The Sankey Canal (also known as the St. Helens Canal) was constructed in 1755 to carry coal for use in the growing chemical industry that was springing up in the Mersey Basin.Its opening accelerated expansion of the chemical industry and this developed along the line of the canal from Widnes, through Newton-le-Willows and Earlestown and then on to St Helens.Following its opening for trade, the Sankey Canal was an immediate commercial success and its opening was soon followed by that of the nearby Bridgewater Canal in 1761, which ushered in the era of Canal Mania, (between 1789 and 1796).The closure of the canal in 1963 was largely due to the ending of the sugar traffic in 1959, which was raw sugar from Liverpool carried to the Sankey Sugar Works at Earlestown.Unlike most of the country’s other canals which are the responsibility of The Canal And River Trust (formerly British Waterways), the Sankey is the responsibility of the three local authorities through which it passes, St Helens, Warrington and Halton.The Sankey Canal Restoration Society (SCARS) was formed in 1985. The principal aim of the Society is to achieve the full restoration of the Canal.
Check out the SCARS website – HERE!A staircase lock was built on the Sankey Canal (known as the Old Double Lock) and a second staircase was built later when the Ravenhead Branch was constructed in 1775, imaginatively named, the New Double Lock. The latter was restored by St Helens Borough Council in 1992.
Today there are marinas with boats moored along short stretches of the canal at Spike Island, Widnes and Fiddler’s Ferry, Warrington.Between the canal and the River Mersey is the Widnes Warth Nature Reserve, with its saltmarsh and mudflats which attracts wildlife, particularly migrating wading birds, with reed buntings and summer migrant warblers in the reed beds. There is a walkway constructed over a portion of the saltmarsh and two viewing screens with several illustrated noticeboards giving the history of the area and descriptions of the wildlife.