Records of the Lagan Navigation and Associated Companies

Records of the Lagan Navigation and associated companies, 1783-1954. Comprising papers relating to the Lagan Navigation, the Ulster Canal, the Tyrone Navigation or Coleraine Canal and the Upper Bann Navigation, these records provide a valuable insight into the development of the inland waterway system in the north of Ireland from the late 18th century onwards.

In terms of the Lagan Navigation, plans for a canal linking the River Lagan and Lough Neagh were first mooted as far back as 1637. It was not until the discovery of coal in Tyrone, however, that these plans were taken forward with the passing of appropriate statutory articles in 1753. Although various setbacks prevented its implementation for some years, the canal was operational by 1794 and was administered initially by the Commissioners of Public Works until the incorporation of the Lagan Navigation Company in 1843. The company was dissolved in 1954 when its assets were taken over by the Ministry of Commerce. Although no records of the canal survive from before 1777, this section of the archive is particularly rich in documentation from 1800 onwards. It comprises minute books from 1809, letter books of the same date, business accounts from 1792-1951, and a large number of 19th and early 20th century maps. Of particular interest are the letter books of James McCleery which run from 1809-52. McCleery was secretary to the Lagan Navigation, the Ulster Canal and the Belfast Charitable Society and his letters include communications with each and contain comments on life in Belfast and in the province more generally.

The remainder of the collection comprises records relating to the Ulster Canal, the Tyrone Navigation or Coleraine Canal and the Upper Bann Navigation, which all eventually came under the control of the Lagan Navigation Company. Although not as extensive as the previous section they do provide a useful compliment. Opened in 1842 the Ulster Canal extended from Charlemont in Co. Armagh to Lough Erne in the west of the province. Extant minutes commence after amalgamation with the Lagan Navigation in 1888, although information concerning the early years of the Ulster Canal can be found in the earlier letter books of the Lagan Navigation. 350 title deeds of the canal also survive, together with some maps dating from 1824-1926.

The Tyrone Navigation or Coalisland Canal, from Coalisland to Lough Neagh, was begun in 1732 and was also taken over by Lagan Navigation in 1888. Its records are limited to a few late title deeds and some maps, 1861-1910. The Upper Bann Navigation was begun in 1847 and completed in 1859 when the canal was handed over to local trustees. Only six minute, account and toll books, 1900-45, and five correspondence files and traffic returns, 1863-1946, pertaining to the company have survived. Finally, the collection also includes the minutes of evidence and appendices, etc., of the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways, 1906-22.


The principal strength of the collection lies in the material it contains relating to history of canals in Ulster from the late-nineteenth century onwards. This is particularly so because it contains records pertaining to a number of navigation companies. Also, the collection contains a wide range of material on other subjects such as railways, charities, education and social mores.

Physical characteristics

c. 1,200 items, 1783-1954, comprising a range of documents, outsize volumes and maps and plans occupying c.105 PRONI boxes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI reference COM/1 for catalogue of the papers which is available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.


Accrual Policy
Accrual Periodicity
Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 25 August 2018