The Lancaster Canal was part of a defensive Stop Line during the Second World War. In the expectation of an invasion, most likelly off the west coast with its long flat beaches, provisions were made to repel the enemy. This comprised of the canal itself being the main way of stopping the enemy with various obstacles including Anti Tank blocks, Anti Tank ditches, pillboxes and gun emplacements. If you know where to look some of these defences can still be seen today.
The Glasson Branch, Lancaster Canal.
RIGHT: A Field Gun Emplacement on the western side of the canal. It has several openings/embrasures on three sides, its south-western side is completely open. Presumably to allow a large field gun to be put inside and removed as necessary. There is a side opening visible with a blast wall for protection. The grass on the roof was camouflage. (Photo courtesy of John Davies)
BELOW: Bailey Bridge No.5 is North of the field gun emplacement and has a number of obstacles on its eastern side (according to the Defence of Britain survey there may have neen a pillbox, now removed, on the other side of the bridge). These obstacles include two huge Anti Tank blocks (See BELOW RIGHT), a smaller regular Anti Tank cylinder (visible to the left of the photo (BELOW LEFT), and metal loops in the top of the concrete blocks to take steel cables that would have been stretched across the bridge to slow down the enemy.
According to the Canal & River Trust there are "12 inch sockets sunk into the ground, across its north exit, where lengths of telegraph pole could be inserted to obstruct enemy movement". These are better seen on the close up photo (BELOW) where a patch of concrete can be seen in front of the defenses and two round holes are just about visible within the concrete. The Canal & River Trust also state: "The parapets of these masonry arch bridges, were removed and replaced by metal rails supported by reinforced concrete posts so as to deny enemy combatants shelter whilst they negotiated the obstruction created by the steel cables". These newer metal rails can also be seen below. Some John Rennie and William Crosley designed briges on the Glasson Branch and main canal, saw this level of change.
BELOW: South of Bailey Bridge No. 5 is the aforementioned Field Gun Emplacement, between bridges 3 & 4, it can be seen with its open south-western facing side. To the right of the photo is another large Anti Tank block.
These photos of this section of the Glasson Branch were all provided to us by John Davies - our huge thanks again to John for sending them to us.
Our thanks to John Davies for providing many of the photographs on this page. Thanks John, you inspired us to visit this great canal for ourselves.
The following page gave us much of the information used on this page: Defending a nation - Lancashire's canals at war.
Also, a very valuable resource was Nick's Canal Route Planner — CanalPlanAC. Especially these pages:
Several defensive features are repeated throughout the area and can easily be confused due to their similarity. There are several bridges that have had the parapets removed and replaced with reinforced concrete blocks and metal poles, as seen on Bailey Bridge No.5 above (designed by by William Crosley). Thurnham Bridge No.6 (the next bridge north) also has had the same done to it, See photo BELOW LEFT (courtesy of Photo © Chris Heaton (cc-by-sa/2.0)
The Field Gun Emplacement seen ABOVE RIGHT is at the end of a line of small trees south east of Thurnham. It has a "twin" on the main Lancaster canal. This one is open fronted west facing, in this case facing the canal itself. Between Ford Green and Cabus, it is further south than its twin. See BELOW LEFT & RIGHT (photos courtesy of John Davies)
Nateby Hall defences
The southernmost surviving defensive structures on the Lancaster Canal are a set of extremely impressive and substantial Anti Tank blocks/cubes. They could quite easily be in a modern sculpture park such is their design, layout and imposing nature. They are on the western bank of the canal just south of Nateby Hall.
RIGHT & BELOW: There are eight in total. One is on the towpath partly obscured by the hedge. Then there are a row of six. In the dip where there is a small stream, there are rail tracks driven vertically into the ground and then after that there is a sole remaining cube. Beyond this there would have been a series of Anti Tank ditches (now filled in) running south all the way to the Inskip defences (further field gun emplacements and ditches).
ABOVE: A new use for train tracks - the rails have been inserted vertically in pairs to create an Anti Tank barrier.
BELOW: The canalside block is partly covered by the hedge and undergrowth and has been damaged.
The main Lancaster Canal also has its quota of surviving Second World War defences. Such as the Field Gun emplacement (ABOVE & ABOVE RIGHT), modified bridges and several Anti Tank blocks/cubes.
If you walk from Bridge No. 76 to No. 71 (SEE EACH ONE BELOW - CLICK TO ENLARGE), you will notice that each one has been adapted as described earlier on this page - their parapets removed and new railings and concrete posts added. These were WW2 adaptations to prevent the enemy having cover on the bridges.
Bridges No. 72, No. 74 and No. 76 each still have a pair of large concrete Anti Tank blocks/cubes in place.
Bridge No. 76 on the Lancaster Canal has a rare relic from WW2, it has the original steel cable that would have been used to slow down the enemy on these bridges. Many of the bridges still have the steel loops that the cable would have gone through in both the newer concrete parapet pieces (they each had two of these loops - one on top and one on the side) and the concrete Anti Tank blocks.
But this bridge still has the cable iself looped through one of the loops and dangling down for a few meters below. See photos RIGHT & BELOW RIGHT.
BELOW LEFT: On the eastern side of the bridge remain two Anti Tank blocks / cubes to prevent access. Seen here back from the bridge and either side of the gate.
BELOW LEFT: Bridge No. 74 has two large Anti Tank blocks/cubes on its eastern side - the one to the right of the photograph is hard to spot in the hedge but it is there.
BELOW RIGHT: Bridge No. 72 has two large Anti Tank blocks/cubes on its eastern side - the one to the right of the photograph is near impossible to spot in the hedge but it is there. It is just incredibly hard to photograph even in winter.
Bridges No.s 72, 73, 74, 75 & 76 all have a large concrete block incorporated into the new parapet design. Many of these have the steel rings still in situ on top and some have them on their outer side as well. These were for the steel cables to thread through. In the example BELOW (Bridge No. 72) you can see the size of this large concrete block compared to the huge Anti Tank block / cube behind which also has a steel loop on top.
BELOW LEFT & RIGHT: On Bridge No. 74 is this feature - Does anyone know what it might be?
Is it simply an inspection point for a buried pipe or is it a WW2 remnant?
The Lancaster Canal - adapted as a Stop Line during the Second World War