UK Canals

History of England’s Canals

England’s canal system started with the Bridgewater Canal, between Manchester and Liverpool, and was completed in 1760. A canal-building frenzy took place between 1760 and around 1830, when the majority of the canals were built. They were the prime freight movers of the day.

By around 1850 or so the railroads started to dominate freight movement. As competition intensified, horse-drawn narrowboats were replaced by steam and later diesel-powered boats. Families began to move onto the boats to attempt to scratch out an existence living on the water.
Two world wars kept the canal system limping along through the first half of the twentieth century.
By the early 1960’s the canals were close to extinction. Many canals became unusable, filled with weeds, dirt, and junk… but, just in time, there also developed a growing interest in maintaining the canals for leisure.

Towns alongside the canals started to notice a bump in revenue from the leisure boaters. When locals realized a well-maintained canal brought in boaters, tourists, and money, the canals started to become restored, and beloved.

The 2,200 mile canal system is truly a national treasure. It covers much of England between London and Liverpool, and is a wonder to enjoy. At around 4 feet deep, with little current, it is also very safe.

Here’s an example of routes out of London. This is just a small snapshot of England’s canal system: