Leeds nostalgia: navigation turned Leeds into inland port

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Long before the advent of the railways, water-based transport links gave Leeds access to overseas markets in Europe and beyond.

One of the most important developments in this area was the creation of the Aire and Calder Navigation, which helped to make the Rivers Aire and Calder navigable by boat.

And it opened as far back as 1700. It turned Leeds into an inland port, with links to London and the Netherlands.

Prior to the establisment of the navigation, cloth and other produce had to be sent via road, which was more costly and often ended up with the products being damaged.

From 1700, thanks to this engineering feat, boats could sail from Hull to Leeds Bridge, where a new town warehouse was erected on the northern bank.

The image above shows the now long demolished Navigation Warehouse in 1827. It was destroyed by fire and later pulled down but remnants of the old building still remain, although they are out of sight - only the base course arches of the original remain beneath the modern residential building which now occupised the site.

Canals were preferable to the river because they suffered less chance of flooding, which meant a cost saving in terms of preventing the loss of stock.

One example which outlines the problem came in 1767, when heavy rains meant the river rose six feet in a single hour.

In 1775, a 36-hour long deluge left the whole riverside underwater, forcing boats to capsize and spill their goods and sheep and cows to be swept to their deaths in the swollen waterway.

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