On The Waterfront 2

Home History Timeline Downtown 1 Memory Lane Tour 1 Tour 2 Rainbow Shop! Nineteen Nineties Legh Street Baths At The Flicks Mr Smith's My Warrington Radio Warrington RAF Burtonwood On The Waterfront 1 On The Waterfront 2 Warrington Green 1 Warrington Green 2 Sankey Valley On The Buses Peter's Gallery Walk Through Time Making Tracks 1 Making Tracks 2 Making Tracks 3 Warrington People Entertaining People Sporting People Warrington Wolves Warrington Market Classic Motor Shows Events On Top of the World The Bewsian 19 Museum Street Hamilton Street Golden Square Feedback

Warrington - A Town of Many Industries

mywarrington - created by Gordon I Gandy



rainbow_logo_2021.jpg (198300 bytes)

Rainbow After the Storm

Rainbow_After_The_Storm_Padre_and_Nicky.jpg (142319 bytes)

Where Mental Health Matters

Rainbow After the Storm is an award-winning mental health
support group and Community Interest Company.


Find Rainbow on Facebook

Nicky Price Mental Health Tips

Have a look at our new shop! www.rainbowafterthestorm.org/webshop/


If water is heavier than air, how do clouds stay in the sky?

thelwall_ferry_1.JPG (89662 bytes)

This page last updated Thursday, 16 April 2020
...the river of life

thelwall_ferry_2.jpg (96971 bytes)

On the Waterfront profiles the rivers and canals in and around Warrington.
Other local canals and rivers on the border will also be profiled, such as the River Weaver.
See also the complementary Warrington Green sections.

Note: some of this material is from Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia. Please see the foot of the Feedback page  for important copyright information

Featured on this page

Anderton Boat Lift Trent and Mersey Canal (1777) River Weaver RMS Tayleur
River Bollin Old Quay Canal (1804) Falkirk Wheel The Mersey Gateway
The Bridgewater & Cheshire Ring Manchester Ship Canal (1894) Locks Threats to the Canal System

In Part 1 we concentrate on Warrington and district.

Bridgewater Canal and the Cheshire Ring   

waterfront_cheshire_ring_schematic.jpg (68980 bytes)

Before leaving the Bridgewater Canal altogether, it is worth mentioning the Cheshire Ring. Cheshire has a number of canals, which were originally used to transport materials (mostly chemicals). Nowadays, they are mainly used for tourist traffic. The Cheshire Ring is formed from The Rochdale, Ashton, Peak Forest, Macclesfield, Trent and Mersey and Bridgewater canals. The route covers a distance of about 97 miles (156 km). Here is a very brief history to the first four in this list; the Bridgewater having been covered already and the Trent & Mersey follows later. The schematic diagram, left, shows how and where they link up.

Rochdale Canal   (See more in Wikipedia)

The "Rochdale" is a broad canal because its bridges and 92 locks are wide enough to allow vessels of 14ft width. Its canal runs for 32 miles (51 kilometres) across the Pennines from the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield Basin in Manchester to the Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire.

The canal gained its Act of Parliament at its second attempt in 1794, and was completed in 1804. It closed in 1958, but re-opened again in July 2002, with some restrictions (read here for more).

Ashton Canal   (See more in Wikipedia)

The Ashton leaves the Rochdale Canal at Ducie Street Junction in central Manchester, and climbs for six miles (10 km) and 18 locks, passing through Ancoats, Holt Town, Bradford-with-Beswick, Clayton, Openshaw, Droylsden, Fairfield and Audenshaw, to make a head-on junction with the Huddersfield Narrow Canal (formerly the Huddersfield Canal) at Whitelands Basin in the centre of Ashton-under-Lyne. At Bradford, the canal passes by the venue of the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

Apart from the Rochdale and Huddersfield Narrow canals, the Ashton Canal only currently connects with one other canal. Just short of Whitelands, a short arm leaves Portland Basin (also in central Ashton), crosses the River Tame on the Tame Aqueduct, and makes a head-on junction with the Peak Forest Canal.

The canal received its Act of Parliament in 1792 and construction began in 1796. Read here for more.

Peak Forest Canal   (See more in Wikipedia)

The Peak Forest Canal runs from a junction with the Ashton Canal at the southern end of the Tame Aqueduct at Dukinfield (grid reference SJ934984), through Newton, Hyde, Woodley, Bredbury, Romiley, Marple, Strines, Disley, New Mills, Furness Vale and Bridgemont to terminate at Bugsworth Basin (grid reference SK 021820 - the village is now called Buxworth) - and there is a short branch at Bridgemont to Whaley Bridge. This canal, which is just over 14.5 miles long, forms part of the British Inland Waterways Network.

It was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1794. The upper level of the canal and tramway opened for trade on the 31 August 1796, and Bugsworth Basin soon became a bustling interchange between the tramway and canal. Construction was completed in 1799. Read here for more.

Macclesfield Canal  (See more in Wikipedia)

The Macclesfield Canal runs for 26 miles (42 km) from Marple Junction, where it joins the upper Peak Forest Canal, and runs southwards (through Bollington, Macclesfield and Congleton) to a junction with the Trent and Mersey Canal at Hardings Wood, near Kidsgrove. The canal gained its Act of Parliament in 1826 and was completed in 1831 at a cost of £320,000. Read here for more.

River Bollin                      

The River Bollin marks the eastern boundary between Warrington in Cheshire and Greater Manchester. It is a major tributary of the River Mersey, and one of the most placid, and is not heavily polluted. The town of Macclesfield used to dispose all its waste and sewage into the Bollin. Given the steep incline that surrounds the town, with the Bollin flowing beneath, this was the natural thing to do. The profusion of human sewage in the Bollin was still around in 1850.

waterfront_bridgewater_63_river_bollin_070209.JPG (99823 bytes)

waterfront_bridgewater_64_river_bollin_070209.JPG (125021 bytes)

waterfront_bridgewater_65_river_bollin_070209.jpg (118759 bytes)

waterfront_bridgewater_66_river_bollin_070209.JPG (106386 bytes)

Here am I having walked all the way from Moore on the edge of Warrington to complete the whole distance of the Bridgewater
Canal in Warrington. (I did walk a tiny bit further into Greater Manchester just to make sure! One day I'll walk the rest of the
route - already covered Leigh to Worsley). The aqueduct carries the Bridgewater over the Bollin (images taken 9 Feb 2007).

It rises in Macclesfield at the western end of the Peak District, and can be seen in spring form, from the Buxton to Macclesfield road. The stream then descends the 10 miles through Macclesfield and Wilmslow where it meets the River Dean, near to Styal Prison. For the next 10 miles it defines the south-western portion of the border between Greater Manchester and Cheshire before merging with the Mersey north of Lymm. It flows through the lovely Styal country park and is used in the cotton calico factory there, as a source of power. The Bollin also runs underneath one of the runways of Manchester Airport. (Some information from Wikipedia)

waterfront_bridgewater_67_bollington_corn_mill_07020.JPG (63455 bytes)

waterfront_bridgewater_68_river_bollin_070209.JPG (103048 bytes)

waterfront_bridgewater_69_bollington_corn_mill_070209.JPG (99181 bytes)

waterfront_bridgewater_70_bollington_corn_mill_070209.JPG (133471 bytes)

Bollington Corn Mill: a five-storey building in the style of the late 18th century. It had a weir built across it and  has been used as
refrigerated cheese store and for storing garden fertilisers. It has now been converted into residential apartments. Photos 9 Feb 2007

Old Quay Canal (1804)    

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070428_3.JPG (126581 bytes)

In 1804 an 8 mile-long, 60 foot wide canal was opened between Latchford and Runcorn. It was also known as the Runcorn and Latchford Canal (the name given on modern maps) and, in Warrington, the Black Bear Canal due its proximity to the Black Bear pub on Knutsford Road near Victoria Park.

< The only section of the Runcorn and Latchford still in water at Eastford Road near Walton (see more images below).

Once the Manchester Ship Canal was dug however it was shortened to a one-mile section from Stockton Heath to the River Mersey at Manor Lock.

