Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Canals Will Be Busy Again

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines the last 200 years or so of the inland waterways. With particular interest in the issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 

The Mail
Saturday 21 February 1948

 Canals Will Be Busy Again
From Adrian Ball

The bustle and colour Britain's canals knew in the eighteenth century are returning. Shortages of coal, railway wagons, and coastal shipping have brought them back into the news. 

The canals, state-owned from January 1, are the subject of a special report being prepared for the Government. It is expected a plan designed to speed up' waterway traffic and attract back to the canals many, of the 40,000 war-scattered people who lived on them before 1939 will result. Already Diesel engined monkey boats are replacing the traditional horse-drawn barges. These grimy little craft look out of place in the picture-postcard surroundings of the canals, but their speed, they can tow a train of barges from London to Birmingham through the intricate system of locks in 48 hours makes them invaluable.

Inland ports are likely to be developed extensively under the new State ownership. Reorganisation of the entire canal system along 'railway track' lines would follow. Many of the families who for years hove lived on the canals will be 'grounded' by modernisation schemes. Today there are 2,149 miles of canals and waterways in Britain, forming a gigantic St. Andrews Cross, with Birmingham as its apex, and London, Bristol, Liverpool, and Hull its extremities. The earliest canals go back to Roman times, but most of them were formed during the race for coal in the eighteenth century.

Barrier Miner
Monday 11 December 1950

Gospel on the water.

THE GOSPEL is now being taken down England's waterways by Major and Mrs. Fred Field of the Salvation Army. They will pioneer this work on the 2,700 miles of English canals and inland waterways in their 70-ft barge "The Salvo." They live on board and hold meetings, lectures, and cinema shows in a large, specially built cabin. A groups going aboard, the barge at its stopping places.

Singleton Argus
Friday 15 June 1945


Between the years 1940 to 1943 British ships brought to Britain 121 million tons of food, raw materials, and munitions from various parts of the world, said Sir Cyril Hurcomb, Director-General. Ministry of War Transport, speaking to an audience. Thirty thousand men lost their lives in civilian employment at sea, 4000 more were wounded, 4000 interned, and 47,000 were missing. British railways carried 24 million tons of goods a month, canals and inland waterways 1,000,000 tons, road haulers 4,500,000 tons, and coasters 2,500,000 tons. Flying bombs and rockets damaged 2300 London Passenger Transport Board vehicles, including 650 seriously damaged.

The Register
Saturday 1 October 1921


London - 29th September 1921: The first sod of the Trent navigation canal connecting Nottingham with the sea was cut to day. The enterprise will only he partially undertaken at present owing to the need for economy. Ultimately there will be a full waterway 250 ft. in width, and at the Nottingham end will be docks. 

The Daily News
31st January 1922

It is posible to ship within a short distance of the centre of Manchester and land at Westminster Bridge without seeing the sea once. There is continuous water communication. The Macclesfield Canal takes the voyager across Cheshire and part of Derbyshire, where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal the busy waterway which, serves the Potteries. After a 40-mile voyage on this canal it joins the Coventry waterway, which with a brief help from the Birmingham Canal, brings the inland voyager to the great Midland city. Almost the whole of the voyage' from Manchester to Tamworth is down hill, through about forty locks. Then comes an uphill course which leads to a level of 72 miles without a single lock. The Birmingham and Oxford Canal passes through the heart of England. Nine locks take the canal over the Chilterns and then down to Oxford and Father Thames. There are at least 30 locks to negotiate during the voyage.    

The Canberra Times
7th January 1933


About a century and a half ago the advantages of using canals rather than horses for; transporting, goods were fully realised, and as such waterways were being made all over England. At that time, canals wore known as inland navigations, and soon the large bodies of men employed to dig them became known as navigators, shortened into navvies. Presently, the railways supplanted the canals, but the men who did the hard manual work In thc construction of the new iron roads kept the old name, which finally passed to all road makers, and such workers generally.

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