Lancaster Canal

The possibility of a canal joining the coal fields of Wigan to the limestone quarries of North Lancashire had long been mooted.  By the 1790's the funding was in place and James Rennie was hired to survey the route.  A "contour" canal was decided upon for the majority of the route in order to avoid the use of locks.  This meant that there was a large meander into the Fylde.  Thanks to Lancashire Archives for permission to publish all the map images on this page.


  (DDPR 144/9)

The final route differs in a number of places.  One important one, in terms of our digs, is the section near Hollowforth.  Rennie took his route further to the East whereas the actual route has the raised embankment complete with the culverted leet.

When the canal opened in 1797 much of the infrastructure in the centre of Preston was missing.  The Tulketh cutting was still under construction so, if coal was transported up to Lancaster another route was needed.


This map gives one possible route.  The coal being brought into the wharves by the side of the river and then transported up to the canal.  An alternative is given by the Cragg diary of Ortner.  In that there is mention of coal being brought from "Savock" to Lancaster.  Savock is the alternative spelling of "Savick" and thus coal must have been brought up Savick Brook.  This does not appear in any of the canal histories (as far as I can tell) but there is some circumstantial evidence to support it.  For further information on this in the article on Savick Brook.

In 1827 an extension to the canal was proposed that would link the main canal to Kirkham and Poulton-le-Fylde.  Although a number of businessmen supported the proposal it came to nothing.

The map (DP175 Courtesy of Lancashire Archives) does contain a number of interesting features.  A route is taken up the Douglas, on to the Ribble and then up the Dow to Kirkham.  In the last 200 years the Dow hasn't been navigable but there is a long held view that it could have been used in Roman times to get to the fort in Kirkham.  The section from Kirkham to Poulton looks very familiar - almost the same route as the putative "Danes Pad".

A series of posts on the Facebook site "Preston Past & Present" appears to have solved an interesting question regarding pumping water from the Ribble into the canal to top up the water levels.  One of the members discovered a book is called "Topographical, Statistical & Historical Account of the Borough of Preston" by Marmaduke Tulket.  Published in 1821.  It can be found online at


This isn't the sort of book I look at for factual information but since he describing contemporary situations it should be acceptable.  It contains the following comment regarding Canal St Cotton mill "Upon the North-West bank of the canal, stands the large steam-engine house....built in 1805 for the express purpose of conveying water into the canal when deficient".  It continues that the water comes "out of subterraneous tunnels, forming a communication with the River Ribble".  The geological maps show a number of boreholes in that immediate area so, I suspect that was the meaning of "subterraneous tunnels" rather than a long tunnel directly to the Ribble - over 1km away.  A view of old maps seem to confirm the position of the pump-house.
The first map was passed to me by a friend but it looks like the 1846 6 inch to the mile OS map.
The arrow (above) points to a building which probably contains the pump.

The second map is described in the Lancashire Archives as "Lancaster Canal. Roll No 1, sheets 1 - 13. Preston to Brock Aqueduct. Pertaining to land agreements. Revised 1880, updates to 1967."  The LA reference is DDX 1844 ACC 6736A 49.  This is shown below.  At this stage the shaft appears to have been capped and covered with a manhole.

Hollowforth - background

Several individuals & organizations have added to our knowledge and understanding of Watermills & Kilns. We thank them and include some of the information below:-

Wigan Archaeology have excavated Standish Hall Corn Mill over a number of years. They discovered that the kiln was built into a pit. At the moment we haven't found anything like this.

They have also provided us with an image of a kiln in North Wales. The slate and the kiln tiles look familiar.


Another source of information is Janet Edmunds who lived in the cottage adjacent to Goosnargh Mill for several years and produced a number of articles on the Mill. Extracts and personal communications follow.

After discovering the "French Burr" millstone an article called "Milling through the ages at Goosnargh Mill" by Janet Edmunds was discovered. In it we find:-

There were different types of [mill]stone - top meal stone, bottom meal stone, bottom shilling stone.. and French stone. The wear on the stones in 1836 was charged to the tenent.