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070320_1.JPG (87701 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070320_2.JPG (141420 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070320_3.JPG (136518 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070320_4.JPG (143841 bytes)

The Manchester Ship Canal cut
the Old Quay Canal off in its
prime at this point.

At Moore the route has been converted into pathways for the public to appreciate
beauty of the countryside, especially at the nearby Moore Nature Reserve.

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070428_2.JPG (127610 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070428_4.JPG (130797 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070428_5.JPG (100871 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070428_6.jpg (65379 bytes)

At Eastford Road near Walton this section of the Old Quay Canal runs alongside the River Mersey, as highlighted in the fourth image.

The canal remained in usage for the transportation of hides to tanneries until the 1960s, when it fell into disuse. In 1981, Warrington Borough Council bought the land and converted it into a parkland, Black Bear Park, forming a line from Victoria Park through to Stockton Heath. It also forms part of the Trans Pennine Trail.

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070428_1.JPG (84418 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070428_7.JPG (126195 bytes)

waterfront_black_bear_040723.JPG (124113 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_040723.JPG (97926 bytes)

When the Manchester Ship Canal was built, the Old Quay Canal was cut off at Twenty Steps Lock, seen here from the Stockton Heath side.

This is the view from the Wilderspool side of the canal.

The route of the Old Quay
Canal has now been converted into Black Bear Park.

The Warrington - Altrincham (later Stockport) Railway travelled over the canal and is still used to transport coal to Fiddler's Ferry Power Station.

waterfront_old_quay_black_bear_bridge_070314_01.JPG (96549 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_black_bear_bridge_070314_02.JPG (84176 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_black_bear_pub_040723.JPG (66557 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_040720_1.JPG (100863 bytes)

Black Bear Bridge at Knutsford Road, close to the only crossing point of the Mersey,
via a ford, until the 13th century. 

The ford was roughly where
the building is to the left
of the bridge.

The Black Bear Pub, after
which locals named the canal.
It is a Grade II* Listed building.

Manor Lock at the end of Black Bear
Park near Victoria Park.

Moore Nature Reserve is located alongside the route of the canal, which has now been converted into a pathway at that point. Traces of Twenty Steps Lock, which the later Manchester Ship Canal cut through, can be seen on the north bank below Northwich Road Swing Bridge.  (Some information from Wikipedia)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_040720_2.JPG (91339 bytes)

waterfront_old_quay_latchford_070510.JPG (117358 bytes)

waterfront_black_bear_kingsway_070510.JPG (72149 bytes)

old_quay_kingsway_070510.JPG (94878 bytes)

Manor Lock at its junction
with the River Mersey
near Kingsway Bridge.

The Old Quay Canal (Black Bear Park)
once flowed into the River Mersey.
New apartments were built in 2005.

Wildlife is an important
feature on this part
of the Mersey.

Manchester Ship Canal (1894)   

waterfront_msc_latchford_040723.JPG (83061 bytes)

As the 19th century progressed, the increasing need for large freight carriers led to Liverpool's dominance as a port, and Manchester became increasingly reliant on its Merseyside neighbour for its export industry. When the ports and railways had dominance of the trade, it was often cheaper to transport goods from Manchester over to Hull on the east coast, over twice the distance. A solution was to build the Manchester Ship Canal.

The Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, by the expansion of the route of the Irwell and Mersey. Although it came too late to save the cotton industry that had made the region the centre of the Industrial Revolution, it transformed Manchester into England's third largest port, despite being 40 miles inland.

The classic Warrington
view of the Manchester
Ship Canal at Latchford.

As the canal was built, it became clear that Brindley's famous aqueduct would have to be demolished, as it allowed insufficient headroom for the freighters that the canal would carry. Fortunately, in 1896 the councillors of Eccles paid to have the aqueduct moved to the spot it occupies today, alongside the canal.

waterfront_msc_warburton_bridge_060310.JPG (60181 bytes)

Rixton & Warburton bridge built c1894. There was a stone bridge over the old course of the River Mersey here. When the river was diverted to form part of the Manchester Ship Canal a steel bridge was built.  It carries the B5159 from the A57 Manchester Road into Warburton village. The bridge still operates a toll, unless you are a pedestrian when it costs nothing. The old river bed can still be seen alongside (image, right).

waterfront_msc_warburton_060310.JPG (102545 bytes)

The Manchester Ship Canal (MSC, and called the Ship Canal locally) is a wide, 36-mile-long river navigation, opened on 21 May 1894.

The "Big Ditch" (as it is said to be known to locals), consists of the River Irwell and River Mersey made navigable to Manchester for seagoing ships, leaving the Mersey Estuary at Eastham Docks on the north side of the Wirral Peninsula, northwest of Ellesmere Port. It turned Manchester from a landlocked city into a major Irish Sea port.

Early history

waterfront_msc_salford_quays_040902_ps051.jpg (83251 bytes)

The canal was built as a way to reverse the economic decline that Manchester suffered during the late 19th century, by ensuring the city had direct access to the sea to export its manufactured goods, and so would not have to rely on sea access at the nearby Port of Liverpool. It was championed by Manchester manufacturer Daniel Adamson.

He arranged a meeting at his home (The Towers, in Didsbury), on 27 June 1882, inviting representatives of several Lancashire towns, Manchester businessmen, local politicians and two civil engineers, Hamilton Fulton and Edward Leader Williams. Both engineers were invited to submit proposals, and Williams' plans were selected to form the basis of a Bill submitted to Parliament in November 1882.

Cleaning out the canal
at Salford Quays on 2 Sep 2007. Photo Copyright © P Spilsbury.

However, due to intense opposition by Liverpool and railway companies, the Act of Parliament enabling the canal was not passed until 6 August 1885. The promoters then had two years in which to raise £5 million to cover initial construction costs, and to purchase the Bridgewater Canal. Construction of the Ship Canal eventually started on 11 November 1887.

It was always fascinating as a child to watch the bridges swing to allow passage of ships.
This first sequence shows Northwich Road swing bridge in action on 28 April 2007.

waterfront_msc_latchford_070428_02.JPG (63489 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_070428_03.JPG (82901 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_070428_04.JPG (66306 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_070428_05.JPG (79938 bytes)

Further up the canal, Chester Road swing bridge is opened first as the boat approaches from Runcorn.

While that happens, Northwich Road bridge at Stockton Heath is closed to traffic and pedestrians. In the gold old days before the health and safety people were let loose, they allowed children to stay on the bridge to have a ride - they just don't trust us today! I wasn't even allowed past the barrier - did they think I was going to jump in? Anyway, the boat passes below.

The boat continues its journey towards Latchford Locks and I ponder about the missed opportunity to get a better shot as it passed right before my eyes... 

Large portions of the eventual cost of building were borne by Manchester ratepayers, via Manchester City Corporation. Loans were arranged during the early 1890s on condition that the Corporation held 11 of the 21 seats on the Canal Company's board of directors led by John Aird, an engineering contractor and MP. Following the death of the previous contractor (Thomas Walker), Aird's firm completed the Ship Canal. Thomas Walker was responsible for the Severn Tunnel and for his work for the Great Western Railway Company.

waterfront_msc_moore_lane_bridge_070320_03.JPG (64439 bytes)

waterfront_msc_moore_lane_bridge_070320_01.jpg (30454 bytes)

waterfront_msc_moore_lane_bridge_070320_02.JPG (95257 bytes)

waterfront_msc_moore_070320_05.JPG (74009 bytes)

The boat here is Anna D, registered at Runcorn, passing through Moore Lane bridge. When my dad was a child the boat passages on the
Ship Canal were often, but as the roads became more widespread, the shipping dwindled to the point where it is a bit of a novelty even
for us grown-ups to see boats passing along the Ship Canal nowadays. But if the owners, Peel Holdings, get the go ahead for a new super
port at Salford Quays, the glory days might return - but then we will all complain because they will interrupt our car and bus journeys!


