Interesting places to visit on or near the Bridgewater Canal

15 March 2022

Interesting places to visit on or near the Bridgewater Canal

The Bridgewater Canal has a vast and varied history, and it’s important that we keep it alive for future generations.

Named after its owner, Francis Egerton the third Duke of Bridgewater who built the Canal to transport coal from his mines at Worsley to the industrial areas of Manchester, the Bridgewater Canal was the forerunner of canal networks. Opened on 17th July 1761, the Bridgewater Canal has a special place in history as the first canal in Britain to be built without following an existing watercourse, and so became a model for those that followed it.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best historic attractions you can visit on, or near, the canal.

1. Barton Swing Aqueduct, Eccles, M41 7LG - For the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in the 1890s, Brindley’s stone aqueduct had to be removed as the masonry arches were too small for the passage of large ocean-going ships. The aqueduct was replaced by the Barton Swing Aqueduct which opened on 21 August 1893. 

2. Grocers Warehouse, Manchester City Centre, M3 4LB- The metal waterwheel commemorating the position of Grocers Warehouse (Castlefield Basin) is regarded as the first true canal warehouse; it was the first to be built using internal canal arms with facilities to raise and lower goods between floors.  

3. Worsley Delph, Worsley, M28 2GD – Worsley Delph is a place of huge historic significance with features dating back to the 18th century.  Originally a quarry 300 years before the construction of the canal, records show that the stone removed was used to construct the first bridge at Barton in 1676.  The delph leads to an underground canal system on different levels, which was used to access the 46 miles of tunnels leading to a network of underground mines.  The main tunnels stretch as far north as Farnsworth.  The tunnels were very narrow, so slim boats known as starvationers were used to haul the coal. The boats were so called because of their thin shape and pronounced ‘ribs’. 

4. Worsley Packet House, Worsley, M28 2PB – The Packet House was built in 1760, just before the completion of the Bridgewater Canal. Passenger services along the canal to Manchester started in 1769. Tickets were sold at the Packet House and boats were boarded, by passengers and cattle, at the boat steps in front of the house. 

5. Brindley's Cloverleaf Weir -Potato Wharf, Castlefield, M3 4BD – Off Giant’s Wharf in Castlefield is another wharf known as Potato Wharf (a clue to what was unloaded here).  Half-way along it is an overflow weir that takes excess water from the canal and drains it into the River Medlock (still in its tunnel). This weir was originally known as the Cloverleaf Weir due to its shape. It was originally much larger than today but, over the years, it has been reduced in size to what you can see today. This weir and its companion close to Cornbrook Bridge were the first of Brindley’s Circular Weirs, predating those found on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. 

6. RHS Garden Bridgewater,Worsley, M28 2LJ – RHS Garden Bridgewater may be a new attraction, but it’s steeped in history. Situated on the site of Worsley New Hall, which was built for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere between 1840 and 1845, there was a Gothic Style mansion which was designed by the architect Edward Blore and cost just under £100,000 to build (around £6.7 million today). Just as grand as the house were the magnificent gardens designed by Nesfield which were landscaped over a 50-year period. 

Queen Victoria visited the hall twice in 1851 and 1857.  For her first visit she travelled to the hall via the Bridgewater Canal.  In honour of her visit the canal was dyed blue and the Earl of Ellesmere commissioned a Royal Barge and built a landing stage on the banks. 

The Hall became a British Red Cross hospital during the First World War but afterwards, with the departure of the Egerton family from the Worsley Estate, the hall and the gardens fell into decline. During WWII, parts of the hall were requisitioned by the War Office and its grounds were used by the Lancashire Fusiliers. 

Unfortunately, the hall fell into disrepair during the 20th century and was eventually demolished, but the grounds continued to be used as a garden centre, scout camp and a rifle range.  The site was acquired by Peel in 1984 when they took over Bridgewater Estates Limited and in October 2015 it was announced that the RHS would renovate the 156-acre garden under the name RHS Bridgewater – the site opening in May 2021. 

7. Middle Warehouse - Castlefield, Chester Road - Middle Warehouse was built in the late 1820s and featured two under-cover loading and unloading docks. The basin in front of the warehouse was known as Middle Basin and was in-filled during the 1950s. The warehouse was restored during the late 1980s and the basin was opened-up with a new lift bridge spanning the entrance.  

8. Pocket Park in Barton – Eccles, M30 0HZ – Located on Old Barton Road, this small park offers great views of the historic Barton Swing Bridge.  The remains of Brindley’s old stone aqueduct can also be found in the park and if you look closely, you can see the marks of the masons who constructed the original bridge which opened in 1761. 

9. The Memorial to the Duke of Bridgewater - Worsley Green, M28 2PA – This Grade II listed structure, on The Green at Worsley, was built in 1905 by the 3rd Earl of Ellesmere in memory of Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (founder of the Bridgewater Canal). It was originally a chimney from the Duke’s Yard, then an ornamental Victorian fountain before being adopted as a memorial. 

10. The Duke of Bridgewater’s boat house – Worsley (Entry near the Packet House, M28 2PB) – The grade II listed boat house adjoins the Bridgewater Canal and can be identified by the vertical stripes on the doors.  This was where the Duke’s [canal] Inspection Barge was kept.  This was the barge which once transported Queen Victoria up the canal to Worsley Hall hence it being referred to as the Royal Barge.

The Bridgewater Canal is owned and maintained by regeneration business Peel L&P.

If you visit any of these points of interest, be sure to post your pictures on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter! Tag #BridgewaterCanal for the chance to be featured on our pages.

Twitter - @BridgewaterWay | Instagram - @BridgewaterCanal | Facebook – Bridgewater Canal

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