Brindley and the Early Engineers III.
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THE CANAL had scarcely been opened to Manchester when we find Brindley occupied, at the instance of the Duke, in surveying the country between Stretford and the river Mersey, with the view of carrying out a canal in that direction for the accommodation of the growing trade between Liverpool and Manchester.  The first boat-load of coals sailed over the Barton viaduct to Manchester on the 17th of July, 1761; on the 7th of September following we find Brindley at Liverpool, [p.184] "rocconitoring;" and, by the end of the month, he was busily engaged levelling for a proposed canal to join the Mersey at Hempstones, about eight miles below Warrington Bridge, from whence there was a natural tideway to Liverpool, about fifteen miles distant.

    The project in question was a very important one on public grounds.  We have seen how the community of Manchester had been hampered by defective road and water communications, which seriously affected its supplies of food and fuel, and, at the same time, by retarding its trade, hindered to a considerable extent the regular employment of its population.  The Duke of Bridgewater, by constructing his canal, had opened up an abundant supply of coal, but the transport of the raw materials of manufacture was still as much impeded as before.  Liverpool was the natural port of Manchester, from which it drew its supplies of cotton, wool, silk, and other produce, and to which it returned them for export when worked up into manufactured articles.

    There were two existing modes by which the communication was kept up between the two places: one was by the ordinary roads, and the other by the rivers Mersey and Irwell.  From a statement published in December, 1761, it appears that the weight of goods then carried by land from Manchester to Liverpool was "upwards of forty tons per week," or about two thousand tons a year.  This quantity, insignificant though it must appear when compared with the enormous traffic now passing between the two towns, was then thought very large, as no doubt it was when the limited trade of the country is taken into account.  But the cost of transport was the important feature; it was not less than two pounds sterling per ton—this heavy charge being almost entirely attributable to the execrable state of the roads.  It was scarcely possible to drive waggons along the ruts and through the sloughs which lay between the two places at certain seasons of the year, and even pack-horses had considerable difficulty in making the journey.

    The other route between the towns was by the navigation of the rivers Mersey and Irwell.  The raw materials used in manufacture were principally transported from Liverpool to Manchester by this route, at a cost of about twelve shilling per ton; the carriage of timber and such like articles costing not less than twenty per cent. on their value at Liverpool.  But the navigation was also very tedious and difficult.  The boats could only pass up to the first lock at the Liverpool end with the assistance of a spring tide; and further up the river there were numerous fords and shallows which the boats could only pass in great freshes, or, in dry seasons, by drawing extraordinary quantities of water from the locks above.  Then, in winter, the navigation was apt to be impeded by floods, and occasionally it was stopped altogether.  In short, the growing wants of the population demanded an improved means of transit between the two towns, which the Duke of Bridgewater now determined to supply.

    The growth of Liverpool as a seaport has been comparatively recent.  At a time when Bristol and Hull possessed thriving harbours, resorted to by foreign ships, Liverpool was little better than a fishing village, its only distinction being that it was a convenient place for setting sail to Ireland.  In the war between France and England which broke out in 1347, when Edward the Third summoned the various ports in the kingdom to make contributions towards the naval power according to their means, London was required to provide 25 ships and 662 men; Bristol 22 ships and 608 men; Hull, 16 ships and 466 men, whilst Liverpool was only asked to find 1 bark and 6 men!  In Queen Elizabeth's time, the burgesses presented a petition to Her Majesty, praying her to remit a subsidy which had been imposed upon it and other seaport towns, in which they styled their native place "Her Majesty's poor decayed town of Liverpool."  Chester was then of considerably greater importance as a port.  In 1634-5, when Charles I. made his unconstitutional levy of ship-money throughout England, Liverpool was let off with a contribution of £15, whilst Chester paid £100, and Bristol not less than £1,000.

    The channel of the Dee, however, becoming silted up, the trade of Chester decayed, and that of Liverpool rose upon its ruins.  In 1699 the excavation of the Old Dock was begun; but it was used only as a tidal harbour (being merely an enclosed space with a small pier) until the year 1709, when an Act was obtained enabling its conversion into a wet dock; since which time a series of docks have been constructed, extending for about five miles along the north shore of the Mersey, which are among the greatest works of modern times, and afford an almost unequalled amount of shipping accommodation.


    From that time forward the progress of the port of Liverpool has kept steady pace with the trade and wealth of the country behind it, and especially with the manufacturing activity and energy of the town of Manchester.  Its situation at the mouth of a deep and navigable river, its convenient proximity to districts abounding in coal and iron and inhabited by an industrious and hardy population, were unquestionably great advantages.  But these of themselves would have been insufficient to account for the extraordinary progress made by Liverpool during the last century, without the opening up of the great system of canals, which brought not only the towns of Yorkshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire into immediate connection with that seaport, but also the manufacturing districts of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and the other central counties of England situated at the confluence of the various navigations. [p.188-1]  Liverpool thus became the great focus of import and export for the northern and western districts.  The raw materials of commerce were poured into it from Ireland, America, and the Indies.  From thence they were distributed along the canals amongst the various seats of manufacturing industry, and a large proportion was readily returned by the same route to the same port, in a manufactured state, for shipment to all parts of the world.


Royal Seaforth Container Terminal, Liverpool. [p.188-2]
© Copyright Carl Davies and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

    At the time of which we speak, however, it will be observed that the communication between Liverpool and Manchester was very imperfect.  It was not only difficult to convey goods between the two places, but it was also difficult to convey persons.  In fine weather, those who required to travel the thirty miles which separated them, could ride or walk, resting at Warrington for the night.  But in winter the roads, like most of the other country roads at the time, were simply impassable.  Although an Act had been passed as early as the year 1726 for repairing and enlarging the road from Liverpool to Prescot, coaches could not come nearer to the town than Warrington in 1750, the road being impracticable for such vehicles even in summer. [p.188-3]

    A stage-coach was not started between Liverpool and Manchester until the year 1767, performing the journey only three times a week.  It required six and sometimes eight horses to draw the lumbering vehicle and its load along the ruts and through the sloughs,—the whole day being occupied in making the journey.  The coach was accustomed to start early in the morning from Liverpool; it breakfasted at Prescot, dined at Warrington, and arrived at Manchester usually in time for supper.  On one occasion, at Warrington, the coachman intimated his wish to proceed, when the company requested him to take another pint, as they had not finished their wine, asking him at the same time if he was in a burry?  "Oh," replied the driver, "I'm not partic'lar to an hour or so!"  As late as 1775, no mail-coach ran between Liverpool and any other town, the bags being conveyed to and from it on horseback; and one letter-carrier was found sufficient for the wants of the place.  A heavy stage then ran, or rather crawled, between Liverpool and London, making only four journeys a week in the winter time.  It started from the Golden Talbot, in Water-street, and was three days on the road.  It went by Middlewich, where one of its proprietors kept the White Bear inn; and during the Knutsford race-week the coach was sent all the way round by that place, in order to bring customers to the Bear.

