Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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Description: A network of waterways promoted by Acts passed in 1699, 1774, 1820 and 1828. Still partly commercial waterways although there is much pleasure traffic.
Points of Interest: A number of locks have been modernised to European standards where boatmen should observe coloured light signals.
See Priestley's Navigable Rivers and Canals for more information.
He surveyed the river and concluded it could be made navigable for less expence than expected.
About this time he assisted John Hadley with a survey of the Calder.
Promoted by Act.
He was appointed engineer at £420 per year.
Built Beal and Haddlesey Locks, with James Mitchell, so completing the original from Leeds to the Ouse.
Built Beal and Haddlesey Locks, with George Atkinson, so completing the original from Leeds to the Ouse.
Leesed the Aire Navigation for £4,400 a year, jointly with Thomas Wilson
Leesed the Aire Navigation for £4,400 a year, jointly with Joseph Atkinson
Was appointed engineer by Peter Birt, the lessee of the navigation. Over the next few years he spent about £4,000 on capital improvements and £9,000 on maintenance, mainly on weirs.
28th December 1771
He reported on the state of the navigation saying "the original projectors.. ., not having had any notion of the extensive trade that was likely to be carried on by means thereof. . . formed their plan upon too diminutive a scale, and particularly with respect to depth. . . of water". There were many shallow lock sills giving only 2 ft 6 in depth at normal summer water and there was shoaling below the locks, which he Thought due to "endeavouring to save locks in point of number, and to save length of cutting". Of the lack of water in the tideway below Haddlesey lock, he said that in ordinary dry seasons "there will not be two feet of water up to Haddlesey lock at high water neap tides". At Weeland, about a mile below the limits of the Aire & Calder, there was another shoal "over which, though the neap tides sensibly flow, yet they do not make, in the whole, above two feet depth of water". In dry seasons when little flow of fresh water, flashes had to be provided but, perhaps only two a week due to millers' requirements and of the need to keep pounds up, "wherefore, vessels will be frequently from Stock Reach to Leeds or Wakelield, a week or more in making good their passage, that otherwise would be performed in fifteen hours". This he considered resulted in was underemployment of boats and men, delays and expense.
He surveyed the river on behalf of John Smeaton and recommended a 7.25 mile canal between Haddlesey and Newland near the mouth of the Aire.
He reports that he has aimed "to procure the essential of a navigation, the means of keeping vessels always afloat" and proposed improvements that would give 3 ft 6 in to ft of water, to take craft carrying 30 to 45 tons. These included dredging, rebuilding some mill locks, new cuts, especially a by-pass canal, to avoid low water and shoals, from just above Haddlesey lock to run on the south side of the river to Gowdall above Snaith with two locks or a similar one on the north side from Chapel Haddlesey to Newland beyond Rawcliffe. There was to be a second by-pass with one lock from Brotherton on the north side nf the river below Knottingley because "the Water is in general so shallow, that it becomes necessary, not only to raise the Water higher by temporary Boards placed on Beal Dam below, but to let down Flashes from the Mill Dam to carry the Vessels over the Shallows; and, for want of suflicient Water for the Purpose, the Vessels are often detained there in their passage many Days together". He also recommended cuts at Leeds (¼ mile, with a lock to replace the old one), Knostrop (7 furlongs, with two new locks to replace three old ones at mills), Woodlesford (1½ miles, with two new locks to replace two old ones), Methley (¾ mile, with floodgates and a lock to replace the old Methley lock) and floodgates and a lock on the mile cut to Castleford. Finally, he advised the undertakers to obtain powers to remove obstructions and build a towing path right to the Ouse.
He appeared before the parliamentary committee to support the navigation improvement plans and to oppose the rival Leeds & Selby Canal project.
He surveyed the whole river and accepted John Smeaton,s proposals between Leeds and Castleford and drew up new proposals under Smeaton's direction for the rest of the river.
Promoted by Act.
It is reported that he considers the number of craft on the navigation had increased by half in ten years.
He was not regularly employed by the company after this date but was sometimes consulted.
Early January 1792
He was asked to survey the navigation and recommend improvements but was probably too busy to undertake the task.
He told shareholders "On the Navigation of the general Line of the Rivers, I think I may be permitted to say, it improves every Year, and is at present better than at any former time".
He ceased his role as company engineer.
He succeeded Elias Wright as engineer and put forward plans for improving the navigation to Leeds and building a new basin there.
He was to survey a line to the River Ouse.
6th January 1819
He reports proposing a line from the Knottingley cut to Goole with a cut back into the River Aire at Bank Dole to give access to the Selby Canal, and a branch to the Dutch River at Newbridge. He estimated the cost as £137,700.
Promoted by Act.
He is dismissed for malpractice.
He proposes that there should be "an intermediate basin & locks" at Goole where the canal was to join the Ouse. He also ageed with the company board that the canal depth should be 7 feet rather than 6.
After July 1821
He rebuilt locks on the navigation with a six foot depth over the sills even though it had been decided that the Goole Canal locks would have a 7 foot sill depth. He seems not to have been told but it cost him his job.
He recommended a piecemeal development plan for the main line from Leeds to Castleford with a 7 foot depth all the way. He also recommended a 7 foot depth on the Calder to Wakefield and a new cut.
Appointed Surveyor and Clerk of Works to the Aire & Calder, the offical title for their resident engineer.
Promoted by Act.
He surveyed a railway from Leeds to Selby and recommended the use of locomotives. His proposal was opposed by the Aire & Calder company but the Act for the railway was passed in June 1830.
While acting for the Exchequer Bill Loan Commissioners in the matter of the Heck & Wentbridge Railway he offered to sell the property to the canal company but they declined.
He writes of "the decided hostility of the Aire & Calder Company, as resolved upon at their meeting on Saturday 16th inst." concerning the proposed Manchester & Leeds Railway.
His plan for a Leeds & Armley Navigation, to take craft drawing up to 7 feet above Leeds Bridge, was put to the board.
25th March 1841
The opening of the Bridgwater Dock and mile long canal that he had built as company engineer.
Suggested that a fly-boat be steam powered, propeller driven, and used as a cargo-carrying tug. This experiment proved successful and other similar craft were added to the company fleet.
On the death of his father he was appionted to succeed to the post of engineer.
Died while still engineer of the company.
Reported that the introduction of two public steam tugs running between Wakefield and Goole had helped to reduce towing charges on the navigation.
20th December 1861
Proposed to the Board the lenghening of the ship lock at Goole, converting it to hydraulic-powered operation and the provision of compartment boats and hoists. The total cost he estimated to be £13,302.
14th January 1862
Was authorised by the company to lenghten Ouse ship lock and to build one train of compartment boats.
7th February 1862
Granted patent number 330 for his system of compartment boats (Tom Puddings) which were used on the canal for over a century.
Proposed the Leeds Extension Canal from Leeds to Armley mills.
He was paid £1,000 plus £220 for the cost of models in exchange for the right to use his compartment boat patents.
Early January 1876
Was made General Manager, in addition to his post as engineer, and was paid £1,500 per annum.
He reported that the compartment boat system was yeilding a 10.75% return on the capital invested after allowing for interest and depreciation.
His Aldam Dock at Goole was opened.
In his evidence on the Manchester Ship Canal Bill he said that the navigation took craft up to 187 tons, carriers doing only one-tenth of the carrying.
His 500 by 47 feet Victoria entrance lock at Goole was opened.
Formally retired but continued to work on building the New Junction Canal and as a consultant director untill shortly before his death.
Was appointed engineer.
He was appointed engineer.