Thanks to an interesting display at the Skipton Festival by the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Society on the barge Kennet, I gleaned quite a lot that I didn't know about working life on the canals. Most of the working boats on the Leeds-Liverpool canal were 14' wide barges and not the narrowboats we are used to seeing. They were crewed by two men - a Captain and his Mate - who lived aboard during the time it took for each journey (about a week for the return trip along the whole length of the canal, 127 miles). Their families mostly had permanent homes, many around Burscough in Lancashire. The barge's living quarters, shown above, were tiny but cosy, with a warm stove. They were only used for eating and sleeping as it was important to keep the boat moving.
Interestingly, to illustrate just how hard it was to get agreement (between Lancastrians and Yorkshiremen!) about the building of the canal, the locks from Liverpool to Wigan are longer than those from Wigan to Leeds so that there were long boats (70') and short boats (60'). The barges could carry 40-50 tons and originally they were pulled by horses. Gradually steam engines took over (from 1871) and then diesel - and the last working horse retired in 1961.