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250th anniversary of first local canal trip to be marked

Heritage boat 'Kennet' will lead a special commemorative trip along the Leeds & Liverpool canal through the Aire Valley next weekend, 250 years to the day since the first journey took place.

On Thursday 8th April 1773, two barges loaded with coal set off from Bingley to Skipton, where the coal was sold at half the price previously charged. They were the first boats to carry goods on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, and the reduction in cost shows how important the canal was to be to the growing economy of Yorkshire.

Elizabeth Shackleton noted in her diary at the time: “Mr. Leach of Riddlesden brought coals in one of his new boats upon the canal to the metropolis of Skipton in Craven – to the great joy of the poor – and demonstrations of happiness to all sorts of people – ringing of bells and bonfires.”

Next weekend on Easter Saturday (8th April) the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society will be recreating the occasion, though without the bonfires! Their heritage boat Kennet, along with various more recent pleasure boats ‘in tow’, will be leaving Bingley at 9.15am, and due to arrive in Skipton for a welcome by the town Mayor Richard Judge at around 3.45pm.

Kennet will then be moored in the canal basin in the centre of Skipton, at the junction with the Springs Branch, where she will be open to the public on Sunday 9th and Monday 10th April from 11am to 4.30pm. There is an exhibition about canal people and boats on board along with video and photos of events from the 200th Anniversary of the Canal in 1973.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society members will be on hand to answer any questions about the canal and its history. Maintaining and operating Kennet has been undertaken by the Society’s volunteers for the last fifteen years.

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