More than 54 million cubic yards (41,000,000 m³) of material were excavated for the canal, including 12 million cubic yards (9,000,000 m³) of sandstone rock. At its peak, the project involved some 17,000 workers. In terms of machinery, the scheme called upon 228 miles (367 km) of temporary rail track, 173 locomotives, 6,300 trucks and wagons, 124 steam-powered cranes and 192 other steam engines (mainly used for pumping purposes). Work was twice delayed by water flooding into sections of the excavation, in November 1890 and December 1891.

waterfront_msc_daresbury_laboratory_070320.JPG (61545 bytes) Daresbury Laboratory near Warrington was founded in 1962 as part of the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science (NIRNS). It was brought under the umbrella of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (now the STFC - Science and Technology Facilities Council) in 1995. It employs around 500 staff who support the work of over 5,000 scientists, technicians, etc at a site close to the Manchester Ship Canal. All manner of research is undertaken, including research into breast cancer, metals, the aircraft industry and genetics, amongst others. The building can be seen from miles around due to its high tower.
Major engineering landmarks of the scheme included the Barton Swing Aqueduct (carrying the Bridgewater Canal over the Ship Canal), and a neighbouring swing bridge for road traffic at Barton. The canal was finally completely filled with water in November 1893, and opened to its first traffic on 1 January 1894. The construction of the canal was overseen by the chief engineer and designer Edward Leader Williams, who was knighted by Queen Victoria at the official opening on 21 May 1894.

waterfront_msc_runcorn_norton-water_tower.jpg (38853 bytes)

Norton water tower at Runcorn. This landmark can be seen for miles around on the Ship Canal. It dates from 1892. It is made from Red sandstone and has a cylindrical, rock faced base of convex outline terminating in pulvinated band. Above this there is a plain ashlar cylinder with bases for 10 pilasters. The pilasters rise to a frieze. The large openings are closed midway by ashlar screens with two narrow arched openings. The frieze has a Latin inscription and the dentil cornice is surmounted by an iron tank with triglyphs between pilasters. There are decorative shell upstands to the rim of the tank. Access to the tower is via a double door with six raised and fielded panels in an opening framed in stone with an elaborate stone pediment. (from Wikipedia) Image Public license And if you understood all that, please let me know because I haven't got a clue what it all means.

North-west of Ellesmere Port, on a narrow stretch of land between the Canal and the River Mersey, Mount Manisty is a huge mound of earth created from extracted soil from the construction of the Canal. Its name - and that of the adjacent Manisty Cutting - came from the contractor's agent on the Eastham section, Mr Manisty, who was well liked by the navvies due to the entertainments he and his wife provided.

waterfront_msc_runcorn_old_quay_bridge.jpg (56691 bytes)

Old Quay Bridge with Jubilee Bridge in the background on the Ship Canal at Runcorn. The Old Quay Bridge is operated from the south bank by means of a hydraulic system which involves the use of a group of three slate roofed red brick buildings, the engine house, the accumulator tower and the control building. (from Wikipedia)

Image (left) Public license. Image (right) Copyright © GI Gandy.
They shows the bridge from the opposite bank of the Mersey and Sankey Canal at Widnes.

waterfront_msc_runcorn_old_quay_bridge_070218.JPG (72003 bytes)

There are five sets of locks over its 36 mile length, which raises the canal over 60 feet along the route. From the Merseyside end there are tidal locks at Eastham, which connect the canal with the Mersey Estuary. Latchford Locks at Warrington are the next set, then Irlam and Barton locks and finally Mode Wheel locks just outside of the terminal docks at Salford Quays.

waterfront_msc_hms_shetland_810624_ps063.jpg (58587 bytes)

waterfront_msc_manchester_courage_751011_ps045.jpg (68193 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_760713_ps109.jpg (66845 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_buffalo_970113_ps107.jpg (56675 bytes)

HMS Shetland is an Island
class patrol vehicle seen
here at Latchford Locks with
Richmonds cooker factory
behind (later New World
before it closed)
Photo 24 Jun 1981.

Three views of Latchford Locks.
Left to right they feature
Buffalo, lifting a lock gate and tugs Talisman and Rover
preparing to manoeuvre Manchester Courage after passing through Latchford lock.
The photos were taken, left to right, on 11 Oct 1975, 13 Jul 1976 and 13 Jan 1997.

All four photos Copyright © P Spilsbury.


waterfront_msc_runcorn_royaliris_900708_ps039.jpg (60842 bytes) From Eastham, the canal runs parallel to, and along the south side of, the River Mersey, past Ellesmere Port and, having intercepted flows from the River Weaver, then passes around Runcorn. Between Warrington and Flixton the canal borrows the route of the Mersey, and between there and Salford follows the course of the River Irwell.

Through east Warrington it passes underneath the Thelwall viaduct, constructed in 1963 to carry the M6 motorway north to south through the countryside of Cheshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester. The viaduct was widened in the 21st century to cope with traffic flows.

In Greater Manchester, the Barton high level bridge carries the circular M60 over the canal near the Trafford Centre, a major shopping and leisure complex at Dumplington. The canal terminates just past Pomona Docks in Manchester.

waterfront_msc_070218_runcorn.JPG (47670 bytes)
The Royal Iris travels
along the Ship Canal
at Runcorn, seen from
Jubilee Bridge, giving a
good view of the Mersey
and Fiddler's Ferry Power Station on 8 July 1990.
Photo and caption
Copyright © P Spilsbury.
A view of the Ship Canal
and Mersey, again from
Jubilee Bridge at Runcorn.
In the distance is
Old Quay Bridge.
Photo taken 18 Feb 2007
Copyright © GI Gandy.
Today, a fixed road bridge separates Pomona Docks from Salford Quays, meaning only some boats can make the full trip to Pomona Docks. Most vessels have to terminate at Salford Quays. At Trafford Park, the Centenary Bridge raises the roadway to allow ships to pass, and there is a footbridge near the Lowry Centre in Salford Quays, which also rises.

Thelwall Ferry still operates on the Ship Canal

waterfront_msc_thelwall_ferry_840802_ps047.jpg (67896 bytes)

waterfront_msc_thelwall_ferry_060304_2.JPG (96955 bytes)

waterfront_msc_thelwall_ferry_060304_1.JPG (98562 bytes)

waterfront_msc_thelwall_ferry_060304_3.JPG (195732 bytes)

The Royal Iris passes by
Thelwall Ferry on 2 August
1984. The Manchester Ship
Canal Company is bound by
an Act of Parliament to
provide the ferry service.
Read why in the Thelwall
section of the
My Warrington page. Royal Iris
Photo Copyright © P Spilsbury.

waterfront_msc_thelwall_ferry_060304_4.JPG (89662 bytes)

waterfront_msc_thelwall_ferry_060304_6.JPG (85078 bytes)

waterfront_msc_thelwall_ferry_060304_5.JPG (108522 bytes)

Near Stanlow, the Ship Canal meets the River Gowy. As both were still in use, a method had to be devised to allow both to continue to flow. The solution was to have two huge 400ft-long cast iron siphons placed underneath the canal to allow the river to flow freely. The MSC is the eighth-longest ship canal in the world, being only slightly shorter than the Panama Canal in Central America. Upon completion, the MSC ensured that Manchester became Britain's third busiest port, despite being 40 miles (60 km) inland. 

waterfront_mersey_sandgrab2_850905_ps007.jpg (52315 bytes)

Warrington Dock entrance is an area linking the Ship Canal with the Mersey via Walton Lock, which is now disused and dried up. When the bucket dredgers left the river, Sandgrab No. 2, left, took over the job of keeping the River Mersey navigable between Atherton's Quay and Walton Lock, where it is seen working here on 5 September 1985. In the image, right, we see MB 36, a motor barge, unloading at Naylor's Wharf. (based on notes by P. Spilsbury.)

All other photos in this section taken 28 April 2007.

waterfront_msc_naylors_wharf_mb36_ps042.jpg (55714 bytes)

Copyright © P Spilsbury

Copyright © P Spilsbury

waterfront_msc_latchford_070428_01.jpg (39519 bytes)

waterfront_msc_walton_lock_070428_03.JPG (97054 bytes)

waterfront_msc_walton_lock_070428_02.JPG (143077 bytes)

waterfront_msc_walton_lock_070428_01.jpg (56781 bytes)

The scene from Chester
Road swing bridge.

