By Oliver Lines
A re-enactment of the first ever trip along the Leeds and Liverpool canal was completed on Sunday to mark the waterway’s 200th anniversary.
The Kennet boat made the 127-mile trip, staged to celebrate the two centuries since the inaugural journey was made along the canal, taking nine days.
Starting in Leeds on Saturday October 15, the boat mimicked the voyage undertaken by merchants from Yorkshire and Lancashire in 1816 and safely docked in Liverpool on Sunday October 23.
The event was organised by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society and supported by the Canal and River Trust, who called the trip ‘wonderful.’
“This epic boat journey is a wonderful way to mark the 200th anniversary of one of the most significant waterways in Britain,” said Chantelle Seaborn, local waterway manager of the Canal and River Trust.
“The opening of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal played a key role in Britain’s industrial revolution and encouraged the development of the textile industries in Lancashire and West Yorkshire.
“There is tremendous pride in our wonderful heritage and we are delighted so many towns, cities, schools and organisations have come forward to be part of this incredible long distance celebration.”
The Kennet is usually used for education following its career as a working boat, but it was brought out of retirement for this one-off trip.
Organiser Harold Bond said: “Back in 1816, 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 Kennet was decked out in bunting to symbolise the two great shire county roses.
“This is a celebration worthy of those entrepreneurial merchants and inventive engineers who were responsible for building this waterway two hundred years ago.”
Construction began on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1770, but funding ran out in 1777 with the canal only open from Leeds to Gargrave in North Yorkshire, and from Liverpool to Parbold in Lancashire.
Work resumed in 1790 and the route was altered to include towns in East Lancashire, with the trans-Pennine link finally completed some 26 years later.
Lynn Pegler of the Canal and River Trust said: “The Leeds Liverpool Canal is a habitually important canal.
“The role it played in the Industrial Revolution was absolutely key to the growth of the textile industry in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
“It used to carry coal and copper and wool and all the commodities that were necessary for the industrialisation of Northern England and creating that first original Northern Powerhouse.”