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Canal and River Navigations National Overview

Front cover for Canal and River Navigations National Overview

An appraisal of the heritage and archaeology of England’s present and former inland navigable waterways

By Keith Falconer

England's canals and  navigable inland waterways are an immense heritage resource that has developed over many centuries. They have fundamentally changed in their use from a privately and commercially developed transport system for heavy goods to a public leisure and heritage resource enjoyed by wide range of users.

They have been subject to periods of great expansion, prolonged decline, contraction and then renaissance, led by volunteer enthusiasts. From years of neglect, abandonment, dereliction and turmoil, a slimmed down waterways system which, through a remarkable partnership of official agencies working with voluntary bodies and with the support of Lottery funding, has emerged as a national treasure.

This report charts these changing fortunes and examines the main types of historic features associated with canals and other navigable inland waterways.

A gazetteer forming a future Part 2 of the report, covering canals and navigations operating in the 19th century, identifying significant surviving structures and historic buildings, is in preparation and we will add it once it is available.

Historic England commissioned consultant and industrial heritage expert Keith Falconer to write this report.


  • Executive Summary
  • Section 1: The transformation of the system
  • Section 2: The heritage of the main historical phases of inland waterway development, contraction, renaissance and current use
  • Section 3: Consideration of the infrastructure and identification of key features for protection
  • Section 4: Initial findings and conclusions

Additional Information

  • Publication Status: Draft
  • Pages: 86


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