Monthly Archives: March 2018

History of the canals of England & Wales

Derek Harris has been fascinated by canals since childhood and has owned a narrow boat for many years.  At our meeting on Thursday, 8th March, he will describe the development of the “modern” canal network, its commercial importance and eventual decline.

The modern canal age is considered to date from 1761, when the Bridgewater canal was constructed between Worsley and Manchester – the earliest artificial waterway to be built without following an existing watercourse.

Stamford Canal was excavated much earlier, in the 1660s, to make the river Welland navigable for trade through the Deepings to the sea at Boston deeps.  The project was described at the time as a Navigation, and a full account of its history and route is given in a Deepings Heritage publication titled “The Stamford Canal”.  This book, costing £7.50 is available locally, or by emailing our website.  By the mid 1850s the canal was becoming derelict and trade had almost ceased.

Just seven miles from Deeping, Bourne also had a canal or navigation which pre-dated Bridgewater’s.   It was completed in 1743 and linked the town to the river Glen at Tongue End, then onwards to Spalding and Boston.  In September that year, there was an advertisement in the Stamford Mercury, stating that John Thorpe of Bourne could supply “Sunderland coals, grinding stones, pantiles, deal boards, pint & quart bottles and oats” via Bourne Navigation from a warehouse in Spalding.  A trade directory dated 1830 commented that the canal was of much benefit to the general trade of the place. That waterway had also deteriorated by the mid 19th Century, and in 1852 there was a need for “200 men to widen and deepen Bourne Eau Navigation”.

During World War Two, there were suggestions in Parliament that greater use should be made of England’s river and canal network for transporting goods.  There was discussion in Lincolnshire about whether traffic along the Welland could be revived.  As parts of the Stamford to Deeping Canal had by then been turned into farmland, it was considered beyond reclamation, except at enormous expense.

In 2004, East Anglian Waterways Association promoted the restoration of “The Fens Waterways Link”, which would also revive the Stamford Canal and Bourne Eau Navigation.  It’s their ambitious dream to see boats passing through the fenland again.

As well as being a canal enthusiast, Derek Harris is a member of Peterborough Male Voice Choir, and will include some boating songs during his presentation.  The meeting starts at 7.30pm in the Conference Centre at Deepings School.  Everyone is welcome.  There is a £2 charge for non-members.