Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
Work for us
We have vacancies across all of our waterways and in the offices, museums and attractions that support them. We're one of the UK's biggest charities and we take pride in everything we do
If you're thinking of getting in touch then please take a moment to look through these pages as we probably have the answer on our website
Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
Get your free guide
Download your free guide today and start exploring the waterway nature near you
Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
Find a walk near you
Are you ready to ramble? Find a waterside stroll or a satisfying hike along our beautiful canals and rivers
Take a look at our upcoming events here.
Find your favourite waterway
With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
Help us make a difference and have fun along the way. Find your perfect volunteer role today
Join our team
Could you join your local Towpath Taskforce team and help us to keep our canals looking lovely?
Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
In this edition, our heritage advisor, Bill Froggatt talks about the history of the Hincaster Tunnel on the Lancaster Canal.
The first scheme for a canal linking Kendal and Lancaster with Manchester (to take coal from the Wigan and Worsley coalfields north and limestone from Cumbria south) was put forward in the 1760’s but it wasn’t until 1792 that a route was finally agreed upon. The renowned engineer John Rennie was appointed to oversee its construction and the North End of the canal between Preston and Tewitfield was opened in 1797. Work to extend the canal from Tewitfield to Kendal began in 1813 under engineer Thomas Fletcher and it was finally completed in 1819.
This final section of canal includes some magnificent engineering feats including the tunnel through Hincaster Hill bringing the canal close to the Sedgwick Gunpowder works owned by the Wakefield family of Kendal (John Wakefield was on the Canal Committee).
Work on the tunnel started in May of 1813, with a shaft to investigate ground conditions being sunk in Hincaster Hill by contractor Mr Rowe at a cost of £294. Fletcher drew up the ‘Specification of the Mining & Masonry of the proposed Tunnel thro’ Hincaster Hill about 400 yards in length’ in October 1813 and in November the contract to construct the tunnel was let to William Williams. It appears that Williams soon suffered financial difficulties and in June the following year his contract was terminated. Construction continued under the guidance of Thomas Fletcher until John Pritchard was contracted in August 1814.
In that same month Fletcher made the unusual move of suggesting to the canal committee that bricks be used in the construction of the tunnel. Whilst bricks were already in use for similar projects further south, it was unheard of in the north of England and the committee required considerable reassurance that brick would be suitable. However, they eventually did agree and a source of clay was identified on Milnthorpe Marsh to the west of Heversham, three miles from the tunnel site.
The tunnel has limestone portals whilst within the tunnel stone was used below water level, with brick above. The combination of materials was projected to save about £7 per yard. By 1817 the brickworks had produced over two million bricks and the construction of the tunnel was noted as complete at the proprietors meeting on 3rd February 1818.
The canal was officially opened the 18th June 1819 – the Westmoreland Gazette wrote that the 18th June was a glorious day for Old England (it being the anniversary of the victory at Waterloo) and predicted it will be a proud day for Kendal. In its report about the opening ceremony the Gazette wrote:
THE TUNNEL. – . . . There is no path for the horses to pass under, but the boats are haled through by a rope which is fixed along on side of the Tunnel. The Corporation Barge was 7 ½ minutes in returning through it. – The construction of this subterranean passage is such, that the least sound is reverberated a thousand times and made audible from end to end – The experiment was tried by two gentlemen – a sentence, pronounced in low tone of voice by one of them, was distinctly heard by the other, at the distance of 378 yards.
Commercial traffic on the Lancaster Canal ceased north of Lancaster in 1944 and the canal was officially closed following the Transport Act, 1955. Today it is in the care of the Canal & River Trust. The tunnel portals are listed (Grade II) and the path, constructed to take towing horses over the hill, is a scheduled monument.
Over the last few months the Lancaster Canal Trust, in conjunction with the Canal & River Trust, have been working to control the surrounding vegetation and rebuild some dry-stone walls in the area. Lancaster Canal Trust have regular work parties here and up and down the northern reaches of the canal. If you would like to get involved visit their website at Lancaster Canal Trust .
Bill FroggattHeritage Advisor (North West Waterways)
What's happening near you?
Look at our Local to You pages to find all the latest in your local area, including news, events, stories and details of how you can get involved with our work
The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.