Barrow Civic and Local History Society welcomed Colin Smith, Chairman of Ulverston Canal Regeneration Group to speak at the last meeting of its 2019 programme.
Ulverston Canal was sold by Glaxo 7 years ago and is now owned by a private company who specialise in cleaning up industrial sites. Colin Smith explained that the Regeneration Group was founded shortly afterwards, as the canal footpath was becoming overgrown, with weeds and litter being a big problem.
Improvements to the footpath have been made with extra benches and litter bins in place. The clearance of the weeds has allowed wildflowers to flourish and the habitat for the wildfowl and other creatures has improved. There has been a complete change in the landscape and the local community has become involved.
There are installations along the towpath which explain the history of the canal, and more recently a working model of the rolling bridge has been made by local engineering apprentices. The actual rolling bridge itself is a listed structure and there is only one other like it in the world.
Ulverston Canal Regeneration Group runs events celebrating different seasons of the year and these events have become part of the Ulverston calendar. The group is keen to promote the heritage of the canal, providing packs for schools to use. Archives are used to provide the material about people and ships for the children to transform into poems and stories.
Colin Smith outlined the history of the canal from its completion in 1796 until the last trading vessel in 1916. The best years were between 1828 and 1848, when as many as 300 vessels a week used the canal. Reference was made to the local mills which were involved in the canal trade. The town became famous for its Ulverston Cloth, made of a mixture of flax and cotton, and woven into a distinctive checked pattern. A piece of the actual cloth, owned by local history expert Walter Johnston, was presented to Colin Smith to be kept in the group’s archive.