Carlisle Canal Water Supply

The basin of the Carlisle Canal, off Port Road, was supplied by water from a reservoir at Ratlingate, before reaching the first lock near Monkhill.


Soon after the canal was opened (in 1823)  it became obvious, due to increasing trade, that in dry weather it might not be possible to keep the basin full. Every time Monkhill lock was opened, water was lost from the upper level. In 1824 it was decided to cut a water leat from Donald’s Mill on the Caldew through to a waterwheel built near the River Eden.

This would lift water from the Eden into the canal. Completed in July 1825 the wheel could lift a million gallons every 24 hours. It became known as ‘The Bone Mill’ because, when not lifting water, it was used to grind animal bones for fertiliser.

However, by 1834, it was replaced by a second larger wheel as water supply was still a problem in times of drought and, with age, the canal leaked more. Even this was not enough and in 1839 the Canal Company purchased a Cornish, High Pressure, expansive condensing steam engine, with a 60” cylinder.

This engine, working at 12 strokes, could raise 6,624 gallons per minute and the water supply problem was finally solved. Much more detail on this topic and the history of Carlisle’s Canal is to be found in my book ‘The Carlisle Ship Canal’ available on my website https//www., at Bookends, Tullie House and other outlets.

David Ramshaw
Author: David Ramshaw

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