The remains of Warrington Dock.

Chester Road travels over the old waterway route between the Mersey
and the Ship Canal. There was still water in this section during the 1970s.

waterfront_msc_walton_lock_070428_06.JPG (115773 bytes)

waterfront_msc_walton_lock_070428_04.JPG (124071 bytes)

waterfront_msc_walton_lock_070428_05.jpg (83305 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_070428_07.JPG (60333 bytes)

Sorry chap, but the boat
doesn't stop here anymore.

The remains of Walton Lock. They could have filled it in but I'm glad they didn't. The Trans Pennine Trail now passes by alongside to remind people of the good old days.

Chester Road swing bridge.

MSC Railway                                    

To service the large amount of freight being landed at the canal's docks, the MSC Railway was created to carry goods and connect to the various railway companies near the canal. The MSC Railway, unlike other railway companies in the UK, was not nationalised and became the largest private railway in the UK during the British Railways era. The MSC Railway operated a large fleet of steam locomotives, many of which were 0-6-0 tank engines.

Barton Swing Aqueduct

waterfront_bridgewater_04_moore_070127_narrowboat.JPG (84468 bytes) The Barton Swing Aqueduct (Grid ref: SJ 767976) is a feat of late Victorian civil engineering. Located at Barton upon Irwell, it carries the Bridgewater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal. It is a form of wing bridge. In its closed position, it allows canal traffic to pass along the Bridgewater Canal.

However, when large vessels need to pass along the Ship Canal, the massive iron trough (234ft long and weighing 800 tonnes) can be swung through ninety degrees via a pivot mounted on a small purpose-built island in the Ship Canal to allow passage. Gates at either end of the trough retain around 800 tonnes of water within the trough; further gates on either bank retain water in their adjacent stretches of canal.

The aqueduct originally had a suspended towpath along its length. This has been removed in recent years on safety grounds.

waterfront_msc_barton_royal_iris_900707_ps102.jpg (66705 bytes)

A narrowboat on the
Bridgewater Canal
at Moore

Photo taken 12 Jan 2007

The Royal Iris sails past
Barton Aqueduct on one of its regular cruises from
Liverpool to Salford Quays,
here on 7 July 1990.
Copyright © P Spilsbury.

The swing aqueduct was designed by Sir Edward Leader Williams, engineer to the Manchester Ship Canal Company, and built by Andrew Handyside of Derby. It became operational in 1893. Williams was also involved with the design of the region's other major 'moving canal' feat: the Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire, discussed later.

waterfront_msc_moore_070320_04.JPG (77980 bytes)

waterfront_msc_stockton_heath_070215.JPG (100012 bytes)

waterfront_msc_stockton_heath_070428.JPG (93111 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_070428_06.JPG (98997 bytes)

MSC Viceroy on
the Ship Canal.

Signs of the times. Road signs have changed a lot over the years. The two on the left are one and the
same. They must have known I was going to include a photo of it on the website so they have painted it!
It is by the Northwich Road Swing Bridge at Stockton Heath. The other one is on Ellesmere Road in Walton.

waterfront_msc_stockton_heath_mill_040723_1.JPG (164033 bytes)

waterfront_msc_stockton_heath_mill_040723_2.JPG (147404 bytes)

waterfront_msc_stockton_heath_mill_040723_3.JPG (130085 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_locks_040518.JPG (64590 bytes)

Stockton Heath old mill was located in an area now remembered by Mill Lane.
The channel flows into the Ship Canal underneath Fairfield Road.

Latchford Locks at dusk.

Maximum size

While the canal was built for ocean-going ships, ship sizes have long outgrown the canal.

In 2005, the maximum length of ship accepted into the canal was 170.68 m with a beam of 21.94 m. However, beams of around 23 m are acceptable with a smaller length. Maximum draught is 8.78 m. The draught is the depth of a loaded vessel in the water, taken from the level of the waterline to the lowest point on the hull.

waterfront_msc_manchester_concorde_751011_ps094.jpg (89174 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_marie_altum_900428_ps043.jpg (98130 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_savengulf_maersk_750208_ps098.jpg (84742 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_royal_iris_900707_ps101.jpg (81183 bytes)

Manchester Concorde
on 11 October 1975.
Photo Copyright
© P Spilsbury.

Two ships pass the Cantilever Bridge. Marie Altum on
28 April 1990 (left), and MSC Undine & Savengulf Maersk
on 8 February 1975.
Latchford railway station used to stand
alongside it and it carries Cantilever Road (the B5156) over it.
Weighing in at 783 tonnes, it now has a load weight
of 5 tonnes per vehicle.

Royal Iris, this time at
Latchford on 7 July 1990
on its journey to Salford
Photo Copyright
© P Spilsbury.

The QEII Dock at the entrance to the canal can accept vessels up to 208.79 m long with a 28 m beam, maximum draught 10 m. While many ships are designed specifically to fit the Suez and Panama canals (Seuzmax, Panamax), the narrower MSC is not of major importance for shipping.


Unlike most British canals, the MSC and the Bridgewater Canal were never nationalised, and remain in the ownership of the Manchester Ship Canal Company, a subsidiary of Peel Holdings.

waterfront_msc_chester_road_bridge_070428.JPG (56116 bytes) waterfront_walton_stag_inn_040531.jpg (78021 bytes) waterfront_msc_moore_070320.JPG (57382 bytes) waterfront_msc_cantilever_wtownfc_030814_2.JPG (69562 bytes)

Chester Road swing bridge used to be known
as Stag Inn Bridge due to its proximity to the
Stag Inn at Walton close by.

Anna D is seen here
approaching Acton Grange
Bridge, which carries
West Coast Mainline
railway over the
Manchester Ship Canal.

Warrington Town Football
Club play their home
matches by the Cantilever
Bridge in Latchford.

Today, due largely to the decline in the manufacturing industry, and the fact that many ocean-going ships are too large to fit in the MSC, the amount of freight carried on the MSC has declined, although around eight million tonnes are still transported on the canal each year, consisting of oil, chemical and grain mainly destined for Stanlow, Ellesmere Port and Runcorn.

waterfront_msc_moore_070320_02.JPG (82095 bytes)

waterfront_msc_moore_070320_03.jpg (66866 bytes)

waterfront_msc_moore_070320_01.JPG (113439 bytes)

waterfront_msc_moore_070320_06.jpg (45563 bytes)

 Along the banks of the Ship Canal at Moore showing the remains of one of the landing stages and the
concrete posts for tying the ships. The fourth image shows the Ship Canal running alongside the River Mersey.

It was reported in the Warrington Guardian in March 2007 that the Canal's owners, Peel Holdings, are planning to expand its business with a major set of docks at Salford, which would require more movements of the swing bridges, including those at Warrington. This was a concern raised by Warrington Borough Transport who said that when buses get delayed by the swinging of the bridges it is very difficult, if not impossible to catch up on the timetables. The plan went to Salford council in 2007.   (Some information from Wikipedia)

waterfront_msc_latchford_sigas_commander_040612_ps086.jpg (86748 bytes)

waterfront_msc_latchford_hms_middleton_031005_ps044.jpg (90128 bytes)

msc_latchford_salford_city_711020_ps087.jpg (81556 bytes)

msc_latchford_golden_hind_911025_ps105.jpg (54299 bytes)

Sigas Commander on
12 June 2004 sailing
under the railway bridge
at Latchford Locks.
Photo Copyright
© P Spilsbury.

HMS Middleton leaves
Latchford Locks on
5 October 2003.
Photo Copyright
© P Spilsbury.

Manchester's sewage was treated at Barton and shipped out to the Mersey Bar by a number of vessels over the years until a new treatment plant was constructed at Waterloo Dock, Liverpool by North West Water (later United Utilities). Photo and caption Copyright © P Spilsbury.

The replica Golden Hind passes through Latchford on a visit to Salford Quays on 25 October 1991. The original was the ship in which (Sir) Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe in 1577-80. Originally called the Pelican, it was renamed by Drake in mid-voyage in 1577, as he prepared to enter the straits of Magellan. It was renamed in honour of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton (1540-91), whose armorial crest was a golden hind (the heraldic term
for a female deer).
Photo Copyright © P Spilsbury.