10s per inch for wear of the meal & shilling stones £4-10s per inch of wear for the French stone [and the wear on the French stone was much less than the "normal" stone.]

Meal stones were used for oats, shilling stones for husking. The French stones (of French burr stone) were used for grinding wheat as millstone grit though adequate for oats, was too soft for wheat. The equivalent cost of the French stones would be in the order of several thousand pounds today.

Janet Edmunds (personal communication) in response to a query re cellar in Kilns & kiln tiles.

Kilns were on two floors, but I think it most unlikely there was a cellar, it would have been too damp and not enough draught. The fire would have been on the ground floor and the drying floor supported on the first floor. I expect you have either got a collapse of the drying floor, or else where tiles have been discarded. More recent kilns have metal supports for the tiles, but older ones must have had some sort of stone or slate beams. The drying floor is usually wider than the floor with the fire, so there was a sort of 3 dimensional arch from the floor, like a vault in reverse, going to the corners. This allowed the heat to disperse; they needed a gentle heat. The floor was covered with a horse-hair cloth to stop the grain blocking the holes. Kilns are normal in the west of the country, as not only is there more rain, but oats need to be dried as they are a soft grain that absorbs moisture. They are not threshed like wheat, as the husk doesn’t come off easily, but shelled using the mill stones. Sometimes just the normal stones set further apart, otherwise the mill had separate shelling or shilling stones.

Savick Brook

The Cragg family diary contains the following quote "Lancaster canal which was opened on the 22nd of November (1797) and since that time several large loads of coals and cannel have been brought to Lancaster and Galgate from Savok a little below Preston."

The Record Society of Lancashire & Cheshire, in Volume 142 contains an interesting article on the Cragg family (together with a full transcription of the diary). In it the word "Savok" is presumed to mean "Salwick, five miles west of Preston."  This seems unlikely; the old maps and records often give the name "Savick" brook as "Savock/Savok".  

Whatever the meaning, the quote is intriguing. Why not use the wharves in the centre of Preston? In the "The old tram road: Walton Summit to Preston Basin" by Steven Barritt it is obvious that the tram road wasn't completed until 1804 so a different method had to be used to move coal from the Wigan coal fields through to Preston and onwards to Lancaster & Kendal. The traditional method was to to use the Douglas Navigation (ie the River Douglas) and down to the River Ribble.

In "Canals of North West England" by Hadfield & Biddle there is a comment on page 189 stating that coal was "carted down to the Douglas and so taken that way to Preston; there it had to be labouriously carted again up to the North End".  A further comment states "In 1796 and 1797 various proposals were considered for a short branch canal from Salwick or the North End to Savock followed by an inclined plane down to the Ribble or alternatively a tram road a tram road from the canal at Tulketh, the idea being to exchange traffic with the Douglas. The Leeds and Liverpool agreed to improve the Douglas but the Lancaster was unable to finance their work."

The National Canal Museum at Ellesmere has a "mersey flat" dating from the 1850's.  Something similar, and probably smaller, was no doubt used to transport coal down the Douglas.  It could then be transferred to a more stable boat for the journey across or along the Ribble.  In the "Lancashire Local Historian - No 16" there is an article covering the development of the Douglas.  In it there is the comment that flats were hauled by men - not horses - at least in the early days.  They were paid between 8d and 12d a day.  


 The modern view (taken from Mario Maps) shows the changes made when the Millennium link was put in. The northern section was the original line of the brook. There are at least two tracks going to the north towards Back Lane. Goodier bridge has all the features of a canal bridge.

This is the earliest OS map from the late 1840's. The footpath from Goodier bridge still exists but there is quite a steep slope - so not an obvious route for the coal. The two tracks to the west would be more likely as the high tide would reach there earlier.

