(Picture shows a Whitsuntide Trip for Children out to Sedgwick in the 1890s - taken at Change Bridge Kendal)
Historian Arthur Nicholls recounts the festivities on the day that the Kendal and Lancaster Canal was opened (from the Westmorland Gazette)
KENDAL was full of excitement on June 18, 1819. It was not because the King or some other person of importance was coming, nor was it the celebration of Waterloo Day, the anniversary of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. It was the day for the formal opening of the Kendal and Lancaster Canal or, as Kendalians termed it, ‘our canal’. It might seem to have been much ado about nothing but the canal was then at the cutting edge of transport technology, just as the motorway was to us in the 1960s.
At an early hour of the morning flags hoisted on the town hall, the castle, the parish church and various other buildings in the town, and a general bustle prevailed, with all business suspended and the shops closed. Everyone wanted to make sure that they did not miss a second of the novel spectacle. The banks of the canal and every available viewpoint were crammed with numberless spectators. At about nine o’clock the Corporation and gentlemen of the town, preceded by a band, walked in procession to the Canal Basin where they embarked on the Corporation Barge, accompanied by a large party of ladies. Another boat, The Extra Barge, suitably fitted up, took another party of respectable individuals down the canal, amid the ringing of bells and firing of cannon.
At about 1 o’clock the barges reached Crooklands, where they were met by a packed boat bearing the Mayor of Lancaster, the canal committees and a large party of gentlemen. The packet led the journey back to Kendal followed by a long train of 16 boats. One of them was the Elephant, which was propelled by paddle wheels. There were several bands providing music, and each boat housed an appropriate flag. Every ridge and hillside was covered with spectators, who cheered loudly as the boats passed. After eight and a half hours, the procession returned to the Canal Basin at Kendal. There were thousands of spectators and Castle Hill was covered with people enjoying a full view of the basin. The scene was one of novelty and grandeur. Nothing on this scale had ever been seen, and Kendal had enjoyed a spectacular holiday. The Corporation and Canal Committee disembarked and led a procession to the town hall, where they sat down to an excellent dinner with a band playing. Some of the gentlemen sang good songs. Many loyal and patriotic toasts were given including those to the King and the Duke of Wellington. A ball followed at the King’s Arms, which was very well attended. Remarkably, despite the excitement of the day, there was no serious accident. A few were thrown for fun into the canal but they merely got wet. It had been a great day for Kendal. Trade was to be improved and it would be possible to reach Preston by fast, horse-drawn packet boat, at the speed of nine miles an hour, in only five hours at a cost of 4s.6d first and 3s.0d second class.