Coastal Deniz

coastal_denis_msc_latchford_131031_1.JPG (178358 bytes) coastal_denis_msc_latchford_131031_2.JPG (178821 bytes) coastal_denis_msc_latchford_131031_3.JPG (122578 bytes) msc_buffalo_msc_latchford_131031_1.JPG (158515 bytes) msc_buffalo_msc_latchford_131031_2.JPG (154270 bytes)
Coastal Deniz, built 1991 MSC Buffalo, a floating crane
On my travels on 31 October 2013, I was in Latchford re-photographing a pub (for future use on the website) and afterwards decided to walk on to Stockton Heath to continue my journey by bus from there. I had timed it so that I could walk from Latchford to get the bus from Stockton Heath, rather than go back into town centre. As I walked towards the Cantilever (Latchford High Level) Bridge, I noticed two gentlemen stood on the footpath in the centre of the bridge and wondered why they were waiting. I got to the top and found out - they were watching the Coastal Deniz (first, second and third photos above) travelling east along the Manchester Ship Canal into Latchford Locks. So I stayed with them to get these shots. As the vessel passed Latchford Swing Bridge I noticed they didn't re-open the bridge to road traffic straight away as they normally do. I then found out why - MSC Buffalo, a floating crane (fourth and fifth photos) was waiting to travel west towards Stockton Heath. Of course, all the traffic in the area began to use the Cantilever Bridge to save waiting for the swing bridge to reset. Readers of the History page will notice this entry from the Timeline: "2007 OCT Tesco announced plans to transport wine along the Manchester Ship Canal to cut down on its carbon footprint". I don't know if that plan is now operational, but if it is, or it begins in the future, then the bridge openings will get more frequent, which I know caused concern in 2007, especially for the town's bus company, Network Warrington, who said it would be difficult to keep to timetables. Of course, on the day I took my photos, I left myself just 10 minutes to get from the Cantilever Bridge to Stockton Heath village centre to catch my original planned bus (only one an hour). Did I manage to catch that bus? Well, yes - the bus was late because traffic had been held up TWICE over the Stockton Heath Swing Bridge!

Trent and Mersey Canal (1777)

The Trent and Mersey Canal is 93.5 miles (140 km) long, flowing from the east and west Midlands to northwest England. It is mostly a "narrow canal" (locks and bridges big enough for a narrowboat  72 feet long x 7 feet wide) but east of Burton-on-Trent, it is a wide canal (locks and bridges can accommodate boats 14ft wide).


waterfront_trentandmersey_barnton_040706_ps023.jpg (95530 bytes)

As its name implies, the Trent & Mersey canal was built to link the River Trent at Derwent Mouth (in Derbyshire) to the River Mersey. It opened in 1777. The second connection is made via the Bridgewater Canal, which it joins at Preston Brook in Cheshire, just south of Warrington. Note that although mileposts measure the distance to Preston Brook and Shardlow, Derwent mouth is a mile or so beyond Shardlow.

The idea of a canal connection from the Mersey to the Trent ("The Grand Trunk") came from canal engineer James Brindley. It was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1766, and the first sod was cut by Josiah Wedgwood in July that year at Middleport. Less than eleven years later, the whole canal, including more than 70 locks and five tunnels, was open, with the company headquarters in Stone.  

waterfront_trentandmersey_milepost_750504_ps031.jpg (78569 bytes)

One of the tunnels on the
Trent & Mersey canal near Northwich on 6 July 2004.
Photo and caption
Copyright © P Spilsbury.

A Trent & Mersey mile
post on 4 May 1975.
Photo and caption
Copyright © P Spilsbury.

One special feature on the Cheshire stretch of the canal is the Anderton Boat Lift, the world's first boat-lift. Until the construction of the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland, it was the only boat-lift in the United Kingdom.


Due to space, I am only describing its route in part of Cheshire.

The connection with the Bridgewater Canal gives access to Runcorn (but no longer to the Mersey or Ship Canal) in one direction and Manchester (with its many canal links) in the other.

From the junction with the Bridgewater Canal, the T&M travels south through Preston Brook Tunnel (one-way operation, alternating each half hour) and two smaller tunnels to the "junction" with the River Weaver at Anderton Boat lift near Northwich.

After Anderton, the next major destination is Middlewich, with a link to the Shropshire Union Canal, giving access to Chester, Llangollen and (south on the "Shroppie") a parallel route to Birmingham/Wolverhampton.

South of Middlewich, the T&M climbs out of the Cheshire Plain via the infamous "Heartbreak Hill" locks (more traditionally just called the "Cheshire Locks"), to the summit-level and the junction with the Macclesfield Canal at Red Bull (Kidsgrove). The boater can use the "Macc" to head for Marple, and the junction with the Peak Forest Canal (and hence, via the Ashton, Rochdale and Bridgewater canal) to complete the "Cheshire Ring".     (Some information from Wikipedia)

To follow the route further, click here to finds out more (This link takes you out of mywarrington).

River Weaver                    

The River Weaver, navigable in its lower reaches, runs in a curving route anti-clockwise across west Cheshire. One of its most notable feature is the Anderton Boat lift, built 1875, near Northwich, which links the Weaver with the Trent and Mersey Canal some 50ft above.


From its source in the hills of west Cheshire near Peckforton Castle, it initially flows in a south-easterly direction towards the border with Shropshire, fed by tributaries some of which rise in north Shropshire.

waterfront_anderton_boat_lift_030609_08.JPG (74722 bytes)

The River Weaver and
the Anderton Boat Lift
on 9 June 2003.

Just south of the Cheshire village of Audlem, the river then starts to flow approximately northwards across the Cheshire Plain, and today empties into the Manchester Ship Canal at Weston Point Docks, Runcorn (it previously flowed into the River Mersey).

waterfront_weaver_frodsham_810629_ps010.jpg (54313 bytes)

From the Peckforton Hills, the Weaver flows through the village of Wrenbury. The first significant town on the river is the small market town of Nantwich. Further north, it passes through Winsford. The 21-mile-long stretch north from Winsford Bridge is navigable. Acts of Parliament dating back to 1721 were introduced to allow the river to be 'canalised' to carry freight, including salt and chemicals. This Weaver Navigation stretch includes the town of Northwich.

From Northwich, the Weaver flows north-west across north Cheshire, passing between Frodsham and Sutton Weaver before reaching the Manchester Ship Canal.

At one time, the Weaver navigation rejoined the Weaver at Frodsham lock, via Frodsham Cut. Between 1807 and 1810, a short section of canal, the Weston Canal, was built to bypass the lower Weaver entirely and connect directly to Weston Point Docks, and the Frodsham cut and lock became derelict.

Barges Charles William,
Paradine and Parcastle
at the quayside of the
Frodsham Lighterage Co.
on 29 June 1981.
Photo and caption
Copyright © P Spilsbury.


There is not currently an obvious attractive "destination point" for recreational boaters heading down the Weaver Navigation, although Weston Marsh Lock and the Weston Point Docks are of interest to those who like industrial heritage. However, there are now plans to reopen the Frodsham cut, and to redevelop the Frodsham wharves on the Weaver.

Rowing is popular on the River Weaver, with competitive clubs in Runcorn, Northwich, and Acton Bridge (The Grange School). Fishing is also popular along the river especially at Weaver Parkway where it runs adjacent to the West Coast Main Line.
(Some information from Wikipedia)

Anderton Boat Lift           

Although the Anderton Boat Lift is 12 miles outside the district of Warrington, and the only one in England, it is close enough for me to including some notes on it for your reading pleasure, especially due to its historical background. I fully recommend a visit. Check out their official website for further details and opening times, etc.

waterfront_anderton_boat_lift_030609_01.JPG (93403 bytes)

The Anderton Boat Lift is located near the village of Anderton, Cheshire, three miles from Northwich town centre. It provides a 50 foot vertical link between two navigable waterways: the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Built in 1875, the boat lift was in use for over 100 years until it was closed due to corrosion in 1983. Restoration started in 2001 and the boat lift was re-opened in 2002. The lift and associated visitor centre and exhibition are operated by British Waterways. It is one of only two working boat lifts in the United Kingdom; the other is Falkirk Wheel in Scotland, discussed later.

