Friday, 11 January 2013

Fighting for the Weaver Navigation

Browsing in Carnforth's second-hand bookshop recently I came across this.
The Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society for March 1992, on sale at 25p (although I got it for 'nowt as I also bought a railway book for £3)!
What caught my eye was an article on the fight by the Weaver Navigation Trust against nationalisation in 1947. I hadn't really given any thought to the way in which large parts of the transport industry were taken into public ownership after the war - that's just the way it had always been - but it seems that amongst some parties at least it was just as controversial as their de-nationalisation forty years later.

The Weaver Trust fought against it on the basis that their navigation was of local importance only and was primarily a "harbour", citing the example of the nearby Manchester Ship Canal, which escaped nationalisation on the same basis.
But the government pointed to the Weaver's connection to the national network via the Anderton Lift and also to wartime proposals to make the river navigable as far as Audlem and enlarge the Shroppie to take 100 ton barges as far as Wolverhampton. They saw the Weaver as capable of development as a key part of the country's waterway transport infrastructure and, ironically, felt that the Weaver was one of the best-managed wwaterways and that Christopher Marsh, the Trust's manager who was leading the fight against state ownership would be an asset to the British Transport Commission, which the new Act would establish.

in truth the Trust never stood a chance. The waterways were a tiny part of the nationalisation proposals and their owners were probably glad to get rid of them. The Canal Association, which represented most of them, concentrated merely on improving compensation and the WNT was left to fight alone.

Most of the rest of the magazine concentrates on railway history but a look at the society's website reveals that canals do feature in its activities and that the North West group at least has a number of interesting canal-related meetings and trips coming up. So I might just think about joining.

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