Britain’s Canal System

December 3, 2013 | | 1 Comment

The British canal system played a vital role of England’s during the Industrial Revolution. The canal system at first grew quickly, connecting the canals through the South, Midlands, parts of the North of England and Wales. Canals became the popular means of transportation during the Industrial Revolution because of their economic and reliable way for transporting large quantities of goods. “Canals were man-made rivers which were deep enough to cope with barges which were capable of moving nearly forty tons of weight. This was far more than a pack of mules could carry or a horse and carriage.”

canal system

The Duke of Bridgewater is credited with being the man associated with early canals. The duke owned coal mines and need a quick and reliable way to transport coal to the surrounding big cities. Therefore, the duke gave the engineer James Brindley a job to create canals from Lancashire to Manchester. After two years of being built, the canal system went from Lancashire to Manchester through tunnels that were directly linked to the coal mines.

The Duke of Brigdewater

The Duke of Brigdewater


Engineer James Brindley

Engineer James Brindley

Overtime, England’s canal system grew tremendously. Canal’s were a big hit because they transported important materials fast and they were much more reliable than carriages. Canal’s were also a big hit because of the large quantities of things that they could carry.  Overall, the Canal System in England was a huge benefit for the country, during the time of the Industrial Revolution and even nowadays with over 2,200 miles of navigable canals.

England's Canal System during the Industrial Revolution

England’s Canal System during the Industrial Revolution

The British Canal System Today. All blue, red and purple are canal systems.

The British Canal System Today. All blue, red and purple are canal systems.

Written by: Kellyn Staneart



1 Comment so far

  1.    Andrew Denny on December 4, 2013 5:38 am

    Just for clarity in the national map, the red and purple lines are ‘cuts’ (artificial canals), while the blue lines are navigable rivers.

    The purple lines indicate narrow canals (where the locks, limiting the width of the boats, are only 7ft wide and up to 72ft long), while the red lines are broadbeam canals, with locks up to 14ft wide.

    Also, the dotted lines are old canals currently under restoration – although restoration of many of them could be years away.

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