Gathurst, as can be deduced from the name, is an old settlement. The name is Old English and probably means “wood where goats are kept”. Hyrst = wood.
These are the Dean Locks on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal near Gathurst. The waterway between here and Liverpool was opened in 1774 and was largely used to carry coal from the Wigan coal field to the city. The construction of two locks side by side indicate that there was once a great deal of traffic on this section of the canal. There was another lock – situated just past the keeper’s house. It was used to transfer boats to the nearby Douglas Navigation and on to the centre of Wigan. The canal itself wasn’t extended to the town until 1881. As the main cargo was coal, the boats were not the traditional “narrow boats” we associate with canals, but were much wider. The canal and locks, therefore, are about twice the usual width.
Only the lock nearest the tow path is now in use.
The far lock is unusable and has fallen into disrepair. It is also choked with a pervasive green weed.
These grooves on the road bridge have been gouged out by ropes which were harnessed to the horses which drew the boats along the canal.
The River Douglas, affectionately known as “The Dougie”, is now a calm and peaceful river. This has not always been so. In the first half of the 18th century it was made navigable by the building of locks along its course. From 1742 to the mid 1780s it was a busy thoroughfare mostly used to carry coal to the River Ribble from where it was transported farther afield.
This picture shows a weir which was used to control the flow of water between the canal and the navigation.
Gathurst station is on the Manchester to Southport line, which opened in the 1850s.
This bridge crosses the B5206 near Gathurst Station. A close look shows a small archway where an old colliery railway line passed through on its way to the canal. This was owned by a business man named Hustler. The arch doesn’t look tall enough to allow a railway engine and trucks to pass under, but the level of the pavement under the arch has been gradually raised over the many intervening years.
This building has become derelict. Its last use was as an Indian restaurant called “Baby Elephant”. However, it was originally built as an inn to serve the people who used the canal. Consequently it was called “The Navigation Inn”. “Navigation” is an alternative word for “canal”.