.This, most detailed map, is from the 1890's. High water mark is shown near Goodier Bridge - anywhere to the west of this point would be possible.


So, at least in the early days of the canal, Savick brook was used as a way of getting coal on to the canal barges for transport up to and beyond Lancaster. The saving in distance between this point and the wharf in Ashton is a couple of kilometres - at least half an hour in time for the coal flats. The difference along the canal between Shelley road and Lea Town would be about 4 miles. More than an hour in time.

The map below has the fieldnames added.  Interestingly 107 is called "Road" with the Owner as John Smith and occupier as Thomas Mitchell.

In this tithe map (from 1838) the track from the brook almost looks like the main track as opposed to the one coming from Back Lane.

The 1840's and 1890's map show slightly different HW marks but the main criteria is that track should be as close to the canal as possible.

The above view shows the track as it reaches Back Lane in Lea Town. From the brook via this route there is a little less than 1 mile to the nearest point on the canal.

Looking from the other side ie Savick Brook side we see something equally fascinating.


Other possibilities include taking the coal on flats further up the Ribble and then transporting the coal to the wharf near Shelley road. In a letter dated March 1798, William Cartwright mentions problems with the Tulketh cut but it should be ready in the next month. This was found in "Transcripts of Reports on Lancaster Canal 1790-1800" by R.W.G. Bryant.

The question that should be asked is "Why is the basin there?". Most basins in the main part of the canal are just a bulge in the waterway; sufficient for turning around a barge. Timings for the construction of the aqueduct section of the canal would help pinpoint a reason.


The above photo shows the entrance to the wharf/basin. Now full of pleasure craft the basin looks like

An obvious track leads up from the Tulketh Brow roundabout. An alternative would be pass underneath the Canal cottages.

DDHO 486 contains, on page 7, the words an agreement for new road between clifton & lea - mentions "indemnified against charges for the purpose of wharfages, landing coal, limestones & other stone slate, timber...".  It is dated 1/5/1781 and needs photographing.  It isn't obvious if the wharfages refers to the Ribble or Savick Brook.







These are just a few or our regularly visited sites. If you have any other suggestions then contact the webmaster.


British Archaeology - http://www.britisharchaeology.org/

Oxford Archaeology - http://thehumanjourney.net/

Festival of British Archaeology - http://festival.britarch.ac.uk/

The Post Hole - http://www.theposthole.org/

CBA Northwest - http://www.archaeologyuk.org/cbanw/CBANW_index.html

Rick Peterson (UCLAN) blog - https://shelteringmemory.wordpress.com/

Lancashire's Roman Roads (David Ratledge) - www.romanroads.org/gazetteer/lancspages.html



Local History

Centre for North West Regional Studies - http://www.lancs.ac.uk/depts/cnwrs/about.html

Lancashire Local History Federation - http://www.lancashirehistory.org/

Poulton Historical Society - http://www.poulton-le-fylde-hcs.co.uk/body_index.html

Victoria County History - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/catalogue.aspx?type=&gid=20

Fylde History Network - http://www.fyldehistorynetwork.co.uk/

Lancashire Past - https://lancashirepast.com/


Wyre & Fylde

Wyre & Fylde Maps - http://members.optuszoo.com.au/aheyes40/KnottEnd/maps_A.html


Other Resources

Fylde & Wyre Antiquarian - http://fyldeantiquarian.freeforums.org/

Wyre Archaeology Blog (defunct) - http://wyrearchaeology.blogspot.co.uk/

Lancashire Archives - http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/web/?siteid=4528&pageid=30539&e=e

Lancashire Old Maps - http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/environment/oldmap/

Placenames of Lancashire - http://archive.org/stream/placenamesoflanc00ekwauoft/placenamesoflanc00ekwauoft_djvu.txt

Portable Antiquities Scheme - http://finds.org.uk/

Lancashire Historic Maps - http://lancaster.libguides.com/lancashirehistoricmaps