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Canals and rivers

In the past the building of canals, like other transport infrastructure projects, was considered in, or initiated by, Parliament.

In the years before goods like coal could be transported by road or rail, the waterways were an essential part of the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. The construction of canals enabled inland coalfields and heavy industries like pottery and metalworking to expand.

Parliament also considered legislation for the maintenance of rivers, and the creation of important docks, ports and harbours.

Further Your Research

Explore the Parliamentary collections for original documents concerning canals and rivers

Key Dates

When were the first canal Acts? Key dates on the path to modern transport infrastructure

Contemporary Context

From canal Acts to River Basin Management Plans €“ Parliament and transport in a modern context


How Parliament has influenced the building of canals and addressed the management of rivers from the 15th century until the present day