    We have said that Brindley was engaged upon the preliminary survey of a canal to connect Manchester with the Mersey, immediately after the original Worsley line had been opened, and before its paying qualities had been ascertained.  But the Duke, having once made up his mind as to the expediency of carrying out this larger project, never halted nor looked back, but made arrangements for prosecuting a bill for the purpose of enabling the canal to be made in the very next session of Parliament.

    We find that Brindley's first visit to Liverpool and the intervening district on the business of the survey was made early in September, 1761.  During the remainder of the month he was principally occupied in Staffordshire, looking after the working of his fire-engine at Fenton Vivian, carrying out improvements in the silk-manufactory at Congleton, and inspecting various mills at Newcastle-under-Lyne and the neighbourhood.  His only idle day during that month seems to have been the 22nd, which was a holiday, for he makes the entry in his book of "crounation of Georg and Sharlot," the new King and Queen of England.  By the 25th we find him again with the Duke at Worsley, and on the 30th he makes the entry, "set out at Dunham to Level for Liverpool."  The work then went on continuously until the survey was completed; and on the 19th of November he set out for London, with £7. 18s. in his pocket.

    In the course of his numerous journeys, we find Brindley carefully noting down the various items of his expenses, which were curiously small.  Although he was four or five days on the road to London, and stayed eight days there, his total expenses, both going and returning, amounted to only £4. 8s.: it is most probable, however, that he lived at the Duke's house whilst in town.  On the 1st of December we find him, on his return journey to Worsley, resting the first night at a place called Brickhill; the next at Coventry, where he makes the entry, "Moy mar had a bad fall the frasst;" the third at Sandon; the fourth at Congleton; and the fifth at Worsley.  He had still some inquiries to make as to the depth of water and the conditions of the tide at Hempstones; and for three days he seems to have been occupied in traffic-taking, with a view to the evidence to be given before Parliament; for on the 10th of December we find him at Stretford, "to count the caridgos," and on the 12th, he is at Manchester for the same purpose, "counting the loded caridgos and horses."

    The following bill refers to some of the work done by him at this time, and is a curious specimen of an engineer's travelling charges in those days—the engineer himself being at the same time paid at the rate of 3s. 6d. a day:—


    In the early part of the month of January, 1762, we find Brindley busy measuring soughs, gauging the tides at Hempstones, and examining and altering the Duke's paper-mills and iron slitting-mills at Worsley; and on the 7th we find this entry: "to masuor the Duks pools I and Smeaton."  On the following day he makes "an ochilor survey from Saldnoor [Sale Moor] to Stockport," with a view to a branch canal being carried in that direction.  On the 14th, he sets out from Congleton, by way of Ashbourne, Northampton, and Dunstable, arriving in London on the fifth day.

    Immediately on his arrival in town we find him proceeding to rig himself out in a new suit of clothes.  His means were small, his habits thrifty, and his wardrobe scanty; but as he was about to appear in an important character, as the principal engineering witness before a Parliamentary Committee in support of the Duke's bill, he felt it necessary to incur an extra expenditure on dress for the occasion.  Accordingly, on the morning of the 18th we find him expending a guinea—an entire week's pay—in the purchase of a pair of new breeches; two guineas on a coat and waistcoat of broadcloth, and six shillings for a pair of new shoes.  The subjoined is a facsimile of the entry in his pocketbook.


    It will be observed that an expenditure is here entered of nine shillings for going to "the play."  It would appear that his friend Gilbert, who was in London with him on the canal business, prevailed on Brindley to go with him to the theatre to see Garrick in the play of 'Richard III.', and he went.  He had never been to an entertainment of the kind before; but the excitement which it caused him was so great, and it so completely disturbed his ideas, that he was unfitted for business for several days after.  He then declared that no consideration should tempt him to go a second time, and he held to his resolution.  This was his first and only visit to the play.  The following week he enters in his memorandum-book concerning himself "ill in bed," and the first Sunday after his recovery we find him attending service at "Sant Mary's Church."  The service did not make him ill, as the play had done, and on the following day he attended the House of Commons on the subject of the Duke's bill.

    The proposed canal from Manchester to the Mersey at Hempstones stirred up an opposition which none of the Duke's previous bills had encountered.  Its chief opponents were the proprietors of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, who saw their monopoly assailed by the measure; and, unable though they had been satisfactorily to conduct the then traffic between Liverpool and Manchester, they were unwilling to allow of any additional water service being provided between the two towns.  Having already had sufficient evidence of the Duke's energy and enterprise, from what he had been able to effect in so short a time in forming the canal between Worsley and Manchester, the Navigation Company were not without reason alarmed at his present project.

    At first they tried to buy him off by concessions.  They offered to reduce the rate of 3s. 4d. per ton of coals, timber, &c., conveyed upon the Irwell between Barton and Manchester, to 6d. if he would join their Navigation at Barton and abandon the part of his canal between that point and Manchester; but he would not now be diverted from his plan, which he resolved to carry into execution if possible.  Again they tried to conciliate his Grace by offering him certain exclusive advantages in the use of their Navigation.  But it was again too late; and the Duke having a clear idea of the importance of his project, and being assured by his engineer of its practicability and the great commercial value of the undertaking, determined to proceed with the measure.  It offered to the public the advantages of a shorter line of navigation, not liable to be interrupted by floods on the one hand or droughts on the other, and, at the same time, a much lower rate of freight, the maximum charge proposed in the bill being 6s. a ton against 12s., the rate charged by the Mersey and Irwell Navigation between Liverpool and Manchester.

