, there was a proposal to construct a canal from Preston to Leeds to transport woollen goods from Leeds and Bradford and limestone from Skipton.

The Canal Act [1770] provided for a route from Liverpool to Leeds via Parbold, Walton-le-Dale (Preston), Colne and Skipton, with a branch from Burscough towards the River Ribble, another branch from Parbold to Wigan, a great aqueduct at Whalley and a further branch from Shipley to Bradford.

In 1773, the section from Skipton to Bingley was opened.

In 1777, the section between Liverpool, Parbold and Gathurst (Wigan), and from Leeds to Gargrave, including the branch to Bradford was opened, but all the available money had been spent and work came to a halt.

By 1781, more money was found to complete the branch to Wigan and the branch to Rufford.

In 1791, work recommenced on the canal west from Gargrave.

In 1794, a new Act was passed, changing the route to run via Burnley and Blackburn instead of Whalley and Walton-le-Dale.

In 1796, Foulridge Tunnel was opened, making the canal navigable from Leeds to Burnley.

In 1797, the Springs Branch at Skipton was opened.

In 1810, the section from Burnley to Blackburn was opened.

In 1816, the Blackburn to Lancaster section was completed and whole canal was fully opened.

The plan to continue the canal to Parbold was abandoned through lack of money.

An arrangement was made to use the section of the Lancaster Canal to Wigan, and to incorporate that and the Wigan section into the main line of the canal.

In 1820, the new branch was opened between Wigan and Bridgewater Canal at Leigh, linking with the rest of the canal system.

In 1864, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal incorporated the southern section of the Lancaster Canal.

Where possible, tunnels and cuttings are avoided and the canal follows the contours of the land. This results in circuitous routes and staircase locks such as the five-rise locks at Bingley which were opened on the 21st March 1774

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:13 / 15th May 2021 / 3886

Page Ref: MML460

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