Location : Ulverston
Grid Ref : SD 294785 and SD 313777
The Ulverston Canal is claimed to be the deepest, widest and straightest canal in the UK. It is entirely straight and on a single level.
The canal was completed in 1796, in order to provide the town of Ulverston, one and a half miles from the coast at Morecambe Bay, with a port. At 15 feet (4.6 m) deep and 66 feet (20 m) wide, it was intended to take very large ships.
In the days before the construction of the Furness Railway, Furness was cut off by the mountainous Lake District on its only landward side; the region was accessed only by crossing the sands of Morecambe Bay.
The Ulverston Canal was once the starting-point for steamers to Liverpool, passenger ships to Scotland and London, and cargoes of local slates that made their way to coastal towns around Britain.
The opening of the Furness Railway in 1846 seriously damaged the profitability of the canal, which was eventually bought by the railway company. It was used commercially until the First World War, and was officially abandoned at the end of the Second World War, in 1945. It has since been maintained by Ulverston town council. There is a public footpath on its eastern side, but the western side is industrialized, being the location of a large GlaxoSmithKline factory.
The Furness railway on route between Grange-over-Sands and Barrow-in-Furness crosses the canal on a viaduct, and a dismantled branch line also crosses the canal on route to the Glaxo works.
The canal began at Hammerside Hill at Morecambe Bay and terminated at a basin and wharfs at Ulverston. At its head there is a 112-foot (34 m) long sea lock, the only lock on the canal. A public swing bridge was built over the canal at Hammerside.
There are currently proposals to bring it back to life as part of a town regeneration scheme.