    The opposition to the bill was led by Lord Strange, son of the Earl of Derby, one of the members for the county of Lancaster, who took the part of the "Old Navigators," as they were called, in resisting the bill.  The question seems also to have been treated as a political one; and, the Duke and his friends being Whigs, Lord Strange mustered the Tory party strongly against him.  Hence we find this entry occurring in Brindley's notebook, under date the 16th of February: "The Toores [Tories] mad had [made head] agave ye Duk."

    The principal objections offered to the proposed canal were, that the landowners would suffer by it from having their lands cut through and covered with water, by which a great number of acres would be for ever lost to the public; that there was no necessity whatever for the canal, the Mersey and Irwell Navigation being sufficient to carry more goods than the trade then existing required; that the new navigation would run almost parallel with the old one, and offered no advantage to the public which the existing river navigation did not supply; that the canal would drain away the waters which supplied the rivers, and be very prejudicial to them, if not totally destructive, in dry seasons; that the proprietors of the old navigation had invested their money on the faith of protection by Parliament, and to permit the new canal to be established would be a gross interference with their vested rights; and so on.

    To these objections there were very sufficient answers.  The bill provided for full compensation being made to the owners of lands through which the canal passed, and, in addition, it was provided that all sorts of manure should be carried for them without charge.  It was also shown that the Duke's canal could not abstract water from either the Mersey or the Irwell, as the level of both rivers was considerably below that of the intended canal, which would be supplied almost entirely from the drainage of his own coal-mines at Worsley; and with respect to the plea of vested rights set up, it was shown that Parliament, in granting certain powers to the old navigators, had regard mainly to the convenience and advantage of the public; and they were not precluded from empowering a new navigation to be formed if it could be proved to present a more convenient and advantageous mode of conveyance.

    On these grounds the Duke was strongly supported by the inhabitants of the localities proposed to be served by the intended canal.  The "Junto of Old Navigators of the Mersey and Irwell Company" had for many years carried things with a very high hand, extorted the highest rates, and, in cases of loss by delay or damage to goods in transit, refused all redress.  A feeling very hostile to them and their monopoly had accordingly grown up, which now exhibited itself in a powerful array of petitions to Parliament in favour of the Duke's bill.

    On the 17th of February, 1762, the bill came before the Committee of the House of Commons, and Brindley was examined in its support.  We regret that no copy of his evidence now exists [p.195] from which we might have formed an opinion of the engineer's abilities as a witness.  Some curious anecdotes have, however, been preserved of his demeanour and evidence on canal bills before Parliament.  When asked, on one occasion, to produce a drawing of an intended bridge, he replied that he had no plan of it on paper, but he would illustrate it by a model.  He went out and bought a large cheese, which he brought into the room and cut into two equal parts, saying, "Here is my model."  The two halves of the cheese represented the semicircular arches of his bridge; and by laying over them some long rectangular object, he could thus readily communicate to the Committee the position of the river flowing underneath and the canal passing over it. [p.196-1]

    On another occasion, when giving his evidence, he spoke so frequently about "puddling," describing its uses and advantages, that some of the members expressed a desire to know what this extraordinary mixture was, that could be applied to such important purposes.  Preferring a practical illustration to a verbal description, Brindley caused a mass of clay to be brought into the committee-room, and, moulding it in its raw untempered state into the form of a trough, he poured into it some water, which speedily ran through and disappeared.  He then worked the clay up with water to imitate the process of puddling, and again forming it into a trough, filled it with water, which was now held in without a particle of leakage.  "Thus it is," said Brindley, "that I form a water-tight trunk to carry water over rivers and valleys, wherever they cross the path of the canal." [p.196-2]

    Again, when Brindley was giving evidence before a Committee of the House of Peers as to the lockage of his proposed canal, one of their Lordships asked him, "But what is a lock?" on which the engineer took a piece of chalk from his pocket and proceeded to explain it by means of a diagram which he drew upon the floor, and made the matter clear at once.  [p.197]  He used to be so ready with his chalk for purposes of illustration, that it became a common saying in Lancashire, that "Brindley and chalk would go through the world."  He was never so eloquent as when with his chalk in hand, it stood him in lieu of tongue.

    On the day following Brindley's examination before the Committee on the Duke's bill, that is, on the 18th of February, we find him entering in his note-book that the Duke sent out "200 leators" to members—possible friends of the measure; containing his statement of reasons in favour of the bill.  On the 20th Mr. Tomkinson, the Duke's solicitor, was under examination for four hours and a half.  Sunday intervened, on which day Brindley records that he was "at Lord Harrington's."  On the following day, the 22nd, the evidence for the bill was finished, and the Duke followed this up by sending out 250 more letters to members, with an abstract of the evidence given in favour of the measure.  On the 26th there was a debate of eight hours on the bill, followed by a division, in Committee of the whole House, thus recorded by Brindly:—

"ad a grate Division of 127 fort Duk
                                              98 nos
                          for te Duk 29 Me Jorete"

    But the bill had still other discussions and divisions to encounter before it was safe.  The Duke and his agents worked with great assiduity.  On the 3rd of March he caused 250 more letters to be distributed amongst the members; and on the day after we find the House wholly occupied with the bill.  We quote again from Brindley's record: "4 [March] ade bate at the Hous with grate vigor 3 divisons the Duke carved by Numbers evory time a 4 division moved but Noes yelded."  On the next day we read "wont thro the closes;" from which we learn that the clauses were settled and passed.  Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Tomkinson then set out for Lancashire: the bill was safe.  It passed the third reading, Brindley making mention that "Lord Strange" was "sick with geef [grief] on that affair Mr. Wellbron want Rong god,"—which latter expression we do not clearly understand, unless it was that Mr. Wilbraham wanted to wrong God.  The bill was carried to the Lords, Brindley on the 10th March making the entry, "Touk the Lords oath."  But the bill passed the Upper House "without opposishin," and received the Royal Assent on the 24th of the same month.

