Bridgewater Canal, Castlefield Basin
Castlefield, Manchester, UK
1759 - 1761
Canal/Navigation works |
ICE reference number
photo Paul Dunkerley
The Worsley to Manchester section of the Bridgewater Canal is the earliest part of the first arterial canal in Britain. Arterial canals cross valleys, use tunnels and cuttings, etc. Older canals are lateral and follow the course of a river. The Manchester terminus of the Bridgewater Canal is at Castlefield.
In 1759, Brindley, then 43, was asked by the 20-year-old 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (Francis Egerton) to conduct surveys for a canal that would enable the transportation of coal from the Duke's mines under Walkden and Farnworth, which come to the surface in The Delph at Worsley.
An Act of Parliament was granted in 1759 and the first segment of the canal opened two years later.
The canal terminates at the Castlefield wharves, which spread out like the fingers on a hand. The oldest of them was constructed in 1765. The various wharves are named after the principle commodities they handled, such as Potato Wharf, Timber Wharf, Coal Wharf and Slate Wharf.
The River Medlock enters the Castlefield Basin at one end. To maintain a constant level in the basin, Brindley constructed a clover-leaf weir — a shape that provides a large circumference. The weir was removed at a later date for the construction of Coal Wharf.
Several of the warehouses that used to stand adjacent to the various wharves have been demolished but one group of three (Grocer’s, Merchants’ and Middle) is of particular interest. They have twin ‘shipping holes’ in their long elevations to enable barges to enter from the canal for loading and unloading.
Later on, the Bridgewater Canal started to be fed as well by waste water from the Rochdale Canal, which in turn is linked to the Ashton Canal.
"A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Greater Manchester"
by Robina McNeil and Michael Nevell
Association for Industrial Archaeology, 2000
"Industrial Archaeology of Lancashire" by Owen Ashmore
David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1969