Leven Canal History
The Leven Canal must surely be unique in that it was built and owned by a woman. Mrs.
Charlotta Bethell was a widow who owned a large area of land in the East Riding of Yorkshire near the River
In the very early days of the 1800's Mrs. Bethell commissioned William Jessop to make a survey and he reported
back with a estimate of £4,041 for a cut which would be almost dead straight heading east from the River Hull
into Leven village, a distance of 3¼ miles.
When the canal opened its cost had well exceeded Jessop's estimate and this meant tolls were quickly increased.
However, this does not appear to have hampered the waterway as it remained in use for over 130 years - a lot
longer than many more famous routes. The canal could take Yorkshire Keels via a tidal lock at its entrance, it
exported local agricultural produce and received coal, lime and building materials. It was a fair success and
remained in the Bethell family throughout its commercial life.
The whole of the Leven Canal is intact though not navigable due to its tidal
locks being replaced by a weir. There is a good footpath along the whole of
this wholly rural route.
The canal is still owned by descendants of Charlotta Bethall
but, sadly, they are not currently able to allow boats onto their
waterway. We found out that the owners have been trying to restore
the canal for over 30 years.
They have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on dredging
operations and although this work has been undertaken, they have been
prevented from putting boats back onto the canal by conservation bodies.
The owners have on-going negotiations with English Nature regarding boating and other
activities that would enable pleasure for many people and although these negotiations are painfully slow due to
the canal and banks forming an SSSI Site, the owners are hopeful of reaching an agreement soon which will see
the return of boats onto the waterway. We wish them well.
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Leven Canal Route
There was only one wharf on the Leven Canal, this was at the eastern end of the line close
to Leven village centre. In 1971 the wharf was still accessible but today it is off limits within the huge
garden of a house.
A footpath runs along the edge of the garden with a high wire fence keeping "researchers" at
bay! The footpath can be found heading west off the main road (A165) on the south side of the substantial New
Inn. This pub can be found a little way south of the main crossroads in the village. Within the large garden is
a small basin which in 1971 was described as "damply muddy", it can now be described as "green and grassy"!
Between the main road and the basin is an elegant house built in the Regency style. This was
occupied by a firm of Solicitors in 1971 but was probably originally built for the canal manager. Its rear
windows overlook the basin (garden).
The basin (in 1971) was cut off from the rest of the canal by a turf bank but there were
still warehouses on each side of the wharf. The one on the south side had already had its upper storey removed
and re-roofed while another was about to have the same done to it. These buildings were apparently built in
1825 but have now either gone or been converted beyond recognition.
To the west of the turf bank the whole 3¼ miles is well watered and has a towpath which can
easily be followed. After about a mile there is a bridge near Little Leven though it is high enough only to
allow passage by canoes or rowing boats. Just before the bridge the canal crosses a dyke on a squat aqueduct.
Close to the bridge there is a caravan site.
Near the west end of the cut is the site of the canal's only lock. This was a double-gated
tidal lock which allowed passage to and from the River Hull. The lock has been converted into a weir,
preserving the water supply which is much used by fishermen.
Past the lock the Leven Canal comes to a T-junction with the River Hull (or Driffield
Navigation). To the north boats can enter the Driffield Canal - most of this route is navigable. To the south
the River Hull flows past Beverley (and the once busy Beverley Beck) to Kingston-Upon-Hull (or Hull city) and
then into the Humber estuary.
Visit the Leven Village web site at http://www.leven-village.co.uk. It contains information about the village, its community
and the surrounding area.
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