An illustrated talk by Peter Keen on Tuesday 18th September,
at 8 pm, in Gateacre Chapel Hall, Sandfield Road L25
Contrary to what is written in many canal books, the Bridgewater Canal was NOT the first canal of the Industrial Revolution. The Sankey Canal - connecting St Helens with the River Mersey - was built and in use some four years before the Duke's Canal was opened. Liverpool Councillors and Cheshire Salt Merchants (often the same people) needed a cheap supply of coal, but the roads of the mid 1700s were so poor as to make transport expensive, difficult or even impossible at certain times of the year.
The Engineer Henry Berry, a Parr man, built a canal which made regular profits for its promoters for over 40 years. Its original purpose of carrying coal downstream gradually changed to include the carriage of other raw materials upstream to create the industrial settlement of St Helens. The town was soon hosting the chemical industries, the metal industries and latterly the glass industry. With the arrival of the railways the decline of the canal began. In 1958 the last commercial cargo of sugar was carried to the Sankey Sugar Works at Earlestown, after which the canal sank into increasing neglect.
In 1985 the Sankey Canal Restoration Society (SCARS) was formed, with the intention of restoring the canal to navigable standards. Since then volunteers have put in thousands of hours brush-cutting, digging, bricklaying, cleaning the canal and its corridor. They have researched and built up an extensive archive of the canal's history, built up contact with other waterway organisations, led guided walks, published a variety of materials on the canal, way-marked paths, commissioned plays, surveyed and recorded canal features, all supported by a small but dedicated team of fund raisers without which the Society could not have functioned.
Peter Keen is the Society's Secretary. His talk will be fully illustrated by slides.