Thursday 23 May 2024

A Tram Mystery (2)

The Lancaster Canal

The canal was planned to run from Kendal via Lancaster and Preston to join the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at a place called Johnson's Hillock roughly where the M61 label is on the map above.  Think M6 and M61 and you have the rough route.

The section north from Stainton ...
... is now disused ... 
... so you cannot chug your chuggy boat as far as Kendal. From a leisure cruising point of view, the route south from Tewitfield, near Warton ...
... is very popular and there are no locks between there and Preston, a canal distance of 42 miles. Tewitfield has a very posh Marina and from here southbound the waterway follows the contours, thus is very wiggly!

At Hest Bank, for example, the canal has strayed from its modern transport corridor, the M6, and joins the West Coast main railway line at the only point where the train actually gets close to the West Coast!
On the northwestern edge of Lancaster the canal crosses the River Lune ... 
... on a magnificent aqueduct ...
... followed almost immediately by a relatively new watercourse over the A589.
In fact, to avoid locks and maintain a level waterway, there is a flurry of aqueducts between Lancaster and Preston.
Of course, the main business of the canal was transporting the heavy stuff, mainly coal ...
... but anything bulky would be filling those barges. With the arrival of th railways, the canals were unable to match speed of delivery and so the water based transport mode declined steadily.

And so back to now. Here is the end of the canal in Preston.
But that was not the original end. The canal went further as shown by a dotted line on this map.
The current canal terminus is top left in the above diagram and the old end is bottom right. But can we find any evidence for that missing bit of once navigable water?

There is a line of undergrowth at the top and a more open green bit ending lower right. This latter is clearly visible and walkable on the ground.
And fbb has even found a map showing the full extent of the closed and obliterated section.
Here is what it looked like in decline, but before closure ...
... showing the bridge that carried Marsh Lane over the canal. Here is a similar view after closure and during draining.
This is Marsh Lane today with just a hint of the bridge that once stood above the canal..
Below we see the original canal basin itself - just across the road from Preston railway station - when still working ...
... and then definct.
And here is what is there now - a new A59 city centre super highway with Marsh Lane on the horizon!
Turning through 180 degrees we can look towards Fishergate and the station. The canal basin was round to the left ...
... where there is no trace of the original dock - obliterated by modernity!
The same area is now viewed on Google Streetview.
Definitely no canal or basin today!

But, we hear you cry, "Did you not say this was where the Lancaster Canal ended - in the centre of Preston?" And did you not explain earlier that the canal was due to join the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at ..
... Johnson's Hillock, close to today's M62?

Indeed, fbb said both!

That part of the tale will be completed tomorrow as will a reveal of the historic tram route that ran over the "old tram bridge"!

 Next Tram Mystery blog : Friday 24th May 


  1. There were other lesser known canals - one in West Hampshire and South Wiltshire was the Salisbury to Christchurch canal. The idea was to generally use the River Avon with canal sections at a number of points. Known points were Ringwood opposite the Parish Church, Ibsley, Britford (south of Salisbury) and Horseport at Fordingbridge - this section remains today, from south of the town bridge to East Mills.

    1. Here is a link to this canals history:

  2. The southern section extended beyond Johnson’s Hillock to the top of Wigan locks (and was planned to go through to Westhoughton). The Leeds & Liverpool came later and leased that section of the Lancaster to complete its line between the two cities.