    On the day following the passage of the bill through the House of Lords (of which Brindley makes the triumphant entry, "Lord Strange defetted"), he set out for Lancashire, after nine weary weeks' stay in London.  To hang about the lobbies of the House and haunt the office of the Parliamentary agent, must have been excessively irksome to a man like Brindley, accustomed to incessant occupation and to see works growing under his hands.  During this time we find him frequently at the office of the Duke's solicitor in "Mary Axs;" sometimes with Mr. Tomkinson, who paid him his guinea a-week during the latter part of his stay; and on several occasions he is engaged with gentlemen from the country, advising them about "saltworks at Droitwitch" and mill-arrangements in Cheshire.

    Many things had fallen behind during his absence and required his attention, so he at once set out home; but the first day, on reaching Dunstable, he was alarmed to find that his mare, so long unaccustomed to the road, had "allmost lost ye use of her Limes" [limbs].  He therefore went on slowly, as the mare was a great favourite with him—his affection for the animal having on one occasion given rise to a serious quarrel between him and Mr. Gilbert —and he did not reach Congleton until the sixth day after his setting out from London.  He rested at Congleton for two days, during which he "settled the geering of the silk-mill," and then proceeded straight on to Worsley to set about the working survey of the new canal.

    The course of this important canal, which unites the mills of Manchester with the shipping of Liverpool, is about twenty-four miles in length. [p.200]  From Longford Bridge, near Manchester, its course lies in a south-westerly direction for some distance, crossing the river Mersey at a point about five miles above its junction with the Irwell.  At Altrincham it proceeds in a westerly direction, crossing the river Bollin about three miles further on, near Dunham.  After crossing the Bollin, it describes a small semicircle, proceeding onward in the valley of the Mersey, and nearly in the direction of the river as far as the crossing of the high road from Chester to Warrington.  It then bends to the south to preserve the high level, passing in a southerly direction as far as Preston, in Cheshire, from whence it again turns round to the north to join the river Mersey.  [For Map of the Canal, see pp. 168-9.]

    The canal lies entirely in the lower part of the new red sandstone, the principal earthworks consisting of the clays, marls, bog-earths, and occasionally the sandstones of this formation.  The heaviest bog crossed in the line of the works was Sale Moor, west of the Mersey, where the bottom was of quicksand; and the construction of the canal at that part was probably an undertaking of as formidable a character as the laying of the railroad over Chat Moss proved some sixty years later.  But Brindley, like Stephenson, looked upon a difficulty as a thing to be overcome; and when an obstruction presented itself, he at once set his wits to work and studied how it was best to be grappled with and surmounted.  A large number of brooks had to be crossed, and also two important rivers, which involved the construction of numerous aqueducts, bridges, and culverts, to provide for the surface water supply of the district.  It will, therefore, be obvious that the undertaking was of a much more important nature—more difficult for the engineer to execute, and more costly to the noble proprietor who found the means for carrying it to a completion—than the comparatively limited and inexpensive work between Worsley and Manchester, which we have above described.

    The capital idea which Brindley early formed and determined to carry out, was to construct a level of dead water all the way from Manchester to a point as near to the junction of the canal with the Mersey as might be found practicable.  Such a canal, he clearly saw, would not be so expensive to work as one furnished with locks at intermediate points.  Brindley's practice of securing long levels of water in canals was in many respects similar to that of George Stephenson with reference to flat gradients upon railways; and in all the canals that he constructed, he planned and carried them out as far as possible after this leading principle.  Hence the whole of the locks on the Duke's canal were concentrated at its lower end near Runcorn, where the navigation descended, as it were by a flight of water steps, into the river Mersey.  Lord Ellesmere has observed that this uninterrupted level of the Bridgewater Canal from Leigh and Manchester to Runcorn, and the concentration of its descent to the Mersey at the latter place, have always been considered as among the most striking evidences of the genius and skill of Brindley.


Course of the Runcorn Locks, 2008. [p.201]
© Copyright Michael Steele and licensed for reuse
under this Creative Commons Licence.

    There was, as usual, considerable delay in obtaining possession of the land on which to commence the works.  The tenants required a certain notice, which must necessarily expire before the Duke's engineer could take possession; and numerous obstacles were thrown in his way, both by tenants and landlords hostile to the undertaking.  In many cases the Duke had to pay dearly for the land purchased under the compulsory powers of his Act.  Near Lymm, the canal passed through a little bit of garden belonging to a poor man's cottage, the only produce growing upon the ground being a pear-tree.  For this the Duke had to pay thirty guineas, and it was thought a very extravagant price at that time.  Since the introduction of railways, the price would probably be considered ridiculously low.  For the land on which the warehouses and docks were built at Manchester, the Duke had to pay in all the much more formidable sum of about forty thousand pounds.

    The Old Quay Navigation, even at the last moment, thought to delay if not to defeat the Duke's operations, by lowering their rates nearly one-half.  Only a few days after the Royal Assent had been given to the bill, they published an announcement, appropriately dated the 1st of April, setting forth the large sacrifices they were about to make, and intimating that "from their Reductions in Carriage a real and permanent Advantage will arise to the Public, and they will experience that Utility so cried up of late, but which has hitherto only existed in promises."  The Duke heeded not the ineffective blow thus aimed at him: he was only more than ever resolved to go forward with his canal.  He was even offered the Mersey Navigation itself at the price of thirteen thousand pounds; but he would not have it now at any price.

    The public spirit and enterprise displayed by many of the young noblemen of those days was truly admirable.  Brindley had for several years been in close personal communication with Earl Gower as to the construction of the canal intended to unite the Mersey with the Trent and the Severn, and thus connect the ports of Liverpool, Hull, and Bristol, by a system of inland water-communication.  With this object, as we have seen, he had often visited the Earl at his seat at Trentham, and discussed with him the plans by which this truly magnificent enterprise was to be carried out; and he had frequently visited the Earl of Stamford at his seat at Enville for the same purpose.  But those schemes were too extensive and costly to be carried out by the private means of either of those noblemen, or even by both combined.  They were, therefore, under the necessity of stirring up the latent enterprise of the landed proprietors in their respective districts, and waiting until they had received a sufficient amount of local support to enable them to act with vigour in carrying their great design into effect.

