Wednesday 28 May 2014

Manchester Ship 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. Covering the last 200 years or so of life on the inland waterways. With particular interest in the major 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. 

Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser
9th September 1949

Manchester Ship Canal

Where in the world besides Manchester is there a great port 35 miles inland, in the heart of a densely populated industrial district? Within a radius of 50 miles of this big northern city there is now a population of more than 10 million and it was the need for an outlet for the produce of the area that led to the building of the Manchester Ship Canal, an inland waterway which links Manchester with the sea.

It is a romantic story of the vision of those Manchester men who, under the leadership of Daniel Adamson, head of a great Manchester engineering firm, met in 1882 and formed a committee to draw up plans for the building of a canal which would allow ocean liners to sail from Liverpool up to Manchester and so expand England's overseas trade. There was opposition before Parliament's approval was finally obtained, but when the Royal assent was given the money was soon subscribed and work began in 1887.

The canal was opened on January 1, 1894, and on that memorable New Year's Day, 71 vessels sailed up the Canal and into the new docks. It took 16,000 men seven years to build the Canal and 76,000,000 tons of earth were displaced in the process. The cost was £15,000,000, but improvements and additions are still being made to the well-equipped modern docks. Many a B.B.C. broadcast has come from this great waterway, from a feature programme dealing with the making of the Canal to eyewitness accounts of the arrival and departure of famous ships and interviews with the men who sail in them.

One of the most spectacular and individual aspects of the Manchester Ship Canal is the Barton Aqueduct, by which barges sail over the Canal. This aqueduct is the successor to the Bridgewater Canal built in the 18th century to take the Duke of Bridgewaters barges from Worsley to Runcorn. The first aqueduct spanned the Irwell, Manchester's river which was deepened to form part of the Canal. The new aqueduct is a swing bridge with a system of gates to shut off the water. It revolves on a central pier in midstream and swings aside to allow passage for big ships. The huge trough of water faces downstream while the liners pass through on their way to Manchester; it then swings back and the barges continue on their way across.

Along the Canal banks are grain elevators, oil storage tanks and every kind of warehouse, many of them built on the Trafford Park site. Fifty years ago this was unspoilt meadow and woodland, where deer and rabbits fed; now more than 200 firms have their business premises there. Liners of 15,000 tons dead weight and ships of all types come up this romantic Canal bringing food, cotton and other raw materials from every corner of the globe and taking back machinery, finished cotton and woollen goods and the many products from the hinterland of Manchester. Manchester is the centre of Northern England's trade, connected by rail and road with every important industrial area in Britain, and the Ship Canal is the centre of Manchester.

This industrialised landscape alongside the Manchester ship canal has changed greatly since the article was written in 1949. In the intervening years many exporting manufacturing businesses have now gone or moved production to the far east. The import of cotton and cotton goods has been overtaken by man made synthetic products. The canal still has traffic but now greatly reduced in volume.

Ship AIS can give a feel for the amount of traffic using the canal. Compare the Mersea Docks with Trafford Park to see what vessels are on the move or moored in the docks.

1 comment:

  1. Although it is reduced and probably never return to what it was. Port Salford is being built by 2016 and it has increased activity up to Trafford Park and Eccles in the last few year with Arklow vessels and Coastal Deniz to Irlam 4 or 5 times a week.Steam tug 'Kerne' and HMS Biter have also travelled up to Salford Quays in the last few months.I monitor activity through Irlam Locks on facebook page 'Irlam and Cadishead Community now and then'


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