Leeds nostalgia: River Aire front revolution

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This week’s picture blend shows the River Aire just below Crown Point, still some way off the start of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

If you were travelling by boat you would still have to pass under three main bridges, including the one at the bottom of Briggate, before the beginning of the 126-mile long man-made waterway.



The black and white picture was taken in February 1948, while the colour photograph was taken earlier this year and while the river itself may not have altered that much, the riverfront has been dramatically tranformed, with high-rise offices and flats flanking it on both sides.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal was the first of the trans-Pennine canals to be started but it was also the last to be completed, taking 46 years to build.

It was first proposed in 1765 in order to assist textile trades in transporting their wares to the coastal ports on both sides of teh country and five years later construction began, with the first part opening in 1773 - a lock-free section which stretched from Skipton to Bingley. By 1777, the canal stretched from Liverpool to Skipton and also from Leeds to Gargrave but then the original funding for the canal ran dry and it was some years before it resumed in earnest.

By 1781 enough money was found to begin again but it was still another decade before the Gargrave section continued westward. In 1794 a new Act was passed, changing the route to run via Burnley and Blackburn instead of Whalley and Walton-le-Dale. Foulridge Tunnel was opened in 1796 making the canal navigable from Leeds to Burnley. The remainder of the canal was completed piecemeal. Funding was short, due in part to wars with France, which not only drained the national coffers but led to higher taxes. The full canal opened in 1816.