CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Canal Boat today CLICK HERE

7 amazing things you can find out from episode one of ‘Canals: The Making of a Nation’

PUBLISHED: 12:32 14 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:32 14 January 2016

Skipton canal

Skipton canal

Kaan Ucele

Narrated by Liz McIvor this six-part series has been an incredible insight into our nation’s canal network. People tend to forget just how influential and important the canals were for Britain. This series shines some light on the often overlooked aspects of canals – the people who built it, funded it and even those who worked on it.

In the first episode the focus is on those who were given the task of creating a landscape of canals around the Pennines. There were an abundance of interesting things that were talked about throughout the episode – but here are 7 that you might find particularly interesting.

Limestone: Despite it eventually being a huge centre for industry, one of the driving forces in creating the Leeds, Liverpool Canal was for the transportation of limestone. Bradford merchants wanted to increase the supply of limestone to increase the production of lime, which was used as a fertiliser in agriculture. Clearly the merchants had no idea how successful the canal had the potential of becoming.

‘Puddling’: This is both the material and process of lining a canal with puddle clay. It was a technique pioneered by Brindley on the Bridgewater Canal and used when attempting to keep the Leeds Liverpool Canal watertight on permeable ground. Once laid down, the clay was compacted by driving cattle across the area, genius!

‘Legging’: In an effort to save on time and money, a tow path was not constructed for Standedge Tunnel. As canal boats were horse drawn – the boats had to be legged through the tunnel. This amazing technique involved boaters laying on boards on top of their boats and literally pushing against the walls of the tunnel with their legs. The Standedge Tunnel is nearly three miles long and as a result “professional” leggers were employed to take the boats through for one Shilling and six Pence a time. It would take roughly an hour and twenty minutes, but even longer depending on how heavy the load being carried by the boat was. What an incredible physical feat!

Standedge Tunnel: The construction of the Standedge Tunnel was, for lack of a better word, a nightmare. It was plagued by delays, floods and inexperienced engineering. After failing to meet various deadlines and catastrophic overspending, consulting engineer Benjamin Outram abandoned the project. Six years later, civil engineer and architect Thomas Telford was brought in to give advice on finishing the tunnel. A project that was originally meant to take just five years ended up taking seventeen!

Black Powder: When Outram started work at Standedge Tunnel he had no idea what type of rock he’d be working with. His workers were able to cut through the shale of the hill with little difficulty but eventually encountered an ancient fault that had thrown up much harder gritstone into their path. Because of this, they were forced to hack with picks and blast using Black Powder. Black Powder was incredibly dangerous, low explosive power and unpredictable, this was 75 years before dynamite would be invented and long fuses were not available. Workers had to burn goose quills as a delay to allow them time to get clear of the blast, this often didn’t work and it is believed that nearly 50 men were killed during the construction.

Success: After the Leeds Liverpool Canal was completed, it took only 25 years for it to pay off its debt from being built. An amazing achievement considering it took nearly twice that to be constructed. Within 50 years of its competition the population of Leeds had trebled due to the business and work generated by the canal. They really did help to make the nation great.

The Institution of Civil Engineering: Building the canal led to new scientific understanding about engineering, construction and materials. There was no longer a place for trial and error; projects now needed supervision with detailed planning for cost and design. Two years after the canal was completed the Institution of Civil Engineering was formed allowing engineers to share and learn from each others work. A process that was started because of the canal network went on to greatly benefit and shape the future of the rail and road networks.

You can watch the first episode of Canals: The Making of a Nation here, but hurry, it won’t be available for long!

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Canal Boat visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Canal Boat staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Canal Boat account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Canal Boat

Is it electric, ask towpath walkers as a soundproofed Beta provides a beautifully peaceful power plant on this 60ft semi-trad

Read more
October 2018
Friday, September 7, 2018

How do you buy a narrowboat and spend five days a week renovating it while on maternity leave, without letting on to your husband? Katy-Felicity Butler-Brown tells us how it was done...

Read more
October 2018
Friday, September 7, 2018

We ask the experts how to keep your perfect paintjob

Read more
September 2018
Friday, September 7, 2018

To help you enjoy uninterrupted cruising, here are the top five causes of breakdowns and how to avoid them

Read more
September 2018

Boating Leisure Services are back in the winners’ enclosure with an elegant craft full of future-proofed features

Read more
September 2018

Seasoned boaters Audrey and Mick Rogers know what they like so the only destination to head for was one of the country’s top builders

Read more
June 2018
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A bespoke boat means you can really tailor your design to fit your dreams. And if that means an extended cabin and a gigantic bed, JD Narrowboats are happy to oblige

Read more
April 2018
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Why wait years for a bespoke build? Adam braves the last blast of winter to test a top notch spec boat that is ready to go

Read more
May 2018
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

In response to the rising number of boaters buying moorings, British Waterways Marinas Ltd has issued some simple but important safety tips

Read more
Thursday, March 8, 2018

Relocating to the other end of the country and becoming a liveaboard is a big change – but this bespoke 60ft semi-trad is designed to ease the transition

Read more
March 2018

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Canal Boat monthly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Like us on Facebook



Follow us on Twitter