Life on the Canal: The Rise and Fall of Victorian Canals

Teachers' notes, activities and linked resources

This resource explores the role of the canal in Victorian working life. It also looks at the Inclined Plane Boat Lift at Foxton, a work of engineering designed to solve the problem of raising or lowering boats on a steep gradient.


Curriculum links

KS2 Design technology - Homes and Structures

KS2 History - The Victorians - Transport

KS3 History - Industrial Change 1750-1900

Learning objectives

Knowledge of why canals were built and changes in their use 
Understanding of the design of canals and the reasons why freight carrying declined in the 19th and 20th centuries
Skills to examine why canal transport may represent a sustainable option for freight transport in the 21st century 

Discussion ideas:

  • Examine the sources in the Image Gallery.
    - What do you think it would have been like to live on a narrowboat like the one pictured?
    - Using the information on this page and the sources, write a list of all the jobs that might need doing on the boat on a daily basis.

  • Compare the narrowboat with your own home. What are the main differences and similarities? Make a list and compare sanitation, daily life, duties and chores, living space.

  • We often hear the term 'horsepower' used to describe how powerful an engine is today. Where do you think the term came from?

  • What other transport systems can you think of, where pulley systems are used?

  • What is a  feat of engineering? Can you think of an example?

Activity ideas: 

  • Research: Find out who uses canals today, and what for? Are they still used in the same ways, or for different reasons?

  • Find out more about locks and boat lifts, using the links at the bottom of this page. Write a list of the pros and cons for both locks and boat lifts.

  •  Think about the landscape that a canal had to travel through. Can you think of any other features of canals that we would today call a  feat of engineering?

  • Imagine you are living in the Victorian times. Write a newspaper report on the opening of the Inclined Plane Boat Lift, focusing on the impact it will have on the efficiency of the canal. You could also incorporate images from the opening of the Inclined Plane Boat Lift in your report.

View other relevant My Learning resources or scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.


Document icon Learning article provided by: Foxton Canal Museum | 
This content is licensed under Creative Commons BY NC SA

Accessibility Statement | Terms of Use | Site Map

Copyright © My Learning 2018. All Rights Reserved

Website by: Grapple