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The Manchester Ship Canal

by Richard Thomas

Friday 15th November 2013

Following his very successful talk on the on the Panama Canal in 2010, Richard Thomas gave an equally interesting and detailed talk on the history of the Manchester Ship Canal.

Originally, navigation from Liverpool to Manchester was along a tortuous route using the Mersey and Irwell rivers. The original estimate to build the 38 mile long canal was £8m and it ended up costing around £15m; a familiar story. The canal took six years to complete with nine docks in Manchester and at its peak in 1958 carried 20m tons of cargo. This has now declined to 7m tons. Although there was some containerisation it never mounted a serious challenge to other ports, partly due to the limited ship size. At its opening in January 1894 the Norseman led a convoy of vessels along the canal and Queen Victoria formally opened it in May later that year.

The Manchester Ship Canal remains the longest river navigation canal in the world and is the world's eighth longest ship canal. It has been well integrated into contemporary development in Manchester, particularly around the area of the Lowry Centre and Imperial War Museum North.