    The Duke of Bridgewater's scheme of uniting Manchester and Liverpool by an entirely new line of water-communication, cut across bogs and out of the solid earth in some places, and carried over rivers and valleys at others by bridges and embankments, was scarcely less hold or costly.  Though it was spoken of as another of the Duke's "castles in the air," and his resources were by no means overflowing at the time he projected it, he nevertheless determined to go on alone with it, should no one be willing to join him.  The Duke thus proved himself a real Dux or leader of industrial enterprise in his district; and by cutting his canal, and providing a new, short, and cheap water-way between Liverpool and Manchester, which was afterwards extended through the counties of Chester, Stafford, and Warwick, he unquestionably paved the way for the creation and development of the modern manufacturing system existing in the north-western counties of England.

    We need scarcely say how admirably he was supported throughout by the skill and indefatigable energy of his engineer.  Brindley's fertility in resources was the theme of general admiration.  Arthur Young, who visited the works during their progress, speaks with enthusiastic admiration of his "bold and decisive strokes of genius," his "penetration which sees into futurity, and prevents obstructions unthought of by the vulgar mind, merely by foreseeing them: a man," says he, "with such ideas, moves in a sphere that is to the rest of the world imaginary, or at best a terra incognita."

    It would be uninteresting to describe the works of the Bridgewater Canal in detail; for one part of a canal is usually so like another, that to do so were merely to involve a needless amount of repetition of a necessarily dry description.  We shall accordingly content ourselves with referring to the original methods by which Brindley contrived to overcome the more important difficulties of the undertaking.

    From Longford Bridge, where the new works commenced, the canal, which was originally about eight yards wide and four feet deep, was carried upon an embankment of about a mile in extent across the valley of the Mersey.  One might naturally suppose that the conveyance of such a mass of earth must have exclusively employed all the horses and carts in the neighbourhood for years.  But Brindley, with his usual fertility in expedients, contrived to make the construction of one part of the canal subservient to the completion of the remainder.  He had the stuff required to make up the embankment brought in boats partly from Worsley and partly from other parts of the canal where the cutting was in excess; and the boats, filled with this stuff, were conducted from the canal along which they had come into watertight caissons or cisterns placed at the point over which the earth and clay had to be deposited.

    The boats, being double, fixed within two feet of each other, had a triangular trough supported between them of sufficient capacity to contain about seventeen tons of earth.  The bottom of this trough consisted of a line of trap-doors, which flew open at once on a pin being drawn, and discharged their whole burthen into the bed of the canal in an instant.  Thus the level of the embankment was raised to the point necessary to enable the canal to be carried forward to the next length.  Arthur Young was of opinion that the saving effected by constructing the Stretford embankment in this way, instead of by carting the stuff, was equivalent to not less than five thousand per cent.! The materials of the caissons employed in executing this part of the work were afterwards used in forming temporary locks across the valley of the Bollin, whilst the embankment was being constructed at that point by a process almost the very reverse, but of equal ingenuity.


    In the same valley of the Mersey the canal had to be carried over a large brook subject to heavy floods, by means of a strong bridge of two arches, adjoining which was a third, affording provision for a road.  Further on, the canal was carried over the Mersey itself upon a bridge with one arch of seventy feet span.  Westward of this river lay a very difficult part of the work, occasioned by the carrying of the navigation over the Sale Moor Moss.  Many thought this an altogether impracticable thing; as not only had the hollow trunk of earth in which the canal lay to be made water-tight, but to preserve the level of the water-way it must necessarily be raised considerably above the level of the Moor across which it was to be laid.  Brindley overcame the difficulty in the following manner.  He made a strong casing of timber-work outside the intended line of embankment on either side of the canal, by placing deal balks in an erect position, backing and supporting them on the outside with other balks laid in rows, and fast screwed together; and on the front side of this woodwork he had his earth-work brought forward, hard rammed, and puddled, to form the navigable canal; after which the casing was moved onward to the part of the work further in advance, and the bottom having previously been set with rubble and gravel, the embankment was thus carried forward by degrees, the canal was raised to the proper level, and the whole was substantially and satisfactorily finished.

    A steam-engine of Brindley's contrivance was erected at Dunham Town Bridge to pump the water from the foundations there.  The engine was called a Sawney, for what reason is not stated, and, for long after, the bridge was called Sawney's Bridge.  The foundations of the under-bridge, near the same place, were popularly supposed to be set on quicksand; and old Lord Warrington, when he had occasion to pass under it, would pretend cautiously to look about him, as if to examine whether the piers were all right, and then run through as fast as he could.  A tall poplar-tree stood at Dunham Banks, on which a board was nailed showing the height of the canal level; the people long after called the place "The Duke's Folly," the name given to it while his scheme was still believed to be impracticable.  But the skill of the engineer baffled these and other prophets of evil; and the success of his expedients, in nearly every case of difficulty that occurred, must certainly be regarded as remarkable, considering the novel and unprecedented character of the undertaking.

    Brindley invariably contrived to economise labour as much as possible, and many of his expedients with this object were very ingenious.  So far as he could, he endeavoured to make use of the canal itself for the purpose of forwarding the work.  He had a floating blacksmith's forge and shop, provided with all requisite appliances, fitted up in one barge; a complete carpenter's shop in another; and a mason's shop in a third; all of which were floated on as the canal advanced, and were thus always at hand to supply the requisite facilities for prosecuting the operations with economy and despatch.  Where there was a break in the line of work, occasioned, for instance, by the erection of some bridge not yet finished, the engineer had similar barges constructed and carried by land to other lengths of the canal which were in progress, where they were floated and advanced in like manner for the use of the workmen.  When the bridge across the Mersey, which was pushed on as rapidly as possible with the object of economising labour and cost of materials, was completed, the stone, lime, and timber were brought along the canal from the Duke's property at Worsley, as well as supplies of clay for the purpose of puddling the bottom of the waterway; and thus the work rapidly advanced at all points.

