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.
A further, and more detailed, article on this subject can be found here.
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.