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Canal Archive: Bridging the Years

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Why Build a Canal?

The Duke seems to have had many influences encouraging him to make his plans of a new efficient waterway into reality. However, such an undertaking was not one to be entered into lightly, the construction of a canal being a costly business. So why did the Duke dedicate his money and energy to the creation of his waterway?

The main factor behind the Duke's decision was coal. One of his favourite sayings was that a canal 'should have coal at the heels of it'. Fuel needed to warm homes and feed industry was in short supply. Supplies of wood were in decline and were not easily available to those in the growing cities, whilst coal was not easily obtained. The transport system of the time left much to be desired. Many roads were in a bad state of repair, despite the establishment of Turnpike Trusts, with travel by road being slow and expensive. Attempts had been made to improve the rivers, a prime example being the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, which was open to traffic in the 1730s. However, despite improvements to rivers such navigations were still unreliable, with problems such as low water levels leaving boats stranded.

By creating a new waterway that had its own water supply, the Duke could open up a direct route for his coal and other cargoes straight to Manchester and Salford from his mines in Worsley.

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This is page 3 of The Bridgewater Canal - The Duke's Cut.
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A 1904 advert for the Bridgewater Collieries, still providing coal over a hundred years after the opening of the Bridgewater Canal to Castlefield in 1765.

A 1904 advert for the Bridgewater Collieries, still providing coal over a hundred years after the opening of the Bridgewater Canal to Castlefield in 1765.
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Coal Boat on Bridgewater Canal, near to the Packet House, Worsley, circa 1960

Coal Boat on Bridgewater Canal, near to the Packet House, Worsley, circa 1960
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