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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

Notably in the Bridgewater Canal


on the opening of the railway in August, 1855, the canal, as a means of goods conveyance, gradually became disused, until, of late years, it has become worse than a mere derelict, since it forms an obstruction to the free passage of the water brought down by the two rivers, and after heavy rain it has led to temporary inundations of the town, to the great inconvenience of those residing near it, as well as interfering, as might in some circumstances be serious, with the sanitary arrangements.

A few years ago an attempt was made to restore the canal traffic, but the railway monopoly had become too thoroughly established, and the project failed; yet the competition, could it have been maintained, might have had a salutary effect upon the cost of railway conveyance, to the advantage of the general public.

Our canals, it should be remembered, are a time-honoured institution; the Lincolnshire Cardyke and Fossdyke date from the period of the Roman occupation of this country. The Magna Charta of the early 13th century took cognizance, not only of the roads, called "The King's Highway," but also of inland navigation, under the term "Haut streames de le Roy." The latter half of the 18th century was remarkable for great achievements as regards internal waterways, notably in the Bridgewater Canal, and the Grand Junction Canal of London; and to this period, as we have seen, the Horncastle Canal belongs.

justify;">In this twentieth century, again, notwithstanding the great railway facilities, there is a wide-spread movement in favour of extended water traffic, headed by the very successful Suez Canal; with a prospect of the sister channel of Panama. Berlin is said to owe its prosperity largely to its well-organized system, connecting the rivers Oder, Elbe, Spree, &c., which have an annual traffic of some million and half tons. Our own Manchester Ship Canal is another instance; the most recent case being fresh developments of the Aire and Calder Navigation, in South Yorkshire. The canals, too, which have been recently constructed in India, are yielding, by the latest reports, {128} a handsome revenue to the Government, as well as greatly benefiting the native population.

It is acknowledged that a more general use of waterways, throughout the kingdom for the cheaper transport of our heavier and more bulky produce, would be a national boon; and a Royal Commission was engaged in considering the subject of the acquisition of all canals as Government property. {129a}

It is now being more and more recognised that, on the establishment of railways, everyone jumped too hastily to the conclusion that the days of canals were over; whereas, in truth, there is still a large field, probably an increasing field, for the cheaper traffic in heavy goods, which canals can provide for. The Belgian town of Bruges, though situated several miles inland, is now to be converted into a port by the government of that country, through the creation of a canal, which is expected to increase the prosperity of that city. Similarly it is suggested that our own town of Nottingham could be made a great inland port, if water carriage were provided; and Sir John Turney, before the Royal Commission, has recently (July, 1907) stated that the trade of that town might thus be greatly increased. These, be it remembered, are not isolated cases.

[Picture: On the Canal]

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