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Canal Classification 1904
This is a Chapter from 'The Canal System of England'
Its growth and present condition, with particular reference to the cheap carriage of goods - 1904 - by H. Gordon Thompson
The Canals of England have been most conveniently classified by Mr. Wells in six groups, five of which are connected with the estuaries of the Mersey, Thames, Humber, Wash and Severn, while the sixth centres around Birmingham.
The Mersey Group
The chief Canals of the Mersey group are :
Manchester Ship Canal 35 miles.
Bridgewater 42 miles
Leeds and Liverpool 143 miles
Shropshire Union 200 miles
'Trent and Mersey 130 miles
Weaver Navigation 21 miles
The Manchester Ship Canal as its name implies is mainly for sea-going ships, and therefore hardly comes within the scope of this paper.
The Bridgewater Canal is now owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Co , and is one of the most prosperous of the independent barge Canals.
The Leeds and Liverpool is one of the longest of our Inland Waterways, its sectional area, however, only averages 185 square feet, and the Canal is thus only able to accommodate barges of less than 6 feet draught. It does business as a Carrier and is an independent Canal.
The Shropshire Union and the Trent and Mersey are both owned by Railways, and form the only connection with Birmingham and the South. The Shropshire Union Co. acts as a Carrier.
The Weaver has a sectional area of 780 square feet, and a depth of 11 to 12 feet. It is one of the most up-to-date of English Canals. The result of the energetic measures taken by the Weaver Trust to keep their navigation up to modern requirements has resulted in an increase in revenue, the total receipts in 1900 being 45,500, or 625 over the previous year. Not only has the general structure been improved but a working arrangement has been entered into with the Manchester Ship Canal Co., by which all Weaver barge traffic has the free use of the Ship Canal between Weston Marsh Lock, or Weston Point and Eastham, so long as the access is less than the statutory depth called for in the Ship Canal Act of 1885.
The Thames Canal Group
The chief Canals of the Thames group are :
Grand Junction Canal 189 miles.
Lee Navigation 41 miles
London and Hampshire Canal 37 miles
North Metropolitan Canal (late Regent's) 10 Thames Navigation 120 miles
The Grand Junction is now the longest independent Canal under one management. This Company recently purchased the Grand Union and the Leicester and Northamptonshire Union Canals, thus increasing its length by 43 miles.
The Lee Navigation connects Hertford with the Thames, and is used for barge traffic.
The London and Hampshire is one of the few Canals which act as Carriers in fact its revenue is almost entirely derived from Carrying Freights.
The North Metropolitan (late Regent's) is only a short Canal of 10.5 miles length, and runs from East to West of London.
The Thames Navigation has a connection with the Severn by two routes but part of each route is owned by the Great Western Railway Co.
The Humber Group
The Humber group is composed entirely of barge canals. The chief being :
Aire and Calder Canal 93 miles.
Don Navigation 60 miles.
Ouse Navigation 60 miles.
Trent Navigation 68 miles.
The Aire and Calder is one of the most successful of our barge Canals, both as a Carrier and a Toll-taker. Excluding the Manchester Ship Canal the revenue per mile of the Aire and Calder Navigation, from freights as Carriers and from tolls, averages double that of any other English waterway ; and it is this Navigation which has the lowest freight rates in the kingdom. Surely no further demonstration is necessary that where a Canal is kept up to modern requirements not only does its traffic increase but a diminution in freight rate results.
The Don Navigation forms the only connection by water between Sheffield and the Humber. It only accommodates barges under 6 feet draught and is owned by a Railway Company.
The Ouse Navigation is an independent waterway, connecting York with Goole and the Humber.
The Trent Navigation is an independent Canal which derives 90% of its Revenue from Carrying Freights and only 10% from Tolls. It forms with the Loughborough and Leicester Navigations and the Grand Junction Canal a through-route from the Humber to the Thames.
The Wash Group
The group connected with the Wash are all river navigations. The most important being - The Ouse and its Tributaries 150 miles.
This Navigation has no less than nine toll taking bodies, having power to exact tolls on different parts of its length.
The Severn Group
The Severn Group contains among others:
Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal 16.5 miles.
Avon Navigation 11 miles.
Severn Navigation 94 miles.
Stroudwater Canal 8 miles.
The Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN)
Around Birmingham the canals are all narrow, and Birmingham to a great extent owned by railway companies, but there is one independent through route to the Severn.
Connection of Birmingham with the sea
The connection of Birmingham with the Sea by a new waterway has attracted much attention. In 1882 a special committee to consider this subject was appointed by the House of Commons, and a lengthy report was issued by the commission.
The Birmingham Town Council also in 1888 appointed a Committee to examine the different Canal routes between Birmingham and the Sea.
Several schemes were brought before the Committee and the four routes discussed were those via the Severn , Thames, Mersey or Humber.
After carefully considering the whole matter, the Committee reported that in their opinion, it was in the highest degree important that canal communication with the larger ports of the country should be greatly improved so as to provide carriage at much lower rates.
The Committee believed, however, that the ports of (continued). , London and Liverpool were of far greater importance to Birmingham traders than the Severn ports, because of the constant and efficient service of steamers regularly leaving those ports. They found that Birmingham and the neighbourhood dispatched 40% of its exports and received 19% of its imports via London, and des patched 43% of its exports and received 24% of its imports via Liverpool. The Committee therefore inclined towards the Liverpool route.
Although so narrow, the Birmingham Canal Navigations are among the most extensive in the whole country, and carry altogether nearly eight millions of tons of traffic. But there are also points of Engineering interest; several of the waterways are led through long tunnels the Netherton Tunnel, 9,081 feet, the Dudley, 9,516 feet, and the Lappal Tunnel, 11,385 feet in length, in many places cut through the solid rock. The great reservoirs which feed the BCN system are the largest in England, they are six in number and the largest has a capacity of 105,000,00 cubic feet.
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