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A little history

The Pocklington Canal was a late addition to the waterways network of England and Wales. Work did not start until 1815, despite proposals half a century before. The engineer responsible for the canal was George Leather Jr.  The canal was completed in 1818 at a cost of £32,695. It would have been significantly more expensive to continue the canal into Pocklington and the proposed extension did not materialise.

George Leather Jr

George Leather Jr

The canal was mainly used to carry coal and agricultural produce. It was never a great financial success, partly because goods had to be transferred to horse-drawn carts at the terminus of the canal, adjacent to the Hull-York turnpike road, to continue their journey. The canal was sold to the York and North Midland Railway in 1848 and, like many English canals in railway ownership, deteriorated through lack of dredging and other maintenance. Subsequently, in the hands of the North Eastern Railway, the canal gradually fell into disuse early in the 20th century and the last commercial craft to use the canal was the keel Ebenezer, in 1932. The railway company purchased a lorry for the owner of this keel to avoid maintenance obligations! Pleasure craft stopped using the canal soon after, because of deterioration of the lock gates.

The keel Ebenezer

The canal was never formally abandoned and with nationalisation of the railways in 1948, ownership passed to British Transport Commission and then, in 1963 to the British Waterways Board, subsequently renamed as British Waterways. A proposal, in 1959, to infill the canal with "inoffensive sludge" from a water treatment plant angered many people, including landowners, local residents, and members of the Inland Waterways Association. With support from the Inland Waterway Protection Society, MPs were lobbied, there was extensive publicity in the press and even the House of Commons learned of the Pocklington Canal and its plight. The canal was saved. These unhappy events encouraged waterways enthusiasts to explore the possibility of restoring the canal and, in 1969, the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society was formed. Volunteers soon began their work with the long-overdue task of clearing obstructions from the towpath, which is now open throughout the length of the canal.

Pocklington Canal history posters

An interesting series of posters was produced by the Canal & River Trust with help from a PCAS member who researched the early history of the canal, funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to CRT.

The Pocklington and District Local History Group website has a history of the plans to build the canal and its construction.

1814 canal plan.jpg

1814 plan of the Pocklington Canal

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