Preston once had a canal that terminated just off Fishergate. The Lancaster Canal still exists but now stops by Aqueduct Street in Ashton-on-Ribble.Advertisement
Trade was brisk as coal headed north, while limestone headed south. Additionally, heated packet boats carried passengers from Kendal to Preston.
The original canal fell derelict and was filled in and built over, in the 1960s.
The Lancaster Canal was originally planned to run from Westhoughton in Lancashire to Kendal in Cumbria, but the crossing over the Ribble at Preston was never completed. An Act of Parliament was obtained in 1792 and construction began, in 1794. John Rennie designed the remarkable Lune Aqueduct, which is still in use today. The aqueduct was open by 1797.
Building of the canal began in Preston and continued to Tewitfield near Carnforth. Notably, this is the only section still open to navigation today. Due to money issues, there was a delay before the next section of canal was built, to Kendal, being completed in 1819.
The problem remained of how to cross the River Ribble. By 1799 the southern section of canal was completed from close to Westhoughton to near Chorley. However no design had been submitted for a Ribble crossing. Funds were insufficient for an aqueduct and a temporary tram-road was proposed. This was open by 1803 and the bridge is still there today!
Because of the steep incline from the river to the canal wharf in the centre of Preston, coal wagons had to be hauled up using several steam driven inclined planes.
The cable drum can be seen on the right of the building. A continuous chain ran around this drum to a lower drum on the bridge. A beam engine operated the wheel.
By the 1930s, leakage problems resulted in closure of the first section of canal, in Kendal. The canal was now owned by the LMS Railway who wanted to close the whole route. However coal traffic from Preston to the Kendal gas works kept the canal alive until 1944, when coal was transferred to road haulage.
An Act of Parliament closed the whole route in 1955. Since then road building has severed several sections, while others have been filled in.
Later, the section from Ashton basin to Tewitfield was re-opened and further restoration is proposed.
Passengers once travelled by canal, in packet boats; they were faster than the stagecoach and served ‘refreshments’. Consequently, they became notorious for drunkenness! The first ran from Preston in 1820 and by 1833 a faster boat made the journey from Kendal to Preston in seven hours. Later the arrival and departure times were integrated with the rail network at Lancaster and Preston.
In fact the boats added a touch of luxury with heated cabins and onboard refreshments. Something unheard off on the railways of the day.
Maudland Station is now under the Leighton Street Caravan Site, and the slip basin is under the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre. Furthermore, Canal Street and part of the canal is under the appropriately named UCLan Wharf Building.
The main basin was just off Ladywell Street and is now under Brunel Court and Aldi. Heatley Street was cut in two when Corporation Street was built. A lot of the old streets were wiped out in the 1960s when the ring road was built.
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