WITHOUT transport, most manufacturing work would be a wasted effort. The fast, cheap movement of finished goods from factory to customer was just as important in the early days of the revolution as it is today.

In 18th-century Britain, movement of either man or material was never easy. We may grumble about traffic gridlock and curse 4x4 drivers on the school run, but in those days they really had it tough. Cart-track roads turned into morasses in winter and river transport was governed by the weather - as well as being at the mercy of any miller who demanded water rights.

So any manufactured goods tended to be sold locally.

Although there were profits to be made from seeking wider markets, the risks involved could be horrendous.

Improvements were needed desperately, but they came only gradually. Eventually, rivers were widened and deepened, roads were metalled. And the first great advance came with the arrival of the canal age, which produced a complex network linking the manufacturing districts with each other and with London and the chief ports.

Canals were the way to travel for half a century until George Stephenson ushered in the era of railways - and suddenly the movement of goods became faster and more efficient. Then, when sail gave way to steam on the high seas, the transport revolution was complete.

2017 | Admiral Nelson | Read about the Industrial Revolution