200th anniversary of Leeds-Liverpool Canal

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A year of special events will take place in 2016 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Canal enthusiasts across the country – including Burnley – start a year of celebrations to mark the bicentenary of the completion of Britain’s longest single man-made waterway on October 22nd, 1816.

The Leeds and Liverpool can rightly be said to be the most historically significant canal in the country

Canal historian

A heritage mile marker project, a new choral symphony, the pioneering Desmond Family Coast to Coast Canoe Trail, the Super Slow Way arts project and dozens of festivals and events will mark the 200th anniversary year along the canal’s 127 mile route.

The celebrations will be led by the Canal and River Trust, the charity which cares for the canal, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society, the Inland Waterways Association and the 12 boroughs through which it travels.

These will culminate in October, 2016, with the award-winning heritage education boat, Kennet, run by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society, re-creating the first complete trans-Pennine journey along the canal by the merchants of Yorkshire and Lancashire 200 years ago.

The original five-day journey in 1816 represented a triumph of grit and determination for getting the job done.

There were numerous debates about the exact route of the canal, which changed several times during construction.

Work began in 1770 at either end and by 1777 the canal was open from Leeds to Gargrave and from Liverpool to Parbold. At this stage the money ran out and work stopped until 1790.

The route was then altered to take in the growing industrial towns of East Lancashire, but it was not until 1816 that the last section between Wigan and Johnson’s Hillock, near Chorley, was finished – finally creating a trans-Pennine link between the two great cities.

In its heyday, the canal carried cotton, coal, wool, limestone, sugar and other vital commodities through the rapidly expanding industrial communities of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Two hundred years on, the canal is still cherished but now as an oasis for wildlife, a thriving centre for tourism, recreation and leisure and a catalyst for regeneration.

Chantelle Seaborn, local waterway manager with the Canal and River Trust, said: “The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is such a special waterway and it’s fantastic that so many people want to celebrate this landmark anniversary with festivals and other events.

“To leave a lasting legacy, we will be launching a major project ‘EveryMileCounts’ in November to replace the missing or severely damaged mile markers which have been lost from the canalside over the last two centuries.

“We are very excited to work with local communities who want to be involved with refurbishing or replacing mile markers, and are looking for sponsors who would give £200, in our 200th year, to help with this important legacy project.”

Mike Clarke, Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society president and canal historian, is publishing an updated version of his book “The History of The Leeds and Liverpool Canal” and will be giving several illustrated talks during the year.

He said: “It was the opening of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which encouraged the development of the textile industries in Lancashire and West Yorkshire. For many years, they were the mainstay of Britain’s economic development so the Leeds and Liverpool can rightly be said to be the most historically significant canal in the country.

Any organisation or volunteer who would like to get involved in the bicentenary celebrations should contact Canal and River Trust project manager Sarah Knight by emailing sarah.knight@canalrivertrust.org.uk

More information about events, festivals, special projects and talks can be found by visiting www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

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