timeline item
Here is the information we have
on the item you selected
This entry was funded by
More like this
© 2020 Engineering Timelines
engineering timelines
explore ... how   explore ... why   explore ... where   explore ... who  
home  •  NEWS  •  search  •  FAQs  •  references  •  about  •  sponsors + links
Manchester Ship Canal
Eastham, Merseyside to Salford Docks and Pamona Docks, Greater Manchester, UK
Manchester Ship Canal
associated engineer
Sir Edward Leader Williams
Binnie, Deacon & Gourlay
William Henry Hunter
date  11th November 1887 - 1st January 1894
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Canal/Navigation works  |  reference  SJ767976
ICE reference number  HEW 88
photo  donation
The 58km Manchester Ship Canal is one of the most important civil engineering projects of the late Victorian era. It was built to reduce the time and the costs associated with transporting goods between Manchester and Liverpool by road and rail. Sea-going ships could now move from the Mersey estuary right into the centre of Manchester.
For most of its route, the ship canal's navigation channel is 36.6m wide and 8.5m deep. The five sets of locks along its length rise a total of 17.2m. From Eastham on Merseyside the canal follows the southern edge of the estuary, passing Frodsham, joins the River Weaver and the Weaver Navigation and passes Runcorn. It flows south of Warrington and through locks near Thelwall and Irlam, continuing through Barton Locks to a final lock near Salford Docks and on to Pamona Docks in Manchester.
The construction cost was more than £15m and the task required the excavation of 41.3 million cubic metres of earth and rock. A variety of mechanical plant was used during construction, including 58 steam ‘navvies’ (excavators), 124 steam cranes, seven earth dredgers, 173 locomotives and 6,300 railway wagons. The project employed 17,000 people at its peak.
Many of the existing railway bridges had to be reconstructed or raised to allow large ships to pass. The Bridgewater Canal meets the ship canal at Salford and the Barton Swing Aqueduct was constructed to carry over the new waterway. Similarly, the Swing Road Bridge carries the road over the new canal and is located immediately adjacent to the aqueduct. Both Barton Road Bridge and Trafford Road Bridge swing hydraulically.
Later, three further bridges were constructed — Barton High Level Bridge (1960) carrying the M60, Thelwall Viaduct (north-bound bridge opened 1963) carrying the M6 and the Widnes-Runcorn Link Bridge (1956-61).
The engineer for the ship canal and its locks, bridges and swing aqueduct was Edward Leader Williams. James Abernethy had been asked to report on the various proposals for the project and had favoured Leader's scheme. Abernethy was then appointed consulting engineer and he regularly visited the construction sites. William Hunter was the design engineer.
Salford Docks closed in the 1970s and have now been redeveloped as Salford Quays for residential and leisure uses. Manchester Ship Canal is now part of the Peel Ports Group. Some 8m tonnes of cargo is transported along it annually. In 2007, a shuttle barge service began for moving containers between Liverpool and Irlam as an alternative to road transport.
Sluice manufacturer (Francis Stoney design): Ransomes & Rapier
Contractor (to November 1889): Thomas A. Walker
Contractor (1889 onwards): Sir John Jackson
Contractor (1889 onwards): C.J. Wills
Direct labour (1889 onwards): W.H. Topham
Bridge iron and steelwork: Andrew Handyside & Co Ltd, Butler
Bridge hydraulic machinery: Armstrong Mitchell & Co
Research: PD
"A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Greater Manchester" by Robina McNeil and Michael Nevell, Association for Industrial Archaeology, 2000
reference sources   CEH NorthBDCE2

Manchester Ship Canal