The Anderton Boat Lift
on 9 June 2003.

Economic background

Salt has been extracted from the rock salt beds underneath the Cheshire Plain since Roman times. Our word 'salary' comes from the same Latin root word, 'salarium' where we get salt, and denotes a Roman soldier's allowance to buy salt in those ancient times. By the end of the 17th century a major salt mining industry had developed around the Cheshire "salt towns" of Northwich, Middlewich, Nantwich and Winsford. The completion of the River Weaver Navigation in 1734 (see photos here) provided a navigable route for transportation of the salt from Winsford, through Northwich, to Frodsham, where the Weaver joins the River Mersey.

The opening of the Trent and Mersey Canal in 1777 provided a second transport route, which ran close to the Weaver Navigation for part of its length, but extended further south to the coal mining and pottery industries around Stoke-on-Trent. Rather than competing with one another, the owners of the two waterways decided that it would be more profitable to work together. In 1793 a basin was excavated on the north bank of the Weaver, at Anderton, which took the river to the foot of the escarpment (slope) of the canal, 50 ft (15 m) above. Facilities were built for the trans-shipment of goods between the two waterways, including two cranes, two salt chutes and an inclined plane, possibly inspired by the much larger Hay Inclined Plane at Coalport. These facilities were extended with a second quay built in 1801 and the construction of a second entrance to the basin in 1831.  

waterfront_anderton_boat_lift_030609_06.JPG (92295 bytes)

The Trent & Mersey Canal
on 9 June 2003.

Planning and design

By 1870 the Anderton Basin was a major interchange for the trans-shipment of goods in both directions, with extensive warehousing, three separate double inclined planes and four salt chutes. However, trans-shipment was time-consuming and expensive, and the Trustees of the Weaver Navigation decided that a link between the two waterways was needed to allow boats to pass directly from one to the other. A flight of canal locks was considered but discarded, mainly because of the lack of a suitable site and the loss of water from the canal that would have resulted from operating locks. In 1870 the Trustees formally proposed a boat lift between the waterways. The Anderton Basin was the obvious site for such a boat lift.

waterfront_anderton-boat_lift_1965_ps028.jpg (44398 bytes)

The Trustees approached the North Staffordshire Railway Company, then owners of the Trent and Mersey Canal, to ask if they would contribute towards the cost of the boat lift. However, this approach was unsuccessful, so the Trustees agreed to fund the boat lift themselves.

The Trustees asked their chief Engineer, Edward Leader Williams, chief engineer and designer of the Manchester Ship Canal, to draw up plans for a boat lift. Leader Williams considered various ideas and finally settled on a design involving a pair of water-filled chambers, or caissons, which would counter-balance one another, and so require relatively little power to lift boats up and down.

waterfront_anderton_boat_lift_930101_ps029.jpg (60512 bytes)
A view of the Anderton Boat
Lift from the past taken in
1965.  Photo Copyright © P Spilsbury.
Another view: this one
taken on 1 January 1993
during restoration.
Photo Copyright © P Spilsbury.
A similar boat lift on the Grand Western Canal, completed in 1835, used chains to connect the caissons via an overhead balance wheel. However, this design require a very solid masonry superstructure to support the weight of the loaded caissons. Leader Williams realised that if he used water-filled hydraulic rams to support the caissons instead, then the weight of the caissons would be borne by the rams and their cylinders, buried underground, and a much lighter superstructure could be used. He may also have been inspired by inspecting a hydraulic ship lift and graving dock at the Royal Victoria Dock in London, designed by experienced hydraulic engineer, Edwin Clark.  

waterfront_anderton_boat_lift_030609_02.JPG (86358 bytes)

Having decided on a hydraulic ram design, Leader Williams appointed Edwin Clark as principal designer. The Anderton Basin, at that time, consisted of a cut on the north bank of the Weaver surrounding a small central island. It was decided to construct the boat lift itself on this island. The two wrought iron caissons were each 75 ft (23 m) long by 15 ft 6 inches (4.7m) wide by 9 ft 6 inches (2.9 m) deep, and could each accommodate two 72 ft (22 m) narrowboats or a single barge with a beam of up to 13 ft (4 m).

Each caisson had a weight of 90 tons when empty and 252 tons when full of water (because of displacement, the weight is the same with or without boats). Each caisson was supported by a single hydraulic ram consisting of a hollow 50 ft (15 m) long cast iron vertical piston with a diameter of 3 ft (90 cm), travelling within a buried 50 ft (15 m) long cast iron vertical cylinder with a diameter of 5 ft 6 inches (1.7 m).

At river level the caissons sat in a water-filled sandstone lined chamber. The above-ground superstructure consisted of seven hollow cast iron columns, which provided guide rails for the caissons and supported an upper working platform, walkways and access staircase. At the upper level the boat lift was connected to the Trent and Mersey canal via a 165 ft (50 m) long wrought iron aqueduct, with vertical wrought iron gates at either end.  

The boat lift at canal height
showing the two large tanks
for the boats to sail into for
their journey down to
the Weaver. At the time of
the photo, 9 June 2003,
I hadn't actually travelled
in it, much to the delight of
my friend's two sons who
did so in early 2007
(and they made sure
I knew it!).

In normal operation the cylinders of the two hydraulic rams were connected by a 5 inch (13 cm) diameter pipe, which allowed water to pass between them, thus lowering the heavier caisson and raising the lighter one. To make adjustments at the start and end of a lift either cylinder could be operated independently, powered by an accumulator or pressure vessel at the top of the lift structure, which was in turn kept primed by a 10 horse power steam engine. If necessary, the steam engine and accumulator could operate either hydraulic ram on its own, thus raising the caissons independently, although this would take about 30 minutes to raise a caisson from river level to canal level, as opposed to 3 minutes in normal operation.


In October 1871 the Trustees of the Weaver Navigation held a Special General Meeting, which resolved

to consider the desirability of constructing a lift with basins and all other requisite works for the interchange of traffic between the River Weaver and the North Staffordshire Canal at Anderton and of applying to Parliament for an Act to authorise the construction of such works ....  

waterfront_anderton_boat_lift_030609_03.JPG (106829 bytes)

In July 1872 Royal Assent was granted for the Weaver Navigation 1872 Act, which authorised the construction of the boat lift. The contract for construction of the lift was awarded to Emmerson Murgatroyd & Co. Ltd. of Stockport and Liverpool. Work started before the end of 1872, and took 30 months. The Anderton boat lift was formally opened to traffic on 26 July 1875. The total cost of the work was £48,428.

< A canal boat leaves the lift for the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Operation after conversion

The lift originally worked using hydraulic power, but was converted to electric operation between 1906 and 29 July 1908, when it was reopened. The boat lift was successfully operated for 75 years. Regular maintenance was still necessary. In particular, the wire ropes supporting the caissons suffered from fatigue as a result of repeated bending and straightening as they ran over the overhead pulleys, and had to be replaced quite frequently.

However, the maintenance was simpler than before because the mechanism of the electrical lift was all above ground. It was also less expensive because the caissons were now designed to be run independently, so most maintenance operations could be carried out while one caisson remained operational, thus avoiding the need to close the lift entirely for any extended period.

Another regular maintenance job was repainting. The new superstructure of the converted lift was found to be susceptible to corrosion. To reduce this corrosion the entire lift was painted with a protective solution of tar and rubber, which had to be renewed every eight years or so.

During 1941 and 1942 the hydraulic rams of the original lift, which had been left in place in their shaft beneath the dry dock constructed during conversion, were finally removed in order to salvage the iron. During the 1950s and 1960s the commercial traffic on British canals declined. By the 1970s the Anderton boat lift traffic was almost entirely recreational, and it was almost unused during winter months.

waterfront_anderton_nature_park_030609.JPG (127440 bytes)

Close by is Anderton
Nature Reserve,
built on industrial
wasteland, and now
one of the most attractive reserves in the area.

