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