Enthusiasts of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal took a trip back in time on Tuesday – exactly 200 years to the day since the first barge sailed through Burnley.
The event saw historic barge “Kennet” sail into Burnley Wharf at the Weavers’ Triangle where it was greeted by the Mayor of Burnley, Coun. Jeff Sumner and a brass band.
Such was the huge influence of the canal that most historians agree it helped shape the borough and establish Burnley at the centre of the world’s cotton weaving trade.
It, as much as any other historic event, helped make the town what it is today.
Mr Mike Clarke, president of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society, said: “The original horse-drawn jounrye took four weeks from Leeds to Liverpool.
“We are recreating that journey, without the horses, for the bicentennial celebration. When the canal opened in 1816, Burnley was a small town with a largely cottage textile industry.
“The canal allowed that industry to grow and Burnley eventually became the world’s most important cotton weaving centre.
“Indeed, more than any other canal, the Leeds and Liverpool allowed Great Britain to become the economic powerhouse that it did.”
As it passed through the borough, the barge crew took in the new-look Reedley Marina and the transformation of the Weavers’ Triangle, as well as historic landmarks such as the Straight Mile and Gannow Tunnel.
Members of the Canalside/Top o’th’Town community association lined up on the towpath to wave and cheer as the boats went by.
The Mayor said: “The canal is as important to the town now as it was 200 years ago, just in a different way, and we need to make the most of this landmark of industrial engineering.”
Kennet, described as a “floating museum”, moored in Burnley overnight on Tuesday before it continued its journey across the Pennines to Leeds.
Organised by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society, and supported by the Canal and River Trust, the voyage will be a culmination of a year of festivities.
Kennet organiser Harold Bond said: “Back in 1816, press reports state that the ceremonial first boat was greeted by peeling church bells, brass bands and cheering crowds, and canal barges were be-decked in flags and streamers. We wanted to create that spirit of celebration and achievement again.”
For more details about the bicentenary celebrations go to the Canal and River Trust website.