How old do you think the UK’s oldest canal is? 100,200 maybe even 300 years old? Well, the answer is more surprising than you might think. These are the ten oldest canals in the UK and where they are located…
The Top 10 Oldest Canals in the UK (That Are Still Open)
10 – Limehouse Cut, London (Year Opened: 1766)
Wiki Info: The Limehouse Cut was authorised by the River Lee Act, an Act of Parliament obtained on 29 June 1767, after the engineer John Smeaton identified the need to make several cuts and to replace existing flash locks on the river with pound locks. Two days after the Act was obtained, Thomas Yeoman was appointed as the company surveyor, and one of his first tasks was to investigate a route for the Limehouse Cut.
9 – Bridgewater Canal, Manchester (Year Opened: 1761)
Wiki Info: The Bridgewater Canal connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh, in North West England. It was commissioned by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, to transport coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester. It was opened in 1761 from Worsley to Manchester, and later extended from Manchester to Runcorn, and then from Worsley to Leigh.
8 – Beverley Beck, Yorkshire (Year Opened: 1744)
Wiki Info: Beverley Beck is a short canal in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. The beck runs from Grovehill Lock on the River Hull at Beverley west for about 0.8 miles (1.3 km) into the town of Beverley. Until 1802, the beck was tidal, but the Beverley and Barmston drain needed to pass under it, and the lock was constructed to maintain water levels over its tunnel. In 1898, a steam engine was installed, which could be used to top up the water levels in the beck by pumping water from the River Hull. A multimillion-pound refurbishment of the area concluded in 2007, with the refurbishment of the lock gates and pumping engine.
7 – Kennet and Avon Canal, Bristol to Bath (Year Opened: 1727)
Wiki Info: The two river stretches were made navigable in the early 18th century, and the 57-mile (92 km) canal section was constructed between 1794 and 1810. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the canal gradually fell into disuse after the opening of the Great Western Railway. In the latter half of the 20th century the canal was restored in stages, largely by volunteers. After decades of dereliction and much restoration work, it was fully reopened in 1990. The Kennet and Avon Canal has been developed as a popular heritage tourism destination for boating, canoeing, fishing, walking and cycling, and is also important for wildlife conservation.
6 – Aire and Calder Navigation, Yorkshire (Year Opened: 1704)
Wiki Info: The Aire and Calder Navigation is the canalised section of the Rivers Aire and Calder in West Yorkshire, England. The first improvements to the rivers above Knottingley were completed in 1704 when the Aire was made navigable to Leeds and the Calder to Wakefield, by the construction of 16 locks. Lock sizes were increased several times, as was the depth of water, to enable larger boats to use the system. The Aire below Haddlesey was bypassed by the opening of the Selby Canal in 1778. A canal from Knottingley to the new docks and new town at Goole provided a much shorter route to the River Ouse from 1826.
5 – Wey and Godalming Navigations, Surrey (Year Opened: 1651)
Wiki Info: The Wey was the second river in England to be turned from wholly unnavigable to navigable for its main town, as it was behind the River Lea; the River Wey Navigation opened in 1653 with 12 locks between Weybridge and Guildford. Construction of the Godalming Navigation, a further four locks, was completed in 1764 connecting a second market town. Commercial traffic (save for exceptional loads for canalside buildings) ceased in 1983 and the Wey Navigation and the Godalming Navigations were donated to the National Trust in 1964 and 1968 respectively.
4 – Middle Level Navigations, March (Year Opened: 1608)
Wiki Info: The Middle Level Navigations are a network of waterways in England, primarily used for land drainage, which lie in The Fens between the Rivers Nene and Great Ouse, and between the cities of Peterborough and Cambridge. Most of the area through which they run is at or below sea level, and attempts to protect it from inundation have been carried out since 1480. The Middle Level was given its name by the Dutch Engineer Cornelius Vermuyden in 1642, who subsequently constructed several drainage channels to make the area suitable for agriculture.
3 – River Lee Navigation, Hertford (Year Opened: 1577)
Wiki Info: The Lee Navigation is named by Acts of Parliament and is so marked on Ordnance Survey maps. Constructed elements and human features are spelled Lee, such as the canal system and Lee Valley Park. The un-canalized river is spelled Lea, along with other natural features such as Lower Lea Valley.
2 – Exeter Canal, Devon (Year Opened: 1563)
Wiki Info: The Exeter Ship Canal, also known as the Exeter Canal, downstream of Exeter, Devon, England. It was built in the 1560s which means it pre-dates the “canal mania” period and is one of the oldest artificial waterways in the UK.
1 – Foss Dyke, Lincolnshire (Year Opened: 1121)
Wiki Info: The Foss Dyke, or Fossdyke, connects the River Trent at Torksey to Lincoln, the county town of Lincolnshire, and may be the oldest canal in England that is still in use. It is usually thought to have been built around 120 AD by the Romans, but there is no consensus among authors. It was refurbished in 1121, during the reign of King Henry I, and responsibility for its maintenance was transferred to the city of Lincoln by King James I. Improvements made in 1671 included a navigable sluice or lock at Torksey, and warehousing and wharves were built at Brayford Pool in the centre of Lincoln.