Whilst recently researching the Leeds Liverpool Canal, we came across an in-depth collection of documents about the canal history. It also includes letters between members of the Leeds Liverpool Canal Company, which give an insight into their daily correspondence with canal tenants and users. Here’s a small selection of some of the things we found!
The idea of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, a waterway that would cross the country from east to west, was first suggested in the 1760s. However, complex discussion about which route would be best, followed by the long process of building the canal, meant it wasn’t completed until 1816.
This booklet, An Explanation of the Plan of the Canal from Leeds to Liverpool printed in 1788, gives a description by John Hustler about why building the canal was so important. John was a wool-stapler (wool dealer) from Bradford, and was a canal promoter. His list includes the goods that could be transported and the benefits it would bring to the area. He also predicts the profits that could be made and gives an outline of how the money to build the canal could be raised.
‘Canal navigations through the inestimable advantages derived from them to commerce, manufactures, agriculture, population, and improvements of every kind, certainly claim the preeminence over every other exertion of human power and industry’
After the canal was opened, it was used to transport goods across the country. The Leeds Liverpool Canal Company was formed by an Act in 1770 to allow and improve trade connections across the Pennines. The company documents tell us a lot about how the canal operated.
This rent book from the late 1800s shows the individuals and businesses that were paying ‘acknowledgments’ to the Canal Company. ‘Acknowledgments’ included the use of land owned by the Company, or privileges such as having a doorway in a building that opened onto the towpath. Have a look at the reference on this page of the book to the Skipton Castle Estate.
‘Mr Sugden, Kildwick is allowed to put out a doorway from new building on to Canal Bank on payment of usual ackt. From 25. Mar. 1892’
The paying of these acknowledgements was carefully monitored and documented. These two letters from 1902 and 1916 are examples of correspondence between members of the canal company. They both discuss Junction Mills at Shipley. One talks about a barrier installed and the other debates the right of way on a section of the canal tow path.
‘Saw Mr Hill on Monday July 10th re carting along the towing path. He was of opinion that they had acquired a right of way over the towing path‘
It’s documents like these (sometimes called ‘ephemera’) that help us to learn more about the canal history. They give a deeper insight into how the Leeds Liverpool Canal came to be, and a sneak-peek into the daily workings of the Canal Company.
Do you have a piece of canal history, or a memory about the canal that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! Check out our contact page to tell us your story.