    As one of the great objections made to the construction of the canal had been the danger threatened to the surrounding districts by the bursting of the embankments, Brindley made it his object to provide against the occurrence of such an accident by an ingenious expedient.  He had stops or flood-gates contrived and laid in various parts of the bed of the canal, across its bottom, so that, in the event of a breach occurring in the bank and a rush of water taking place, the current which must necessarily set in to that point should have the effect of immediately raising the valvular floodgates, and so shutting off the stream and preventing the escape of more water than was contained in the division between the two nearest gates on either side of the breach.  At the same time, these floodgates might be used for cutting off the waters of the canal at different points, for the purpose of making any necessary repairs in particular lengths; the contrivance of waste tubes and plugs being so arranged that the bed of any part of the canal, more especially where it passed over the bridges, might be laid bare in a few hours, and the repairs executed at once.

    In devising these ingenious expedients, it ought to be remembered that Brindley had no previous experience to fall back upon, and possessed no knowledge of the means which foreign engineers might have adopted to meet similar emergencies.  All had been the result of his own original thinking and contrivance; and, indeed, many of these devices were altogether new and original, and had never before been tried by any engineer.

    It is curious to trace the progress of the works by Brindley's own memoranda, which, though brief, clearly exhibit his marvellous industry and close application to every detail of the business.  He settled with the farmers for their tenant-right, sold and accounted for the wood cut down and the gravel dug out along the line of the canal, paid the workmen employed, [p.208] laid out the work, measured off the quantities done from time to time, planned and erected the bridges, designed the canal boats required for conveying the earth to form the embankments, and united in himself the varied functions of land-surveyor, carpenter, mason, brick-maker, boat-builder, paymaster, and engineer.  We even find him condescending to count bricks and sell grass.  Nothing was too small for him to attend to, nor too bold for him to undertake, when necessity required.  At the same time we find him contriving a water-plane for the Duke's collieries at Worsley, and occasionally visiting New-chapel, Leek, and Congleton, in Staffordshire, for the purpose of attending to the business on which he still continued to be employed at those places.

    The heavy works at the crossing of the Mersey occupied him almost exclusively towards the end of the year 1763.  He was there making dams and pushing on the building of the bridge.  Occasionally he enters the words, "short of men at Cornbrook."  Indeed, he seems at that time to have lived upon the works, for we find the almost daily entry of "dined at the Bull, 8d."  On the 10th of November he makes this entry: "Aftor noon settled about the size of the arch over the river Marsee [Mersey] to be 66 foot span and rise 16.4 feet."  Next day he is "landing balk out of the ould river in to the canal."  Then he goes on, "I prosceded to Worsley  Mug was corking ye boats the masons woss making the center of the waire [weir].  Whithe was osing to put the lator side of the water-wheel srouds on  I orderd the pit for ye spindle of ye morter-mill to be sunk level with ye canal  Mr. Gilbert sade ye 20 Tun Boat should be at ye water mitang [meeting] by 7 o'clock the next morn."  Next morning he is on the works at Cornhill, setting "a carpenter to make scrwos" [screws], superintending the gravelling of the towing-path, and arranging with a farmer as to Mr. Gilbert's slack.  And so he goes on from day to day with the minutest details of the undertaking.

    He was not without his petty "werrets" and troubles either.  Brindley and Gilbert do not seem to have got on very well together.  They were both men of strong tempers, and neither would tolerate the other's interference.  Gilbert, being the Duke's factotum, was accustomed to call Brindley's men from their work, which the other would not brook.  Hence we have this entry on one occasion,—"A meshender [messenger] from Mr G  I retorned the anser No more society."  In fact, they seem to have quarrelled. [p.209]

    We find the following further entries on the subject in Brindley's note-book: "Thursday 17 Novr past 7 o'clock at night  M Gilbert and sun Tom caled on nice at Gorshill and I went with them to ye Coik [sign of the Cock] tha stade all night and the had balk [blank?] bill of parsill  18 Fryday November 7 morn I went to the Cock and Bruckfast with Gilberts he in davred to imploye ye carpinters at Cornhill in making door and window frames for a Building in Castle field and shades for the mynors in Dito and other things  I want them to Saill Moor  Hee took upon him diriction of ye back drains and likwaise such Lands as be twixt the 2 hous and ceep uper side the large farme and was displesed with such raing as I had pointed out."

    Those differences between Brindley and Gilbert were eventually reconciled, most probably by the mediation of the Duke, for the services of both were alike essential to him; and we afterwards find them working cordially together and consulting each other as before on any important part of the undertaking.

    During the construction of Longford Bridge, Brindley seems, from his note-book, to have entertained considerable apprehensions as to its ability to resist the heavy floods with which it was threatened.  Thus, on the 26th of November, 1763, he enters:—"Grate Rains the canal rose 2 inches extra  I dreed fr [4?] clock at Longfoard;" and on the following day, which was a Sunday, he writes:—"Lay in Bad till noon  floode and Raine."  Then in the afternoon he adds, "The water in Longfoord Brook was withe in six inches of the high of the canter [centre] of ye waire [weir?]."  The bridge, however, stood firm; and when the flood subsided, the building was again proceeded with; and by the end of the year it was finished and gravelled over, while the embankment was steadily proceeding beyond the Mersey in the manner above described.


    Brindley did not want for good workmen to carry out his plans.  He found plenty of labourers in the neighbourhood accustomed to hard work, who speedily became expert excavators; and though at first there was a lack of skilled carpenters, blacksmiths, and bricklayers, they soon became trained into such under the vigilant eye of so able a master as Brindley was.  We find him, in his note-book, often referring to the men by their names, or rather bye-names; for in Lancashire proper names seem to have been little used at that time.  "Black David" was one of the foremen most employed on difficult matters, and "Bill o' Toms" and "Busick Jack," seem also to have been confidential workmen in their respective departments.  We are informed by a gentleman of the neighbourhood [p.211] that most of the labourers employed were of a superior class, and some of them were "wise" or "cunning men," blood-stoppers, herb-doctors, and planet-rulers, such as are still to be found in the neighbourhood of Manchester.  Their very superstitions, says our informant, made them thinkers and calculators.  The foreman bricklayer, for instance, as his son used afterwards to relate, always "ruled the planets to find out the lucky days on which to commence any important work," and he added, "none of our work ever gave way."  The skilled men had their trade-secrets, in which the unskilled were duly initiated,—simple matters in themselves, but not without their uses.  The following may be taken as specimens of the secrets of embanking in those days:—

    A wet embankment can be prevented from slipping by dredging or dusting powdered lime in layers over the wet clay or earth.

