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Grocers' Warehouse
Castlefield Basin, Bridgewater Canal, Manchester, UK
Grocers' Warehouse
associated engineer
James Brindley
date  1770 - 1775
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Building  |  reference  SJ831975
photo  ICE R&D Fund
Grocers’ Warehouse was once a five storey building, overhanging the canal basin. Not quite so tall now, it still has the distinction of being the first canal warehouse to include 'shipping holes' in its main elevation. These allowed barges to to move right inside the building to load an unload under cover.
In its heyday, coal was brought to the warehouse along the canal system, where it was unloaded and lifted up to Castle Street, which is high level at this point, using a winch powered by an underground overshot waterwheel. The waterwheel was located in a tunnel at the bottom of a 6.7m deep shaft. The hoist system became disused when the Rochdale Canal was built in 1805, although the original tunnel roof is still visible from the opposite towpath.
In 1793, the warehouse was doubled in length, its upper floors linking the two sections. When first built, the warehouse had a single shipping hole. The second was added in around 1807. The two-storey holes are framed with brick semi-circular arches, each with two rings of bricks on end. The windows above are framed in stone, with semi-circular arched tops and keystones.
Internally, the timber floors rested on timber beams and joists spanning between brickwork dividing walls. The warehouse was owned by Gilbert & Henshall between 1811 and 1836, and later by the Manchester Grocers’ Company.
In 1960, demolition work left only the remains of the rear wall and tunnel, with traces of the shipping holes behind the wharf. Partial reconstruction of the building and waterwheel hoist was completed in 1987. A pair lift bridges cross the canal basin in front of the shipping holes, carrying the footpath past the reconstructed warehouse elevation.
Research: PD
"Manchester: The Warehouse Legacy, an introduction and guide", English Heritage, London, 2002 (reprinted 2005)
"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

Grocers' Warehouse