Ravenhead Canal

I hadn’t heard of the Ravenhead Canal until recently.  I discovered it while researching the St Helens Canal. The St Helens Canal has a Ravenhead Branch and Googling for that threw up references to the Ravenhead Canal.  Initially I thought they were just different names for the same waterway but I soon realised they were different waterways.

Route of the St Helens Canal
Route of the St Helens Canal

The Ravenhead Canal ran about 1.6km (1 mile) to the South West of St Helens, near Thatto Heath. The Ravenhead Canal and the Ravenhead Branch of the St Helens Canal served opposite ends of the Ravenhead Plate Glass Works and the Ravenhead Glass Bottle Works, taking their names from those.  Those industries evolved into the famous Pilkington Glass and the World of Glass straddles the canal in St Helens.

Ravenhead Canal Map
Ravenhead Canal Map

The Ravenhead Canal was about 550m (600 yards) long.  There is little information about the canal and it seems to have closed so long ago that there is hardly any trace of it on the 1906 Ordnance Survey Maps.  The former Alexandra Colliery, positioned roughly where the “R” of Ravenhead is on the map, the coming of the railway in a cutting, and levelling of land for modern housing have all changed the land levels since the canal was closed.

Two photographs, taken to show where the canal crossed the white coloured road in the centre of the map give no clue about the canal’s route.

The Ravenhead Canal once crossed here
The Ravenhead Canal once crossed here

Looking west along Elm Road.  The Ravenhead Canal would probably have crossed the line of the road between the 20 mph signs.

Route of the Ravenhead Canal
Route of the Ravenhead Canal

Looking East along Elm Road.  The Ravenhead Canal would probably have crossed below road level near the crest of the hill, where the 20 mph signs shown in the previous photo can just be seen.  Today the road crosses the railway line at the top of the hill, with the railway running behind the dark fence at the far end of the park on the right.

It’s not clear if Elm Road was there at the same time as the canal, but if it was it would have crossed over (rather than under) the canal which would have been around the level of the grass at the right of the photo. That would mean the houses on the left of the road are on land built up to road level with any trace of the canal well below their foundations.

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