The Leeds-Liverpool Canal
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal had a major effect on the development of Blackburn. Not only did it serve the many mills, factories and businesses in the town, but its route changed the way the town developed. When the canal was built, it followed the high ground to the south of the town centre, with a flight of locks lowering it into the valley of the River Darwen where it crosses the river on a high embankment. The reason for this route was that the land was much cheaper than in the town centre.
Industries soon grew along the canal's banks, extending the town to the south. Nova Scotia, possibly named after the Scottish navvies who worked on the canal, grew up after the canal opened. It was separate from the town at first, and only became part of Blackburn as houses and mills were built, the latter encouraged by the transport services offered by the canal. Even after the railways opened to Blackburn, the canal continued to play an important role. Mills continued to be built on its banks. They used the canal not just for transport, but also for cooling the exhaust steam from the mill engine which made it much more efficient.
It was only after the First World War that traffic on the canal declined. Road transport was developing, and mills were changing from steam to electric power, so they no longer need the canal. In the 1960s, the canal was almost closed because of the cost of maintenance. It survived, and Barbara Castle's Transport Act of 1973 ensured its survival by encouraging the leisure use of canals. Today pleasure boats cruise through Blackburn, and the towpath is a pleasant place for a stroll where many reminders of the town's industrial past can still be found.