Canal journey marks 200th anniversary

The historic canal boat Kennet at Top Lock, New Springs. Picture taken by Wigan Evening Post reader Chris Winstanley
The historic canal boat Kennet at Top Lock, New Springs. Picture taken by Wigan Evening Post reader Chris Winstanley

Wigan waterway enthusiasts turned out in force to meet the crew of a boat recreating a historic journey for an important canal anniversary.

The boat Kennet visited the borough on Friday afternoon as part of a voyage to mark 200 years since the Leeds-Liverpool Canal was opened.

Wiganers watched from the towpath from 10am on Friday as the boat began its journey through the borough from Top Lock in New Springs.

The town then marked the 200th anniversary in style with a spectacular event at Britannia Canal Bridge in Ince once the crew had made their way through the locks.

The Mayor of Wigan Coun Ron Conway and as many as 200 children from local schools welcomed the boat and its crew.

The Kennet recreated the journey from Yorkshire to Merseyside down the entire length of the 127-mile waterway which was made to celebrate its opening in 1816.

Trip organiser Harold Bond said: “Back in 1816, press reports state that the ceremonial first boat was greeted by peeling church bells, brass bands and cheering crowds, and canal barges were be-decked in flags and streamers.

“The response to our invitation to get involved was brilliant so we hope we staged a celebration worthy of those entrepreneurial merchants and inventive engineers who were responsible for building this waterway 200 years ago.

“The Kennet was decked out in bunting to symbolise the two great shire county roses. It was wonderful to be greeted by a sea of red and white as the procession sailed along.”

The nine-day ceremonial journey recreation, which ended in Liverpool on Sunday, was one of the high points of the bicentenary celebrations organised by the Canal and River Trust (CRT).

The CRT organised events along the route during the Kennet’s voyage. A dozen mayors met the boat and the crew was greeted by school pupils, brass bands and flotillas of vessels along the way.

The CRT said the trip also reflected the changing uses of the waterway over 200 years.

Local waterway manager Chantelle Seaborn said: “The opening of the canal played a key role in Britain’s Industrial Revolution and encouraged the development of the textile industries in Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

“Today there are fewer industries along its banks but the canal still brings many benefits of leisure, tourism, nature and regeneration to communities.”