Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Manchester Canal

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines the last 200 years or so of the inland waterways. With particular interest in the issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 

South Australian Register
Wednesday 23 May 1894

London. May 22.

The great ceremony in connection with the formal opening of the Manchester Canal has been performed by Her Majesty the Queen. The city was gorgeously decorated and illuminated in honour of the unusual event. The Queen met with a most enthusiastic reception. Two million spectators lined eight miles of street, and as Her Majesty passed along the cheers were deafening. The Queen has conferred the honour of Knighthoods upon the Right Hon. Anthony Marshall, the Lord Mayor of the City of Manchester, and Mr. Alderman William Henry Bailey, Mayor of Salford.
The public opening of the canal which cements the great manufacturing city of Manchester with the sea took place on January 1, but the ceremonial opening was postponed till after Easter to allow of the Queen being present, and in order to assure fine weather for the keeping of high holiday. The length of the Ship Canal is thirty-five and a half miles. Its entrance from the tideway is at Eatham, six miles above Liverpool. The capital account of the Company now stands at £15,000,000. 
Referring to the opening day the Daily News wrote: ''Manchester has sprung at one bound into the position of a port, and no shipping notice seems complete which does not promise uninterrupted communication between the most distant cotton fields on the face of the globe and the cotton-mills. Liverpool levied it heavy rate for the right of entry of which, till yesterday, it enjoyed an absolute monopoly, and bowed no disposition to compromise or arrange. The scheme of the canal was forced upon Manchester in self-defence, and from the first it was met with the most determined opposition of the threatened Port."
The most telling demonstration will now be found in the history of this canal. Such a history would afford a wonderful example of the growth of a great scheme. As the canal now stands those who at first planned it would recognise but few features of the original design. It was at first to be a tidal waterway, running without a change of level from the sea to the inland city. That idea had to be abandoned at Manchester as at Panama. Manchester is on a hill as compared with Liverpool, and the sea water would finally have found its own level at the bottom of a deep gully made with hands. 
Then came the plan of a canal with locks, now carried out. This would have been a vast enterprise if there had been no difficulties but those of nature to overcome. But adapted, as it had to be, to the claims of a thousand competing interests, it became bewildering, alike in its magnitude and its complexity of detail. The canal dodges in and out to find a way through a perfect network of vested interests. Sometimes it leaves them to the right, and sometimes to the left, and where neither course is practicable it boldly makes a dive for it, and comes up on the other side of the obstacle. It has not dared to enter, even the estuary, by a short cut. All this has consumed time as well as money, the feat of to-day is some two years late in making its appearance. As for the money, well, there was a time when sanguine people talked of a million or two as the total cost. Even in 1835, when the scheme had so far matured as to secure Parliamentary sanction, the outlay was estimated at but five millions and three-quarters all told. Fifteen millions is the full amount of the bill.

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