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250th Anniversary Of John Rennie's Birth – Grandfather Of Britain’s Canals (7 June 2011)

John Rennie from a larger portrait of John Rennie, 1810, by Sir Henry Raeburn7 June 2011 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Rennie (7 Jun 1761 - 4 Oct 1821), one of the celebrated grandfathers of the canal network whose waterways underpinned Britain’s Industrial Revolution.

The waterways built by Rennie, including the Lancaster Canal, the Kennet & Avon Canal, Crinan Canal and the Rochdale Canal, bought unprecedented change with goods and raw materials able to be transported to and from industrial heartlands right throughout Britain and to the rest of the world.

Rennie was among the pioneers of industrial engineering, whose structures carried canals across valleys, up hills and through solid rock. He helped create some of the most iconic and loved canal structures, with his masterpieces including the Caen Hill Lock Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire (one of the ‘wonders of the waterways’ and a scheduled ancient monument), and the Lune Aqueduct (a Grade I Listed structure in Lancaster which carries the picturesque Lancaster Canal over the River Lune).

British Waterways is celebrating the anniversary of Rennie’s birth by holding a number of events at some of his finest creations including free boats trips on the Lune Aqueduct and the unveiling of plaques on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Rennie was also responsible for designing and building docks in Liverpool and London and renowned for his work building and designing some of the country’s finest bridges including Waterloo, London and Southwark Bridge, where he combined stone with new cast-iron techniques. He designed an early dredging machine and was a pioneer of diving equipment.

Tony Hales, chairman of British Waterways, said: “We can only imagine the impact of Rennie’s and the other great canal engineers’ waterways on Britain. The roads of the day were poor and one horse hauling a laden canal boat could carry far more than pack animals - and do so more quickly and safely. Rennie’s canals meant that raw materials and finished goods could be conveyed between factories, warehouses and ports, and manufactured items taken to the most profitable markets.

“In acknowledging Rennie’s engineering excellence, he could not have possibly foreseen that his canals would be enjoying a vibrant renaissance some 250-years after his birth – a wonderful legacy used by millions of people for leisure and recreation and as an important habitat for wildlife.”