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Lune Aqueduct
River Lune, Lancaster, Lancashire, UK
Lune Aqueduct
associated engineer
John Rennie snr
date  January 1794 - 1796, opened 22nd November 1797
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Aqueduct  |  reference  SD483639
ICE reference number  HEW 187
photo  © Paul Harrup and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Architecturally, the outstanding aqueduct of north-west England and the largest masonry aqueduct in Britain. Often hailed as Rennie’s finest work, it carries the Lancaster Canal over the River Lune on five arches. The piers were constructed using pozzolanic cement, enabling the mortar to set under water. Now Grade I listed, the aqueduct was repaired in the 2010s and remains in water for leisure use.
John Rennie (1761-1821) designed the aqueduct and Lancaster Canal, a fine example of 'contour' canal construction following the lie of the land. The canal meanders over the plain known as The Fylde, between Preston and Lancaster, on its north-south route from Kendal in Cumbria to Westhoughton in Lancashire.
The Lune Aqueduct is classical in style and monumental in scale. It features rusticated and ashlar sandstone masonry, curved wingwalls, substantial projecting cornices and partly-balustraded parapets. The structure is 202.4m long and 18.6m high, with five semicircular masonry arches, each of 21.3m span, supporting a 6.1m wide trough.
Foundation construction commenced in January 1794. Cofferdams were erected, and steam engines used to pump out the excavations. The piers are founded on piles made of imported Russian timber driven into the river bed.
For the pier bases, volcanic pozzolana powder was brought from Italy and mixed with lime in the mortar, which enabled it to set under water. The direct labour force worked double shifts and night shifts to complete the foundations before the winter of 1794-5 brought its floodwaters.
Above their bases, the rubble-cored piers are of stone strengthened with iron bars. The arches were formed on timber centring. They are separated by panelled buttresses above triangular cutwaters. The otherwise solid parapets include three bays of balustrading over each arch.
The aqueduct trough was lined with 915mm of puddled clay to make the superstructure watertight. The canal runs between towpaths in a semicircular masonry channel, with side walls 457mm thick and base 305mm thick, inside the clay layer. The bottom of the channel is 2.3m below towpath level. Perhaps with future repairs in mind, it was constructed with a plug to allow the aqueduct to be drained into the river below.
Resident engineer for the aqueduct and canal, Archibald Millar, received a salary of £600 plus expenses a year. The stonemasons were paid 12 shillings (60p) a week. The contractor, Alexander Stevens (c1730-96), died before the aqueduct was finished and the work was completed by his son Alexander Stevens junior. On 22nd November 1797, the aqueduct opened along with the stretch of canal between Preston and Tewitfield.
The structure bears two inscriptions. On the west elevation, the keystone of the central arch is carved to represent Lancaster Castle's Gateway Tower and includes the Latin inscription, "QUAE DEERANT ADEUNT: SOCIANTUR DISSITA: MERCES FLUMINA CONVENIUNT ARTE DATURA NOVAS" (Old needs are served, far distant sites combined. Rivers by art to bring new wealth are joined). On the opposite side, the east elevation is inscribed "TO PUBLIC PROSPERITY".
The total cost was £48,321 — more than twice the original estimate of £18,619. The canal company was alomost bankrupted and plans for a larger aqueduct over the River Ribble and a long flight of locks were abandoned. A tramway (SD535293 to SD582245) was constructed instead.
In December 1953, the Lune Aqueduct was Grade I listed.
In February 2009, work was underway to repair leaks at the south east end of the aqueduct, where the Lancaster Canal passes over an embankment. The trough was lined with concrete here.
Between January 2011 and March 2012, extensive renovation works were carried out to restore the canal channel, repair and repoint masonry, repair balusters, remove graffiti and improve public access. A reinforced concrete lining was installed at the north west end of the aqueduct. The £2.4m project was funded by British Waterways, Lancaster Canal Trust, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In June and July 2015, a 730m section of the canal was isolated after the aqueduct began leaking. Temporary dams were erected, and the aqueduct drained — the fish were relocated to another part of the canal. Several holes discovered in the canal bed were repaired by installing a trench liner and laying clay (420 tonnes in total) over the rifts and sealing the new work to the existing lining with bentonite grout.
Resident engineer: Archibald Millar
Contractor: Alexander Stevens & Son
Foundations: direct labour
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH NorthBDCE1

Lune Aqueduct