The Economic and Social Impact

What was the social and economic impact of the canals?

Without adequate transport, urban areas could not expand. Canals cut the price of coal. Food and building materials like stone, sand, lime, and timber became more available. Waste like horse manure could be sent away. This made urbanisation (growth of towns and cities) possible and they expanded.
The canals created jobs - by 1840 around 40,000 people were employed on boats alone. There were also lock keepers, maintenance gangs, clerks, and wharf workers. The industries they served also employed people. The economy began to change from being mainly agricultural to industrial.
Industry was growing in the late 18th century and needed coal, which only the canals could supply at a reasonable price. Coal powered furnaces ovens heating and steam engines. The canals made the industrial revolution possible.
The cost of transporting goods fell dramatically. Costs were around a quarter of the previous cost by road but in many cases goods could be carried which would simply not have been possible before the canals. Manufactured goods like ceramics (pottery) became cheaper and more available.
Canal companies were important in developing technique for raising funds from shareholders and managing companies. There was usually a committee formed to manage the company and a full time paid staff. The lessons learned from this were used in later economic ventures, for example the railways and water supply in the 1830's.
Canals brought prosperity and expansion to places they served. Some places which had been insignificant villages developed into prosperous towns. In London, the little village of Paddington became a busy transport centre.