Ulverston Canal was designed by the architect John Rennie, famous for building the first Waterloo Bridge in London. Construction started in 1793, and the canal opened in December 1796. It became known as the shortest, deepest, broadest and straightest in England. The first vessel to enter was the “Sally”, a London trader. In the following few years, canal offices, warehouses and yards were built. The stone pier at Canal Foot was constructed in 1815. Initially, a few hundred vessels entered each year, peaking at 944 vessels in the year 1846. The vessels were transporting goods such as coal into the Furness area, and taking away large quantities of locally mined iron ore and slate. In addition, a substantial shipbuilding industry developed on the canal.
Sadly, the useful life of the canal was quite short. By 1854, the Furness Railway and the port of Barrow-in-Furness were operational, and had taken away the majority of the canal’s trade. Barrow grew from a population of 300 in 1847, to 42,000 in 1874, and became the major industrial and trading town in the Furness peninsula. Consequently, Ulverston Canal was sold to the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway Company, and operations continued to decline. It was officially abandoned at the end of the Second World War.
The canal is now used for leisure purposes. It is being safeguarded and enhanced thanks to the Ulverston Canal Regeneration Group. A footpath runs the length of the canal, between Canal Head on the A590, and Canal Foot on the shores of Morecambe Bay. Large steel sculptural interpretation boards by Chris Brammall describe the canal’s history. The Bay Horse pub at Canal Foot provides a convenient resting place for walkers. The canal is also popular with local fishermen.
Seldom Seen, but never forgotten. Days around the Bay.
That might be an apt way to describe the many wonders of Morecambe Bay. A project to bring many of these unknown and unseen treasures to the fore has been completed by Art Gene, led by artist and co-founder Stuart Bastik. Working with members of the local community, Stuart has overseen the creation of an amazing set of Maps which tell so many of those seldom seen or heard stories around the Bay. In addition, an “app” has been created for Android and iPhones to help you enjoy walks in five places around the Bay, including Ulverston Canal, in the virtual company of knowledgeable locals and various experts in their field.