Closure and restoration

waterfront_anderton_boat_lift_030609_05.JPG (89045 bytes)

During repainting work in 1983 extensive corrosion was found in the lift's superstructure, and it was declared structurally unsound and closed. A modified version of the original hydraulic system was reinstated, however, after restoration work in 2002.

More than 2,000 individuals contributed to the Anderton Boat Lift Appeal and raised over £430,000. Most of the restoration work was carried out off site. On 26 March 2002, a special trip boat Edwin Clark travelled down the river with VIPs from the British Waterways depot at Northwich to the site. They travelled up in the lift to perform the opening ceremony.

The 1906-1908 external frame and pulleys have been retained in a non-operational role. It is now one of the most popular visitor attractions in north Cheshire. A booklet, 'A Guide to the Anderton Boat Lift'  by David Garden & Neil Parkhouse, and published by Black Dwarf Publications in 2002, is available from stockists. ISBN 1 903599 05 9  (Some information from Wikipedia)

waterfront_anderton_boat_lift_030609_04.jpg (62196 bytes)

The restored lift in 2003,
bringing the structure
to its former glory.
Modern computer
technology controls
the movements of the
lift, which can be viewed
at the visitor centre.

Pleasure cruises
are available
which include
a ride in the lift.

Falkirk Wheel                  

waterfront_falkirk_wheel_1.jpg (56787 bytes) While we're looking at boat lifts, we might as well look in on The Falkirk Wheel, named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland. This is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The difference in the levels of the two canals at the wheel is 24 metres, roughly equivalent to the height of an eight storey building.

The structure is located near the rough Castle Fort and the closest village is Tamfourhill. The Falkirk Wheel cost £17.5 million, and the restoration project as a whole cost £84.5 million (of which £32 million came from National Lottery funds). A completely new section of the canal was constructed to accommodate the lift.

On 24 May 2002, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Falkirk Wheel as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations. The opening had been delayed by a month due to flooding caused by vandals who forced open the wheel's gates.

Falkirk Wheel Side 2004
Sean Mack.
This file licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Design of the Falkirk Wheel

Architectural services were supplied by Scotland-based RMJM, from initial designs by Nicoll Russell Studios and engineers Binnie Black and Veatch. The wheel, which has an overall diameter of 35 metres, consists of two opposing arms which extend 15 metres beyond the central axle, and which take the shape of a Celtic-inspired, double-headed axe. Two sets of these axe-shaped arms are attached about 25 metres apart to a 3.5 metre diameter axle. Two diametrically opposed water-filled caissons, each with a capacity of 80,000 gallons (302 tons), are fitted between the ends of the arms.

These caissons always weigh the same whether or not they are carrying their combined capacity of 600 tonnes of floating canal barges as, according to Archimedes' principle, floating objects displace their own weight in water, so when the boat enters, the amount of water leaving the caisson weighs exactly the same as the boat. This keeps the wheel balanced and so, despite its enormous mass, it rotates through 180° in less than four minutes while using very little power. It takes just 22.5 kilowatts (kW) to power the electric motors, which consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.

The wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and is regarded as an engineering landmark for Scotland. The United Kingdom has one other boat lift: the Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire. 

waterfront_falkirk_wheel_2.jpg (64166 bytes)

Public license
Author: AndiW 4 Sep 2005

The Falkirk Wheel is an improvement on the Anderton Boat Lift, and makes use of the same original principle: two balanced tanks, one going up and the other going down. The wheel on the Falkirk lift rotates together with the axle, which is supported by four-metre-diameter slewing bearings that are fitted to the ends of the axle, and have their outer rings mounted on the plinths, which in turn are constructed on top of piled foundations. The caissons need to rotate at the same speed as the wheel but in the opposite direction to keep them level and to ensure that the load of boats and water does not drop out when the wheel turns.

Construction of the wheel

The wheel was constructed by Butterfly Engineering at Ripley in Derbyshire under Millennium Plans to reconnect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, mainly for recreational use. The two canals were previously connected by a series of 11 locks, but by the 1930s these had fallen into disuse, were filled in and the land built upon.

The Millennium Commission decided to regenerate the canals of central Scotland to connect Glasgow with Edinburgh once more. Designs were submitted for a lock to link the canals, with the Falkirk Wheel design winning. As with many Millennium Commission projects the site includes a visitors' centre containing a shop, café and exhibition centre.

waterfront_falkirk_wheel_3.jpg (70111 bytes) waterfront_falkirk_wheel_4.jpg (74098 bytes) waterfront_falkirk_wheel_5.jpg (72153 bytes)
Three views of the Falkirk Wheel in action. Images Public license SeanMack/Gallery Wikimedia Commons

The docking-pit

The docking-pit is a drydock-like port, which is isolated from the lower canal basin by means of watertight gates and kept dry by means of water pumps. When the wheel rotates and stops with its arms in the vertical position, it is possible for boats to enter and exit the lower caisson when the gates are open, without flooding the docking-pit. The space below the caisson is empty.

If it were not for inclusion of the docking-pit the caissons and extremities of the arms of the wheel would be immersed in water at the lower canal basin each time the wheel rotates. This would result in a number of undesirable situations developing, such as providing buoyancy in the bottom caisson and the viscosity of the water causing an increase in the required power.

Future rotating boat-lifts

A similar design of boat-lift has been suggested for a proposed new canal which would run along Marston Vale in Bedfordshire, as part of a large-scale project creating an area of leisure and tourism facilities linked to the future expansion of Bedford and Milton Keynes. The canal would link the Grand Union Canal at Milton Keynes with the River Great Ouse at Bedford.    (Some information from Wikipedia)


waterfront_lock_1.jpg (68489 bytes)

On the Bridgewater Canal, there is no need for locks as the waterway runs at the same level for its whole length. In other places, it was necessary to devise a way to transport boats between separate sections which were at different levels. For instance, there may be a town at the bottom of a valley, whilst the next town or link might be on top of a hill. So the engineers built locks to link the sections.

Put simply, a lock is a particular type of device for raising or lowering boats between stretches of water at different levels. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber whose water level can be varied; unlike a boat lift where the chamber itself moves.

Public license Matt Crypto

Basic construction and operation

A plan and side view of a generic, empty canal lock. A lock chamber separated from the rest of the canal by an upper pair and a lower pair of mitre gates. The gates in each pair close against each other at an 18° angle to approximate an arch against the water pressure on the "upstream" side of the gates when the water level on the "downstream" side is lower. 

All locks have three elements:

A watertight chamber connecting the upper and lower canals, and large enough to enclose one or more boats. The position of the chamber is fixed, but its water level can vary. 

waterfront_lock_gate_schematic.jpg (22048 bytes)

A lock gate schematic. 
GNU Free
Documentation License

A gate (often a pair of "pointing" half-gates) at either end of the chamber. A gate is opened to allow a boat to enter or leave the chamber; when closed, the gate is watertight.

A set of lock gear to empty or fill the chamber as required. This is usually a simple valve (traditionally, a flat panel lifted by manually winding a rack and pinion mechanism) which allows water to drain into or out of the chamber; larger locks may use pumps.

The principle of operating a lock is simple. For instance, if a boat travelling downstream finds the lock already full of water:

waterfront_llangollen_canal_whitchurch_900528_ps036.jpg (89483 bytes)

The entrance gates are opened and the boat sails in.

The entrance gates are closed.

A valve is opened, this lowers the boat by draining water from the chamber.

The exit gates are opened and the boat sails out.

If the lock was empty, the boat would have had to wait 5-10 minutes while the lock was filled.

For a boat travelling upstream, the process is reversed: for instance, the chamber is filled by opening a different valve which allows water to enter the chamber from the upper level.

