Plaque honours Manchester canals

Spencer Fitz-Gibbon (ICE) with Clive Mitchell and Nick Atkinson (Canal & River Trust) at a bridge over the Rochdale Canal in Great Ancoats, Manchester. PHOTO SUPPLIED

ONE of Britain’s leading professional institutions has honoured Manchester’s historic inland canals by the mounting of a commemorative plaque at a canalside location in the heart of the city.

The Institution of Civil Engineers, which represents almost 90,000 civil engineers in the UK and worldwide, has mounted a plaque on a bridge belonging to the Canal & River Trust, which owns most of Manchester’s inland canals.

The plaque will be mounted on the side of a brick-built footbridge on the Rochdale Canal within a few minutes’ walk of Piccadilly (1). The Rochdale Canal, which opened in 1798-99, was built with 92 locks to allow it to cross the Pennines, and stretches 32 miles from Rochdale to Castlefield, where it joins the even older Bridgewater Canal.

The canals included:

  • The Bridgewater Canal, commonly considered Britain’s first true modern canal, built to bring coal from inside the mines at Worsley direct into the heart of Manchester.
  • The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal, dating from 1839 and just a kilometre long – but including a tunnel 456 metres in length, which was converted to provide air-raid shelters during World War Two.

Darrell Matthews, North West Regional Director of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said “This plaque celebrates what you might call the transport infrastructure of the first Northern Powerhouse. Manchester’s canals helped facilitate the birth of the world’s first industrial revolution in Lancashire, making Manchester the world’s first modern industrialised city.

“The canal network is a fantastic feat of civil engineering, and a vital part of British history of which we should be very proud.”

Clive Mitchell, project team manager and engineer with the Canal & River Trust, said: “Our canals were built by some of the great civil engineers of the late 18th century and much of the network is still in excellent working order. In recent years the canals have taken on a new lease of life as a popular location for urban regeneration. They also form tremendous traffic-free routes for walkers and cyclists and wonderful wildlife corridors through the heart of the city.

“The canals make a unique contribution to the city’s leisure offer – which ranges from boating and fishing to enjoyment of family-friendly pubs, bars and restaurants in canal-side locations.

“What began as a vital part of the transport infrastructure of the first Northern Powerhouse is now a major leisure asset at the heart of a thriving city.”

 

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