Manchester Ship Canal Celebrates 125th Birthday


One of the greatest engineering projects of the Victorian era, the Manchester Ship Canal, celebrates it’s 125th birthday this year.

The canal, an approximately 36-mile waterway, was built in 1887/1893 and links docks in Manchester with the sea via Mersey Estuary.

The immense and costly project was first prepared for by London-based engineer Hamilton Fulton and later Edward Leader Williams. Eedward Leader Williams’s plan for the canal was chosen to be put forward to Parliament.


Parliament went on to see 3 attempts at getting an Act of Parliament needed for constructing the canal from Manchester to the sea. The Act of Parliament met an opposition in the name of Liverpool Corporation and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. There were fears that the Mersey Estuary would be slit up by the canal, and therefore the bill was rejected twice.

The preposition for the canal was then altered to avoid the need to train the walls of the Mersey estuary, and the bill was accepted in 1884. It wasn’t plain sailing from this point, however, as £5 million was needed to cover the costs of the first part of the construction process. Parliament issued a 2 year deadline for the proposers to buy the Bridgewater Canal, as well as raise the needed funds.

In November of 1887, the funds were raised and the first sod was cut. The contractor in charge of the construction of the canal was Thomas Andrew Walker. Around £1 of plant and equipment was used to build temporary rail track in order to distribute materials and disperse excavated rock and soil.

In November of 1893, the canal was usable from Manchester to Eastham. By December 1893, the directors of the canal company had made the full passage.

The canal was opened to commercial traffic on the January 1st 1894, and formally opened by Queen Victoria from the Royal Yacht The Enchantress on May 21st 1894.

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