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Liskeard and Looe Union Canal

An isolated canal built at the end of the ‘canal age’, but built on time and to budget, and successful whilst it lasted.  It was overtook by a railway built by the canal’s owners, but there are remains still to be seen today.

Facts & Stats


The year that traffic ceased on the canal


There were 24 locks on the canal

6 miles

The length of the canal.

Things to do nearby


The idea of the canal to carry sand and lime inland from Looe was first mooted in 1777 but it was not until 1823 that the engineer James Green (who designed the Bude Canal) reported on a canal with inclined planes to overcome the gradients of the East Looe Valley.

Green’s plan was thought by the local backers to be too complicated and so a new survey was carried out, by John Edgcumbe, Robert Coad and Thomas Esterbrook. The Act for the canal’s construction was passed in 1825. the waterway was to be 5 7/8 miles long and 4ft deep, with 24 locks measuring 50ft by
10ft and a larger lock (57ft by 13ft 6in) at Terras Pill, giving a total rise of 156ft.

The canal was opened throughout in March 1828 and, unusually for canals, cost little more to build than estimated and then regularly made profits.

By 1856, output from the Caradon copper mines had increased to the extent that the canal was working at capacity, carrying 48,000 tons (mostly coal, copper ore, limestone and granite). To avoid losing trade, the canal company proposed to build a railway (intended to supplement rather than replace the canal) from Moorswater to Looe. Work on the line started in 1858 and was completed at the end of 1860.

The canal above Sandplace became disused soon after the opening of the railway but small boatloads continued to be carried on the lower section until about 1910.

Waterway Notes

Guide to the Liskeard and Looe Union Canal

Tile Photo Credit

Tile photo courtesy David Stowell CC BY-SA 2.0

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