The Halsall Navvy

What have all these places got in common?

Leeds, Granary Wharf, Leeds city centre, Armley Pool Kirkstal, Bramley, Rodley Calverley Apperley Bridge, Shipley Saltaire, Bingley, Keighley, Silsden, Kildwick, Skipton, Gargrave, East Marton, Barnoldswick, Salterforth, Foulridge Tunnel, Barrowford, Nelson, Brierfield, Reedley, Burnley, Ightenhill, Gannow Tunnel, Hapton, Clayton-le-Moors, Church, Oswaldtwistle, Rishton, Riley Green, Wheelton, Johnson's Hillock, Chorley, Adlington, Leigh Wigan, Wigan Pier, Appley Bridge, Parbold, Lathom, Rufford, Sollom, Tarleton, Burscough, Scarisbrick, Halsall, Haskayne, Downholland Cross, Lydiate Maghull, Melling, Aintree ,Litherland ,Bootle, Vauxhall, Stanley Dock, Liverpool.

You may have guessed it- they’re on the route taken by the Leeds and Liverpool canal. This is a long, man-made waterway that straddles the Pennines, cutting across northern England east to west. From the great industrial might of Yorkshire‘s Leeds to the maritime prowess of Lancastrian Liverpool, the canal traverses the countryside between, once offering economic bounty to the towns and villages thereby. At Halsall, in west Lancashire, is a sign explaining that it was here that the first sod was cut, in November 1770, by the Honourable Charles Mordaunt of Halsall Hall. I suspect this good gentleman did little other manual work in his life, belonging as he did to the gentry class of landowners. Close by, however, is a stone memorial to the navvies who did all the hard work which made the canal’s construction possible. Thompson Dagnall’s sculpture honours those nameless folk who are so frequently overlooked by the historic record.

Similarly, our church website lists all the ministers since 1816, but not the cleaners, deacons, treasurers, tea-makers, pray-ers and other silent doers of good deeds. Just as British Waterways saw fit to honour those anonymous workers with a statue, so ‘Thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.’ (Matthew 6:4)