Thursday, 25 September 2014

Golden Jubilee Celebrated

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 Chronicle
Saturday 17 February 1894


On December IS last the first steamboat reached Manchester from the sea. On that day a trial trip was made by the directors over the thirty-five and a half miles which comprise the length of the new canal. The formal opening by the Queen will not take place till Easter, but the magnificent waterway is and has been since New Year's Day in use for regular traffic. This great commercial and engineering enterprise — one of the greatest of the age — has been marked by almost as many vicissitudes as the lamentable attempt to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at Panama. Its Parliamentary history was in itself extra ordinary. The enquiry into its feasibility was gone through four times; and no less than £140,000 was expended in getting the Bill through Parliament. It never would have passed at all if it had not been so tenaciously supported by the public spirit of the communities it was intended to serve. The population of Manchester, and of a dozen other towns comprised within an easy radius, believed in it. To them it meant the mitigation of a lot that few communities would envy. They had lined their skies with a perpetual canopy of smoke from forests of tall chimneys, and spoilt their rivers with the refuse from countless manufactures and habitations. ' Let us get closer to the sea,' they said, 'and we will derive some gain from our sacrifices.' For every kind of communication with the outer world Manchester was a mere suburb of Liverpool, and, for a suburb, a very distant one. The Liverpudlians held the pass between the people of the cotton city and the rest of the human race, and they made tho same use of their coign of vantage as the barons of old did of their embattled toll-gates thrown across the world's highways. City, railway, port, and dock vied in extortion, and levied duties to the extent of human forbearance. Many millions of tons of material and of manufactures passed annually to and fro between the port and the industrious region at the back of it, and on every ton Liverpool had its profit. It could not be expected that a population of five and a half millions placed at the mercy of a single port should quietly sit under it. Cannot the sea be brought to Manchester, anxiously asked the millowners and manufacturers of the vast industrial area of which that city is the capital. The late Daniel Adamson, an engineer of great skill, was convinced that it could, and to him was due the conception of the scheme now carried through to comple tion, though his designs have been modified in important directions. The principal difficulties have been financial rather than engineering. 'When originally projected the outside expense was put at £8,500,000, and in that total was included £1,700,000 paid for the Bridgewater canal connecting Manchester with Liverpool, and constructed in the middle of last century by Brindley. Very soon that estimate was foreseen to be much short of requirements, and the company must have failed utterly to carry out the undertaking but for the determination of the corporation of Manchester to come to its assistance That body lent first £3.000,000 and then an additional £2,000,000 of public money. The total capital involved in the enterprise is very little short of £16,000,000 or nearly double the estimated outlay. The canal, to put it another way, has cost over £400,000 a mile. The earning capacities, tune being given, are confidently believed to be such as will yield a large and increasing interest on even this great expenditure.

The original notion of digging, deep enough to have tidal communication all the. way was abandoned in favour of the locking process, which has saved an enormous and perhaps incalculable expense. The canal now consists of an excavated channel stretching inland from the sea to a distance of 35 miles. It leaves the Mersey at Eastham on the Cheshire shore, nearly opposite Liverpool, where the water is deep enough for large vessels' to enter the canal gates at almost any state of the tide. It is 26 ft. deep, the same depth as the Suez Canal, and. 3 ft. deeper than the canal which connects Amsterdam with the North Sea. It is 120 ft in width at bottom, which is 37 ft. wider than the Amsterdam Canal and 48 ft. wider than the Suez Canal. There will therefore, be ample room for the largest ocean steamers to pass each other, and no delays such as those complained of in the Suez Canal will take place. The 60 feet difference of level between Manchester and the tidal waters of the Mersey estuary has been surmounted by four sets of locks, and, including a quarter of an hour in passing each lock, the voyage from Eastham. to Manchester will occupy eight hours. The geographical position of Manchester is the chief feature which gives significance to the canal Manchester is the real centre of the northern manufactures of England, and by means of tbe new waterway has become the nearest port of shipment for the greater portion of the total British exports, not only of textile manufactures but of salt, earthenware, glass, chemical products, and beer.

At numberless points along the 35 miles of its course the canal taps existing systems of, internal communication, and in fact places the whole of the railway and canal system of that part of the kingdom in direct contact with the sea. It brings the cotton ships and the food ships into the very centre of the population which makes use of their cargoes, and close to the manufactories which send their goods all over the world. Tbe saving on imports and exports will be very large. By the new system cotton can be brought to Manchester at a reduction in cost of  8d. per ton, and wool at a reduction of 8d. per ton.

It is; easy to foresee therefore what an impetus the canal will give to the trade of Lancashire. The cost of inland transit makes so large an addition to the price of manufactured goods as in many cases to render competition with foreign makers impossible. Railways formerly carried all before them. It is the turn of the canals to have their day. Great confidence is felt in the success of the Nicaragua Ship Canal, the North Sea and Baltic Canal, the Corinth Canal, and the Amsterdam Canal, while canals have been planned between Toulon and the Bay of Biscay and between Birmingham and Bristol, and there is talk of a ship canal between Dublin Bay and Galway Bay in conjunction with a submarine tunnel between Ulster and the south of Scotland. It is curious how general is the tendency of manufacture to push direct towards the sea.

The Mercury
Wednesday 29 December 1937

Golden Jubilee Celebrated
Cost £15,000,000

The most famous canal in Britain recently celebrated its golden jubilee. The Manchester Ship Canal was begun in 1887, but was not finished until 1893. Its construction, a herculean task, saved Manchester from ruin; yet it was the subject of great opposition. Thirty-five and a half miles in length, the canal ranks fifth longest of the huge ship canals of the world. But in importance it gives pride of place only to the Suez and the Panama. It cost over £15,900,000 to build, half as much as did the Suez Canal, and in length it is over half that of the Panama Canal.

The planning of the canal was the result of heavy rail charges which were steadily ruining Manchester at the time, and it took place al the home of Daniel Adamson in Didsbury in 1872. At a dinner given by the business man it was decided that only the building of a ship canal between Manchester and the sea, and so turning the city into an independent port, could prevent the otherwise inevitable disastrous fall on Manchester.


Three years later Parliamentary consent was granted and endeavours were made to raise the money necessary to carry out the project. This proved difficult, owing to opposition of vested interests; and eventually the only thing that enabled work to be started was the subscribing of a large amount of the initial capital by the working-class people of the area, who were the first to realise the economic salvation which it meant to them.

Almost two thirds of the £100,000 asked for, "Reynolds News" correspondent states, came in amounts of under £10, and of the 39,000 original shareholders, over 30,000 were working or middle class people. Monetary difficulties were not the only ones. Floods and storms ruined bridges, swept away bankings and filled all the excavations with water. It was thought that the scheme would have to be dropped, but the City Corporation came to the rescue and voted £5,000,000.

The greatest technical difficulty was the problem of the Bridgewater Canal, which had to be carried over the new waterway. Naturally, a fixed aqueduct could not be utilised, for the Manchester Canal was planned to take vessels up to 15,000 tons whose super structures and masts would tower far above the normal clearance possible.

The problem was solved by the erection of the Barton Swing Aqueduct, a structure which enables big sea going ships, to pass up to Manchester by huge trough, which can be swung lengthways to the canal, so allowing passage room. The "long arm" canal was completed in 1893, and by means of huge locks ships were lifted 72ft. and taken 35 miles inland to make Manchester a seaport.

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