The Lune Aqueduct is often referred to as one of the "wonders of the waterways" and is a masterpiece of civil engineering. It carries the canal 664 feet across the River Lune at a height of 61 feet (53 feet above the normal water level in the river).
It was designed by John Rennie and constructed by Alexander Stevens using traditional bridge building techniques. The structure consists of five semi-circular arches, each spanning seventy feet and amazingly, the supporting piers rest on piles of specially imported Russian timbers driven deep into the bed of the river. Wood, it seems, does not rot when permanently wet.
The piers themselves were of hollow construction, built in stone and strengthened by iron bars. When completed, the hollow centres were filled in with rubble. Huge coffer dams held back the river and the water was pumped out using primitive steam engines. Wooden scaffolding was used to support the structure of wedge shaped stones. These formed the masonry arches until each of the final keystones was in place.
The original stone trough carrying the 20 foot wide canal over the aqueduct still features today . Its curving side walls were 18 inches thick and the bottom was 1 foot deep with 3 feet of puddled clay to make it watertight. Work started in 1791 and was completed in 1797 at a cost of £48,321. It took up to 200 men four years to construct. This amount exceeded the original estimate (of £18,619) to such an extent that a corresponding aqueduct over the River Ribble was never built.
During 2012, The Canals & Rivers Trust (formerly British Waterwyas) invested approximately £1,500,000 on maintenance and repair works to the Grade I listed Lune Aqueduct. Works included:
Installation of a reinforced concrete canal lining to seal leakage at the interface between the aqueduct and the North embankment.
Repairs to the aqueduct’s masonry canal trough to seal leakage structural repairs and replacement of canal bank protection on adjacent embankments.
To compliment these works, The Trust secured £1m additional funding to carry out a series of enhancements to the structure and it’s environment:
Restoring the historic masonry and brickwork;
Improving access between the aqueduct and the River Lune;
Towpath improvements small visitor car park;
Landscaping works to increase the prominence of the aqueduct against the landscape;
Innovative interpretation scheme Educational, training and volunteering activities.
Now that the works are almost complete, the aqueduct has been transformed into an important environmental, heritage and educational resource for local residents, schools and tourists.
Now that you know more about the Lune Aqueduct, book a cruise and come see it for yourself !