Printout of a story from Bridging the Years:

Bringing the Sea to Manchester - The Need for a 'Big Ditch'

Today the idea of digging a thirty-six mile long canal to link Manchester with the sea may seem a little strange. However, at the time of its construction, the Canal was seen by many as the answer to a number of problems affecting Manchester and the surrounding area. One of the last great engineering achievements of the Victorian age, its construction brought the sea and economic independence to the region.


By the time of the Victorians, Manchester had built itself up to be a thriving industrial city. Known as 'Cottonopolis' its mills and those of surrounding towns produced some of the finest cotton goods in the world. Other industries also prospered. The employment provided by industry brought thousands of workers into the area.

There was, however, a limiting factor to the region's success. Tolls on goods through Liverpool were seen as exceptionally high. The region's merchants found themselves paying over the odds to receive and send their goods through Liverpool. Manchester as an inland city, was at a disadvantage, with no major port of its own for the unloading of cotton and other cargoes. Economic depression revealed that the railway companies were another party gaining unfairly from Manchester. Comparisons with other railway networks showed that the region was paying high transportation costs for the transfer of raw materials and finished goods. Manchester and its allies needed to free themselves from such handicaps and achieve independence.


The construction of a direct link to the Mersey Estuary, which was usable by large sea-going vessels had been proposed by various individuals in the past, and rejected, before the Manchester Ship Canal Scheme finally made it into reality.

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