A Brief Historical Overview of the UK Canal system
The UK has an extensive network of inland waterways, of which our canals form a major part. Whilst we think mainly of their construction during the industrial revolution, canals had also been created for irrigation and transportation.
Most canals are navigable by boats between 55 and 80 feet in length with 2 widths most commonly used, narrow beam and broad beam.
Our earliest canals were constructed by the Romans and used mainly for irrigation. The Romans also constructed a few canals, such as the Foss Dyke, to link rivers and thus extended their ability to transport goods and people inland.
The canal system grew in response to an increased demand for industrial transport. Previously people had had to rely on the road system and large pack horse trains. These were unsuitable for most of the roads at the time and unsuitable for fragile goods such as pottery.
Canal boats offered many advantages. They were quicker, could carry larger loads and were capable of transporting fragile cargo safely. After the construction of the Bridgewater Canal, more canals were constructed and had a profound effect of the economies of neighbouring towns and cities.
For more detailed account, the following websites are a rich source of information: