Bicentenary Events
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Celebrate 200 Years of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Forget the M62 – with its roadworks, traffic jams, exhaust fumes and ceaseless stream of heavy lorries. For the past two hundred years the Leeds & Liverpool Canal has offered a much more reliable and much more pleasant means of linking Yorkshire and Lancashire.

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal took a few years to come into existence. Engineering and surveying skills were in their infancy so that canal pioneers were genuinely entering uncharted territory. The period of ‘canal mania’ was also a period of warfare which caused inflation and placed additional burden on the public purse. This necessarily, and repeatedly, meant that the money ran out much sooner than was anticipated.

First conceived in 1766, construction work on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal began in 1770. By 1777, the two end sections of the canal were open. But the money then ran out and work almost stopped until 1790. The final section was finally completed in 1816. The first complete crossing of the Canal set off on October 22 1816 and took five days to make the passage from Leeds to Liverpool.

As sections of the British canal network go, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was one of the most successful (arguably, the most successful). Some quickly fell into disuse unable to compete with the burgeoning railway system. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal was blessed with a diversity of goods to carry – (cotton, wool, limestone, sugar, night soil, ...) – and an array of industrial and agricultural enterprises keen to move raw goods and produce to and from market. The Canal continued to be commercially successful up until the early 1960s. Since then the canal has continued to thrive, but for pleasure, with people drawn by the spectacular natural and industrial archaeological features that can be seen along the canal corridor.

Illustrating the rise and subsequent decline of commercial traffic along the canal is the heritage boat Kennet which is run by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society as a floating museum. Recently refurbished under a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant, Kennet is the only surviving Leeds & Liverpool Canal short boat open to the public and travelling along the canal carrying its “cargo” of exhibitions and displays about the canal's heritage.

Kennet will be leading the commemorative events planned for this year’s bicentenary celebrations. Throughout the year it will appear at a host of open days, canal festivals and other special occasions where it will be open to the public. The culmination of the bicentenary year of commemoration will be a reenactment of the first full crossing from Leeds to Liverpool which Kennet will undertake over eight days starting out from the Leeds canal basin on October 15. Our goal will be to emulate the same high level of razzamataz that accompanied the very first full passage in 1816.

More information on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal can be found here.
More information on Kennet can be found here.
More information on commemorative events planned for this year can be found here.

Recreation of the First Passage

In October 2016 a recreation of the first passage from Leeds to Liverpool is planned as part of the ongoing events to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and featuring Kennet, the historic Leeds and Liverpool Short Boat. The outline timetable for this event is given in this latest summary.

Join in on Water and/or Land during the Passage

BOATERS - We are calling on Heritage Boats, Boat Clubs & Boaters to create a  "Flotilla of Decorated Boats" following Kennet along the way to Liverpool. NOTE: Boats are asked to register through "Friends of Kennet" and will be given priority.

GENERAL PUBLIC - Communities, Organisations & Schools are being asked to "come down to the Canal" and join in by creating the "Atmosphere of the Day".

ROSETTES - the Gentlemen of the day wore RED & WHITE Rosettes to symbolise the "joining of Yorkshire & Lancashire". The Society has Rosettes made out of Ribbon for sale and have also produced a Pattern, in conjunction with the Canal & River Trust, to print out and make.

Please contact "Friends of Kennet" by e-mail for a complete timetable of when Kennet will be at the different places along the Canal.

Brewers and Publicans

The 200th anniversary is a significant historic event which is likely to catch the public imagination and you might like to get involved. We are keen to involve brewers along the line of the canal and publicans, particularly those whose pubs are adjoining the canal.

Our aim is to encourage brewers to produce beers that celebrate the bicentenary whether that be in the style of beer commonly available in 1816 or by naming selected brews to commemorate this event. We would also like to encourage publicans to help to promote the bicentenary and the various events culminating in the Recreation of the Opening Voyage in October, and if possible to have celebratory beers available on the bar.

Full List of Events

See our Bicentenary Events page here ...



The L&LCS can only develop its objectives through an active and enthusiastic membership. To help promote awareness and ensure the survival of the unique traditions of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Please support these efforts by joining the Society


Registered Charity Number 1156266