    Sand or gravel can be made water-tight by shaking it together with flat bars of iron run in some depth, say two feet, and washing down loam or soil as the bars are moved about, thus obviating the necessity for clay puddle.

    Dry-rot can be prevented in warehouses by setting the bricks opposite the ends of the main beams of the warehouse in dry sand.

    Whilst constructing the canal, Brindley was very intimate with one Lawrence Earnshaw, of Mottram-in-Longdendale, a kindred mechanical genius, though in a smaller way.  Lawrence was a very poor man's son, and had served a seven years apprenticeship to the trade of a tailor, after which he bound himself apprentice to a clothier for seven years; but these trades not suiting his tastes, and being of a decidedly mechanical turn, he finally bound himself apprentice to a clockmaker, whom he also served for seven years.  This eccentric person invented many curious and ingenious machines, which were regarded as of great merit in his time.  One of these was an astronomical and geographical machine, beautifully executed, showing the earth's diurnal and annual motion, after the manner of an orrery.  The whole of the calculations were made by himself, and the machine is said to have been so exactly contrived and executed that, provided the vibration of the pendulum did not vary, the machine would not alter a minute in a hundred years; but this might probably be an extravagant estimate on the part of Earnshawe's friends.  He was also a musical instrument maker and music teacher, a worker in metals and in wood, a painter and glazier, an optician, a bellfounder, a chemist and metallurgist, an engraver—in short, an almost universal mechanical genius.  But though he could make all these things, it is mentioned as a remarkable fact, that with all his ingenuity, and after many efforts (for he made many), he never could make a wicker-basket!  Indeed, trying to be a universal genius was his ruin.  He did, or attempted to do, so much, that he never stood still and established himself in any one thing; and, notwithstanding his great ability, he died "not worth a groat."  Amongst Earnshaw's various contrivances was a piece of machinery to raise water from a coal-mine at Hague, near Mottram, and (about 1753) a machine to spin and reel cotton at one operation—in fact, a spinning-jenny—which he showed to some of his neighbours as a curiosity, but, after having convinced them of what might be done by its means, he immediately destroyed it, saying that "he would not be the means of taking bread out of the mouths of the poor." [p.213]  He was a total abstainer from strong drink, long before the days of Teetotal Societies.  Towards the end of his life he continued on intimate terms with Brindley; and when they met they did not readily separate.

    While the undertaking was in full progress, from four to six hundred men were employed; they were divided into gangs of about fifty, each of which was directed by a captain and setter-out of the works.  One who visited the canal during its construction in 1765, wrote thus of the busy scene which the works presented: "I surveyed the Duke's men for two hours, and think the industry of bees or labour of ants is not to be compared to them.  Each man's work seems to depend on and be connected with his neighbour's, and the whole posse appeared as I conceive did that of the Tyrians when they wanted houses to put their heads in at Carthage." [p.214-1]  At Stretford the visitor found "four hundred men at work, putting the finishing stroke to about two hundred yards of the canal, which reached nearly to the Mersey, and which, on drawing up the floodgates, was to receive a proper quantity of water and a number of loaded barges.  One of these appeared like the hull of a collier, with its deck all covered, after the manner of a cabin, and having an iron chimney in the centre; this, on inquiry, proved to be the carpentry, but was shut up, being Sabbath-day, as was another barge, which contained the smith's forge.  Some vessels were loaded with soil, which was put into troughs (see cut, p.205), fastened together, and rested on boards that lay across two barges; between each of these there was room enough to discharge the loading by loosening some iron pins at the bottom of the troughs.  Other barges lay loaded with the foundation-stones of the canal bridge, which is to carry the navigation across the Mersey.  Near two thousand oak piles are already driven to strengthen the foundations of this bridge.  The carpenters on the Lancashire side were preparing the centre frame, and on the Cheshire side all hands were at work in bringing down the soil and beating the ground adjacent to the foundations of the bridge, which is designed to be covered with stone in a month, and finished in about ten days more." [p.214-2]

    By these vigorous measures the works proceeded rapidly towards completion.  Before, however, they had made any progress at the Liverpool end, Earl Gower, encouraged and assisted by the Duke, had applied for and obtained an Act to enable a line of navigation to be formed between the Mersey and the Trent; the Duke agreeing with the promoters of the undertaking to vary the course of his canal and meet theirs about midway between Preston-brook and Runcorn, from which point it was to be carried northward towards the Mersey, descending into that river by a flight of ten locks, the total fall being not less than 79 feet from the level of the canal to low water of spring-tides.


Waterloo Bridge, Runcorn. [p.214-3]
© Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

    When this deviation was proposed, the bold imagination of Brindley projected a bridge across the tideway of the Mersey itself, which was there some four hundred and sixty yards wide, with the object of carrying the Duke's navigation directly onward to the port of Liverpool on the Lancashire side of the river. [p.215]  This was an admirable idea, which, if carried out, would probably have redounded more to the fame of Brindley than any other of his works.  But the cost of that portion of the canal which had already been executed, had reached so excessive an amount, that the Duke was compelled to stop short at Runcorn, at which place a dock was constructed for the accommodation of the shipping employed in the trade connected with the undertaking.


    From Runcorn, it was arranged that the boats should navigate by the open tideway of the Mersey to the harbour of Liverpool, at which place the Duke made arrangements to provide another dock for their accommodation.  Brindley made frequent visits to Liverpool for the purpose of directing its excavation, and he superintended it until its completion.  The Duke's Dock lies between the Salthouse and Albert Docks on the north, and the Wapping and King's Docks on the south.  The Salthouse was the only public dock near it at the time that Brindley excavated this basin.  There were only three others in Liverpool to the north, and not one to the south; but the Duke's Dock is now the centre of about five miles of docks, extending from it on either side along the Lancashire shore of the Mersey; and it continues to this day to be devoted to the purposes of the navigation.


