Canal mile-markers

Canals in Yorkshire competed with the turnpikes in the era before the coming of the railways.  Some, like the Aire and Calder Navigation and the Don Navigation, were built to make the existing river system more easily navigable. Others, like the Calder & Hebble Navigation (the first part of which opened in 1770) and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (fully opened in 1816) were constructed to provide transport routes into the towns and across the Pennines.

Britain’s canals were the life-blood of the industrial revolution and purely commercial enterprises.  It was necessary for boatmen and canal companies to be able to calculate precisely how far boats had journeyed along the waterways as these distances formed the basis of toll charges.

Many of the canal Acts of Parliament required that mileposts should be placed at roughly mile-long intervals along the canals.  Some canals also have intermediate, half and quarter mile posts. Many of these mileposts, which sometimes also bore the names of the canals’ terminal points, still stand today.

Whereas many roadside milestones have disappeared during road widening, the canals have been little affected and mile-markers can still be found on most Yorkshire canals.  These include original ones on the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Huddersfield Broad and Narrow Canals.  The characteristic triangular cast-iron mileposts on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal are replacements for earlier milestones, few of which remain today.  Replica milestones can also be found on the Rochdale Canal.

The Milestone Society records them all.

RWH / August 2020