Happy Birthday Leeds & Liverpool Canal!

Former L&L cargo craft Kennet

Former L&L cargo craft Kennet - Credit: Archant

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is coming up for its 200th anniversary – and waterways enthusiasts have launched a whole year of celebrations to mark the bicentenary.

The L&L is Britain’s longest canal as built. Unlike other longer canals (such as the Grand Union) which were the result of later takeovers and amalgamations, the entire 127 miles from Leeds over the Pennines to Liverpool were planned by one company as a single huge project – taking almost half a century to complete. Canal historian Mike Clarke rates it “the most historically significant canal in the country” on account of its crucial role in encouraging the text industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire which were “the mainstay of Britain’s economic development” – but by the late 1960s, freight traffic was coming to an end and the canal barely survived threats of closure.

The anniversary celebrations will include arts projects; the launch of a canoe trail; a lasting legacy in the form of the replacement of all the missing mile markers along the route; a specially commissioned piece of music; and festivals and events. In October 2016 (the exact anniversary is 22 October), these events will culminate in the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society’s heritage education boat and former L&L cargo craft Kennet recreating the first through journey.