The whole operation will usually take between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the size of the lock, and whether it was originally set "for" the boat.

waterfront_shropshire_banbury_lock_030808_ps037.jpg (94364 bytes)
A lift bridge on the
Llangollen Canal near Whitchurch on
28 May 1990. They are a
feature of this canal.
Photo and caption

Copyright © P Spilsbury.
Bunbury Locks near
Tarporley on the 
Shropshire Union
Canal 8 August
2003. The lockkeepers
cottage is at the top
left and the horses
stable on the right.
Photo and caption

Copyright © P Spilsbury.
The next image shows the stages of a lock opening sequence.

waterfront_lock_sequence.jpg (40444 bytes)

Boaters approaching a lock are usually pleased to meet another boat coming towards them, because this boat will have just exited the lock on their level and therefore set the lock in their favour — saving some work and some 5-10 minutes. (This is not true for staircase locks, where it is quicker for boats to go through in convoy.)     (information from Wikipedia)

Image Matt Crypto Public license

RMS Tayleur                     

The RMS Tayleur was a fully-rigged iron clipper chartered by the White Star Line, and her fate would be a black mark on that company for years to come.


rms_tayleur.jpg (22511 bytes)

The Tayleur was designed by William Rennie of Liverpool and built for owners Charles Moore & Company. When she was launched at Warrington Dock on 4 October 1853, having taken just six months to build, Tayleur was the largest merchant ship on the seas. She was 230 feet in length with a 40 foot beam and displaced 1,750 tons, while 4,000 tons of cargo could be carried in holds 28 feet deep below three decks. She was named after Charles Tayleur, founder of the Vulcan Engineering Works. Warrington Dock evolved to allow unloading of goods for road transport to the east. 

A small Warrington Dock was also provided on the Manchester Ship Canal with a lock through to the River Mersey. The dock and lock are now derelict. The area is still marked on the modern map opposite Ellesmere Road at Stockton Heath. The new ship was chartered by the White Star Line to serve the booming Australian trade routes, as transport to and from the colony was in high demand due to the discovery of gold there.


Tayleur left Liverpool on 19 January 1854, on her maiden voyage, for Melbourne, Australia, with 652 passengers and crew. Her crew of 71 had only 37 trained seamen amongst them, and of these ten could not speak English (a number of the crew were accused in newspaper accounts of the time to be merely seeking free passage to Australia). However most of the crew survived.

Her compass did not work properly because of the iron hull. The crew believed that they were sailing south through the Irish Sea, but were actually travelling west towards Ireland. On 21 January 1854, within 48 hours of sailing, Tayleur encountered fog and a storm and were heading straight for land. The rudder was undersized for her tonnage, and when land was sighted through the mists, she was unable to tack around Lambay Island. The rigging was also faulty, and the ropes had not been properly stretched. They became slack, making it nearly impossible to control the sails. Despite dropping both anchors as soon as rocks were sighted, she ran aground on the east coast of Lambay Island, about five miles from Dublin Bay.

Initially, attempts were made to lower the ship's lifeboats, but when the first one was smashed on the rocks, launching further boats was deemed unsafe. Tayleur was so close to land that the crew was able to collapse a mast onto the shore, and some people aboard were able to jump onto land by clambering along the collapsed mast. Some that reached shore had carried ropes from the ship, allowing others to pull themselves to safety on the ropes. Captain Noble waited onboard Tayleur until the last minute, then jumped towards shore, being rescued by one of the passengers.

With the storm and high seas continuing, the ship was then washed into deeper water. She sank to the bottom with only the tops of her masts showing. One survivor, William Vivers, climbed to the tops of the rigging, spending 14 hours there until he was rescued. Out of the 652 people onboard, 380 lives - many of them immigrants - were lost. Out of over 100 women onboard, only three survived, possibly because of the difficulty with the clothing of that era. The survivors were then faced with having to get up an almost sheer 80 foot (24m) cliff to get to shelter. When word of the disaster reached the Irish mainland, the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company sent the steamer Prince to look for survivors.

Although newspaper accounts at the time blamed the crew for negligence, the official Coroner's Inquest absolved Captain Noble and placed the blame on the ship's owners, accusing them of neglect for allowing the ship to depart without its compasses being properly adjusted. The Board of Trade, however, did fault the Captain for not taking soundings, a standard practice when sailing in low visibility.

The wreck currently lies in 18 metres of water. The Tayleur has been compared with RMS Titanic. Both were White Star Liners and RMS ships, i.e. Royal Mail Steamers or Ships, authorised to carry the British Royal Mail. The RMS designation began in 1840, the year the penny black stamp was first issued. Technically innovative like the Titanic, both had a serious claim to being the largest ship of their time. Additionally, both vessels went down on their maiden voyages, and inadequate or faulty equipment contributed to both disasters (Faulty compasses and rigging for the Tayleur, and an inadequate flooding control system and lifeboats for Titanic). (Some information from Wikipediaphoto is in the public domain rms_tayleur2.jpg (67993 bytes)
For a detailed account of RMS Tayleur, read Gill Hoffs book The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic

rms_tayleur_by_gill_hoffs.jpg (72935 bytes)

Available from Waterstones and WHSmith in Golden Square shopping centre in Warrington, or direct from the publishers

Pen & Sword books http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur/p/6053/

Hardback 160 pages ISBN: 9781783030477 Published: 15 January 2014

See also Gill's website: gillhoffs.wordpress.com

Threats to the canal system     

An announcement in August 2006 regarding budget cuts for British Waterways has worried some, who believe that development of new waterways, and even maintenance of existing canals, might suffer. Alternatively, fees for licences paid by boaters and marinas may rise sharply. One legal problem is that some currently-open waterways still officially only have "remainder" status, so a cash-strapped BW would have no legal obligation to maintain them.

Another issue affecting the future of the canal system is that it now seems very unlikely that there will be an extension of the "derogation" from the EU rule on fuel tax on private pleasure boats. Canal boats will thus have to pay the same tax on diesel fuel as motorists. It is feared that that this might affect the popularity of canal holidays. Although the cost of fuel would not be a large fraction of the cost of hiring a boat, there could be an adverse reaction if British hire companies felt that they could no longer afford to subsidise high-speed and high-mileage boaters by "including free fuel". To start charging for fuel used (as is common outside Britain) rather than providing a "free" tankful could be unpopular with potential hirers.

The Mersey Gateway - A New Mersey Crossing

For many years there has been a call for a new river crossing over the Mersey to ease congestion on the roads at Liverpool, Runcorn, Warrington and Manchester. This is set to become a reality in the coming years with a Government-approved project called The Mersey Gateway. A new toll bridge is planned between Runcorn and Widnes, east of the current Jubilee Bridge, for which the government has already promised a cash injection of £209m. However, it has not gone done well with some members of the community. Some say that because tolls will be charged, many drivers may choose to travel via Warrington to avoid paying, resulting in more traffic problems in the town. The crossing officially opened just after midnight on Saturday 14 October 2017.

And finally...

waterfront_river_atherton_020802.JPG (100392 bytes)

Did you know Warrington has TWO rivers flowing through the town? That's right! As well as the famous Mersey, the second is the River Atherton which flows through Bewsey, Dallam and Orford. It is now called Dallam Brook and known locally as the "Stinker" or "Stinking Brook" for obvious reasons. Having said that, it has had a bit of a clean up over recent years.

< The River Atherton runs along the border of the Bewsey and Dallam estates in north-west Warrington.

Click here for Part 1

Warrington - A Town of Many Industries

mywarrington - created by Gordon I Gandy
rainbow_logo_2021.jpg (198300 bytes)

Rainbow After the Storm

Rainbow_After_The_Storm_Padre_and_Nicky.jpg (142319 bytes)

Where Mental Health Matters

Rainbow After the Storm is an award-winning mental health
support group and Community Interest Company.


Find Rainbow on Facebook

Nicky Price Mental Health Tips

Have a look at our new shop! www.rainbowafterthestorm.org/webshop/


Home History Timeline Downtown 1 Memory Lane Tour 1 Tour 2 Rainbow Shop! Nineteen Nineties Legh Street Baths At The Flicks Mr Smith's My Warrington Radio Warrington RAF Burtonwood On The Waterfront 1 On The Waterfront 2 Warrington Green 1 Warrington Green 2 Sankey Valley On The Buses Peter's Gallery Walk Through Time Making Tracks 1 Making Tracks 2 Making Tracks 3 Warrington People Entertaining People Sporting People Warrington Wolves Warrington Market Classic Motor Shows Events On Top of the World The Bewsian 19 Museum Street Hamilton Street Golden Square Feedback