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During the late 18th century the industrial demand for transport between Manchester, Preston, Lancaster and Kendal, gave rise to proposals to build a broad beam canal from Westhoughton, east of Wigan, and Kendal. A chap named John Rennie produced a survey which included several aqueducts but with only eight locks near the Kendal end at Tewitfield. Based on this survey, construction began in 1792.
It took only 7 years to open the canal between Preston and Tewitfield and included a large aqueduct over the River Lune north of Lancaster. At the same time the southern section between Chorley and Clayton was opened. This caused a five mile gap across Preston and the river Ribble.
To temporarily solve this a tramway was built to complete the connection, albeit not a viable solution. The tramway only survived until 1857 and since then the two sections of canal have been separated and therefore the main Lancaster Canal has been isolated from the national canal network. In 1819 the north section from Tewitfield was extended to kendal and a short spur built to connect the canal to Glasson Docks.
The Glasson Arm, as it is known, has six locks to enable the canal to achieve sea level at Glasson Docks. This meant the Lancaster canal, from Preston had only eight locks over the whole length from Preston to Kendal and only six locks to allow access to the sea. This giving a length of just over 41 miles of lock free canal. In it;s hay day, the canal was host to express passenger boats, known as "fly" boats, averaging a speed of around 10mph from Preston to Kendal. The south end of the original canal was leased to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company. In 1885 the rest, the north end, was sold to the London & North Western Railway. Due to the M6 motorway being built in 1968 the canal north of Tewitfield was abandoned and the canal shortened, thus removing the eight locks from navigation.
Until 1849, originally a daily service, a waterbus ran between Kendal & Preston, the journey took, what would be today, a staggering 14 hours. In 1833 to compete with stage coaches this was reduced to 7 hours 15 minutes. This service was very successful and carried 14,000 passengers in the first six months of operation.