Canals - The Making of a Nation


Series 1 - Episode 1 Engineering



We love canals. BBC4’s Canal Trip earlier this year was a surprise hit, particularly with RT readers, who adored its two enchanting hours of nothing but one single canal journey.

To learn more about how canals were actually built we must turn to the splendid Liz McIvor, curator of social history and technology at the Bradford Museums and Galleries, and a canal expert.

With an admirable lack of bombast – unlike most male presenters, she doesn’t stand majestically on a hilltop as the camera swoops around her like an eagle – McIvor takes us through the construction of the Leeds-Liverpool canal that linked the industrial powerhouses of Yorkshire and Lancashire and sparked the Industrial Revolution.

Of course it had to face the topographical challenge of the rugged Pennines: “To build a canal here would take imagination and brute strength.” It also took mighty engineering brains, including those of James Brindley and Thomas Telford.


Liz McIvor tells the story of the early canal builders who struggled with the rugged terrain of England's Pennine hills. Creating a network of canals in this landscape was an major challenge, but connecting the powerhouses of Yorkshire and Lancashire was a great incentive at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Liz considers the strategic considerations and implications of this massive engineering project.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Liz McIvor
Director Paul Craven
Executive Producer Tony Parker
Producer Paul Craven