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Impact of the Transport Revolution

In: Historical Events

Submitted By ro5sh923
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End of Unit Assessment Task 2: The Development of Transport in Britain
The growth of the Industrial Revolution depended on the ability to transport raw materials and finished goods over long distances. The changes came in several stages. First, roads were built, then canals were built, and finally the railway was developed. Each change had an impact upon life in the growing country, each shortened travel times over longer distances and each enabled industrialists to seek new markets in previously out of reach areas of the country. Likewise, they enabled more raw materials and goods to be shipped to and from factories, providing further impetus to the industrial age.
For longer than people could remember, roads were nothing more than dirt tracks that turned to mud in the summer and rock hard in the winter. Either way, movement along these tracks was difficult and at certain times of the year, practically impossible. It became a law that every parish had to look after the ‘roads’ that ran in it. Men were meant to work for 6 days each year to clean and repair them. However, very few villagers travelled on roads, therefore workers weren’t particularly interested in maintaining the roads as it seemed to offer them no benefits. In 1663, parliament passed what was known as The Turnpike Act. This was originally only used in 3 counties, to see if it worked. This allowed magistrate to charge people for using these roads and the money raised was spent on properly maintaining the roads. The success of this meant that this system spread throughout the entire country.
Private companies called Turnpike Trusts were soon established, the first one created in 1706. These private companies adopted similar methods to the government, in which they also charged people for using the roads and split the money between profits and maintaining the roads. However many people objected to paying the toll, so many would attempt jumping the gate to avoid the cost. To stop this, spikes were put on top of the gates. In some parts of the country, the toll gates were so unpopular, that they were destroyed. Parliament passed a law that meant execution for anyone who was caught destroying a turnpike.
Both Thomas Telford and John McAdam were credited with improving the roads in Britain. Telford believed in building roads that would last and needed little repair. His roads cost a lot of money and they took a long time to build - but they lasted. McAdam's roads were cheaper as they were not as 'fussy' as Telford's. McAdam's were hard wearing and he believed that the weight of the traffic using his roads would press down the road and make it stronger. As his roads were cheaper, they were more in demand by the turnpike trusts.
The new manufacturing class – those who needed an improved transport system to move their finished products from town to town, and were on the whole pleased as they had most to gain. However the cost of living increased pleasing the wealthier and making the poorer suffer.
The Industrial Revolution was creating huge amounts of heavy produce which had to be moved. Roads simply could not handle such weights and the vehicles needed to move this produce did not exist. The answer to moving heavy objects large distance was canals. Canals were man-made rivers which were deep enough to cope with barges which were capable of moving nearly forty tonnes of weight.
The person most associated with early canals was the Duke of Bridgewater. He owned coal mines in Lancashire but he needed to get the coal to the big market of Manchester which was nearly six miles away. The duke gave the task of designing and building the canal to James Brindley - an engineer who at this time had never built a canal before. As such, the duke was taking a great risk and he even had to borrow £25,000 to pay for the project. It took two years to build the canal which was completed in 1761. The canal had a series of tunnels which were linked directly to the coal mines. But its most famous section was the Barton Aqueduct which took the canal over the River Irwin. The canal was a huge success as it made the duke a lot of money. Other people saw the success of the Bridgewater Canal and decided to do likewise thus opening up Britain even more with a series of canals that linked the major industrial centres of Britain.

Canals could make those who invested in them vast sums of money. In the 1790's so-called "canal mania" took place when people invested their money into practically every canal project. Canals were very good at moving fragile goods such as pottery and also heavy goods such as coal. By 1840, there were nearly 4,500 miles of canals in Britain. The great age of the canal did not last long however. They were too slow to transport mail (fast mail coaches could carry light items quicker) and the canals would freeze up in the winter and dry out in the summer. There wasn’t really any passenger service on the canals so by the 1830s; inventors had come up with a new form of transport. Britain was entering the age of the railways.
Railways ultimately meant the end for canals and coaches. Railways were to transform Britain in the nineteenth century. Wagons pulled along on tracks had existed for some while, but these wagons had been pulled by horses. Advances in railways took place throughout the nineteenth century but there are a number of key dates in the history of railways, one major one being the invention of the steam engine through James Watt and Matthew Boulton. The invention of these 2 men went on to arguably change history.
The entire Industrial Revolution was altered because of these accomplishments. Factories flourished because the demand for railroad parts and railroad tracks was very high. Thousands of people were employed in these factories and the lives of those people improved drastically. The railroad also let people from the country move into the city, which helped provide a work force for the factories. This helped big business even more.
The railroad also helped some industries such as the coal industry. Before, coal had to be mined, brought to the surface, and transported all by hand. Once railroads became popular, however, it became easier to move mined coal more quickly. The railroad also helped other industries, including the coal industry, by purchasing from them. The lumber and steel industries grew larger due to the supplies needed to build railroads.
The railroad helped people as well. Railroads could deliver supplies quickly and fairly cheaply. This was crucial for some towns in more rural areas, because it meant they could get any goods they needed. The railroad also made new jobs for people. Because of its popularity, railroads needed workers to build more tracks, engines, and to fill other jobs. Other industries also needed more workers due to the growing demand of supplies needed for railroads, which produced even more jobs.
To conclude, I strongly feel that change in transport throughout Britain was by far the most significant during the Industrial Revolution. This is because it thoroughly changed the way in which Britain went about transporting raw materials and finished goods over long distances, which had a huge impact on the industrialization of towns. Generally, the change in transport completely changed the lives of thousands, making Britain a leading commercial power in the world.

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