The Halsall Navvy

A little bit of history.
What were you doing on 5th November 1770, Col Charles Mordaunt was cutting the first turf of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. This was in Halsall, West Lancs. Somewhere, by the bridge, there’s a plaque marking the spot, but I couldn’t find it. However there is a fine stone sculpture known as the Halsall Navvie here. I doubt old Charlie did much more of the hard work, but the information board set me thinking about the Navvies who toiled along the cut.

The information board at Halsall

It’s hard to imagine that these canals were all build by hard manual labour. Originally the workers were known as Cutters. But they soon became known as Navvies abbreviated from Navigator. The canal is still often referred to as the Cut.Contrary to general belief only 30% of the navies were Irish. Over 500 men were involved in building the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Local farm labourers often supplemented their income by joining the workforce until they were needed at harvest time.

The Halsall Navvy by Thomas Dagnall 2004

In 1770 it cost £5048 to build a mile of canal equivalent to around £275 000 today. Locks cost extra. And the total financial cost of the Leeds and Liverpool was £1 250 000, around £50 000 000 today.
I’ve read that an experienced navvy could shift 12 cubic yards of earth a day: that’s the same as digging a trench 3ft wide, 3ft deep and 36ft long every day. Canal boat and Tillergraph magazine have a fascinating piece giving a better insight

We’ve got a lot to be grateful for, cause I doubt Halsall looked as lovely as this 250 years ago

Moored at Halsall