England’s canal era (from the 1760s to the 1830s) was kicked off by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater*, who’d commissioned the construction of the Bridgewater Canal (1761) from his coal mines in Worsley to the city of Manchester.
The most notable feature of his canal was the stone aqueduct across the River Irwell at Barton-upon-Irwell. It was the first navigable aqueduct in England, and it allowed the horse-towed canal boats to cross the river at an elevation of nearly 40 feet. (This engineering feat even attracted tourists, who came to marvel at the boats on the aqueduct floating over the boats on the river.)
My favorite part of this story? The name of the canal, Bridgewater, just happens to mirror the description of canal’s most notable feature, the water bridge, which itself happens to bridge water. What fun coincidences. :)
- Bridgewater Canal – Wikipedia
- History – Bridgewater Canal
- Powell, Arthur Herbert. The Ancient Borough of Bridgwater in the County of Somerset. Bridgwater: Page and Son, 1907.
*The dukedom took its name from the town of Bridgwater in Somerset. The settlement was originally called Brigge/Brugge/Brigga — “bridge.” After the Norman Invasion, the land on which the settlement stood was given to Norman knight Walter of Douai, so the settlement became known as Brugge-Walter/Brigge-Walter — “Walter’s bridge.” This later evolved into Bridgwater.