Canal received Royal Assent on 23rd March 1759, and was to be the forerunner
of all modern canals. It was to follow a route which would be independent
of all other watercourses.
Francis Egerton, the 3rd Duke
of Bridgewater conceived the idea as a way to move coal from his mines
in Worsley into Manchester - a way he believed would be quicker and
cheaper. In the event he spent over £20 million on its construction,
and only raised £8 million in revenue.
were to be James Brindley, who
later built the Trent & Mersey Canal,
and by John Gilbert. Originally there were some 40 miles of underground
canals running deep into the mines, some on different levels and linked
by ingenious incline planes.
the Bridgewater, Barton Swing Aqueduct, the Old Packet House, Worsley
& Francis Egerton, Third Duke of Bridgewater.
This whole system
was fully operational until the late nineteenth century. In 1762, Egerton
obtained consent to extend his canal to Runcorn and to join it to the
Trent and Mersey Canal at Preston Brook. The route between Liverpool
and Manchester was opened in 1776, though Brindley died before it was
completed. Finally, in 1795 the line was linked with the Leeds
& Liverpool Canal at Leigh.
knownlater as "the Canal Duke", lost a fortune in his
investment, he finally began to recoup his money in ripe old age, to
die, happily, a rich man again. The canal was purchased for £1,120,000
in 1872 by the newly formed Bridgewater Navigation Company, and they
in turn sold it to the Manchester Ship Canal Company in 1885
View Bridgewater Canal & Old Packet House, Worsley. Aerial
Photo Courtesy of www.webbaviation.co.uk © 2005.
The building of
the Manchester Ship Canal
necessitated the removal of Brindley's stone aqueduct over the River
Irwell, and its replacement by the present Barton Swing Aqueduct.
This is a
steel trough enclosed by gates at both ends, and pivoted on an island
in the Ship Canal, about which it rotates to allow ships passage on
the Ship Canal beneath. The weight of water carried by the aqueduct
amounts to 1500 tons.
canal continued to carry working traffic until 1974, for its branches
pass through the heart of Trafford Park, Manchester's huge industrial
estate, where large companies, such as Kelloggs and Courtaulds, still
By the time
that trade ceased on the canal, it was carrying 10,000 tons of American
grain a year into Trafford Park .
As the canal
approaches Manchester, there are close-up views of the Ship Canal and
of Salford Quays, as well as a circuit of Manchester United's Old Trafford
Football Stadium, before arriving at Castlefield Basin, and the end
of the Bridgewater Canal. Today, as with most inland waterways, its
only business is in pleasure craft.