The improvement and extension of river navigation constituted the most important development in inland transport during the period 1600–1750. Each work of improvement necessitated a private act of Parliament, but the petition for a bill — the first step in obtaining such an act — was invariably the signal for counter-petitioning and other forms of obstructive activities by those whose economic interests were likely to be threatened by the new navigation. In some cases this opposition succeeded in preventing the initiation of useful projects, but most commonly its success was limited merely to delaying the passage of an act. The following letters illustrate the methods of such oppositions. The river Weaver connected the salt ‘wiches’ of Cheshire with the navigable lower stretch of the Mersey, and the discovery of rock salt at Marbury, near Northwich, in 1670 enormously increased the advantages to be obtained from rendering it navigable — coal from south Lancashire could, as a result, be brought cheaply to the salt refineries, and the manufactured salt be carried easily, via Frodsham, to Liverpool. Several projects to improve the navigation of the Weaver in the late seventeenth century had come to nothing, and a more determined attempt in 1699 was also frustrated by the opposition of the local landowners who drafted the first of the two letters reproduced below.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.