View west along the line of the Duke's Dock. [p.216]
© Copyright Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.




LONG before the Runcorn locks were constructed, and the canal from Longford Bridge to the Mersey was available for purposes of traffic, the Duke found himself reduced to the greatest straits for want of money.  Numerous unexpected difficulties had occurred, so that the cost of the works considerably exceeded his calculations; and though the engineer carried on the whole operations with the strictest regard to economy, the expense was nevertheless almost more than any single purse could bear.  The execution of the original canal from Worsley to Manchester cost about a thousand guineas a mile, besides the outlay upon the terminus at Manchester.  There was also the expenditure incurred in building the requisite boats for the canal, in opening out the underground workings of the collieries at Worsley, and in erecting various mills, workshops, and warehouses for carrying on the new business.

    The Duke was enabled to do all this without severely taxing his resources, and he even entertained the hope of being able to grapple with the still greater undertaking of cutting the twenty-four miles of new canal from Longford Bridge to the Mersey.  But before these works were half finished, and whilst the large amount of capital invested in them was lying entirely unproductive, he found that the difficulties of the undertaking were likely to prove too much for him.  Indeed, it seemed an enterprise beyond the means of any private person, and more like that of a monarch with State revenues at his command, than of a young English nobleman with only his private resources.

    But the Duke was possessed by a brave spirit.  He had put his hand to the work, and he would not look back.  He had become thoroughly inspired by his great idea, and determined to bend his whole energies to the task of carrying it out.  He was only thirty years of age—the owner of several fine mansions in different parts of the country, surrounded by noble domains—he had a fortune sufficiently ample to enable him to command the pleasures and luxuries of life, so far as money can secure them; yet he voluntarily denied himself their enjoyment, and chose to devote his time to consultations with an unlettered engineer, and his whole resources to the cutting of a canal to unite Liverpool and Manchester.


    Taking up his residence at the Old Hall at Worsley—a fine specimen of the old timbered houses so common in South Lancashire and the neighbouring counties,—he cut down every unnecessary personal expense; denied himself every superfluity, except perhaps that of a pipe of tobacco; paid off his retinue of servants; put down his carriages and town house; and confined himself and his Ducal establishment to a total expenditure of £400 a-year.  A horse was, however, a necessity, for the purpose of enabling him to visit the canal works during their progress at distant points; and he accordingly continued to maintain one horse for himself and another for his groom.

    Notwithstanding this rigid economy, the Duke still found his resources inadequate to meet the heavy cost of vigorously carrying on the undertaking, and on Saturday nights he was often put to the greatest shifts to raise the requisite money to pay his large staff of craftsmen and labourers.  Sometimes their payment had to be postponed for a week or more, until the cash could be raised by sending round for contributions among the Duke's tenantry.  Indeed, his credit fell to the lowest ebb, and at one time he could not get a bill for £500 cashed in either Liverpool or Manchester. [p.219]

    He was under the necessity of postponing all payments that could be avoided, and it went abroad that the Duke was "drowned in debt."  He tried to shirk even the payment of his tithes, and turned a deaf ear to all the applications of the collector.  At length the rector himself determined to waylay him.  But the Duke no sooner caught sight of him coming across his path than he bolted!  The rector was not thus to be baulked.  He followed—pursued—and fairly ran his debtor to earth in a saw-pit!  The Duke was not a little amused at being hunted in such a style by his parson, and so soon as he found his breath, ho promised payment, which shortly followed.

    When Mr. George Rennie, the engineer, was engaged, in 1825, in making the revised survey of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, he lunched one day at Worsley Hall with Mr. Bradshaw, manager of the Duke's property, then a very old man.  He had been a contemporary of the Duke, and knew of the monetary straits to which his Grace had been reduced during the construction of the works.  Whilst at table, Mr. Bradshaw pointed to a small whitewashed cottage on the Moss, about a mile and a half distant, and said that in that cottage, formerly a public- house, the Duke, Brindley, and Gilbert had spent many an evening discussing the prospects of the canal while in progress.  One of the principal topics of conversation on those occasions was the means of raising funds against the next pay night.  "One evening in particular," said Mr. Bradshaw, "the party was unusually dull and silent.  The Duke's ready-money was exhausted; the canal was not nearly finished; his Grace's credit was at the lowest ebb; and he was at a loss what step to take next.  There they sat, in the small parlour of the little public-house, smoking their pipes, with a pitcher of ale before them, melancholy and silent.  At last the Duke broke the silence by asking in a querulous tone, 'Well, Brindley, what's to be done now?  How are we to get at the money for finishing this canal?'  Brindley, after a few long puffs, answered through the smoke, 'Well, Duke, I can't tell; I only know that if the money can be got, I can finish the canal, and that it will pay well.'  'Ay,' rejoined the Duke, 'but where are we to get the money?'  Brindley could only repeat what he had already said; and thus the little party remained in moody silence for some time longer, when Brindley suddenly started up and said, 'Don't mind, Duke; don't be cast down; we are sure to succeed after all!'  The party shortly after separated, the Duke going over to Worsley to bed, to revolve in his mind the best mode of raising money to complete his all-absorbing project."

    One of the expedients adopted was to send Gilbert, the agent, upon a round of visits among the Duke's tenants, raising five pounds here and ten pounds there, until he had gathered together enough to pay the week's wages.  Whilst travelling about among the farmers on one of such occasions, Gilbert was joined by a stranger horseman, who entered into conversation with him; and it very shortly turned upon the merits of their respective horses.  The stranger offered to swap with Gilbert, who, thinking the other's horse better than his own, agreed to the exchange.  On afterwards alighting at a lonely village inn, which he had not before frequented, Gilbert was surprised to be greeted by the landlord with mysterious marks of recognition, and still more so when he was asked if he had got a good booty.  It turned out that he had exchanged horses with a highwayman, who had adopted this expedient for securing a nag less notorious than the one which he had exchanged with the Duke's agent. [p.221]

    At length, when the tenantry could furnish no further advances, and loans were not to be had on any terms in Manchester or Liverpool, and the works must needs come to a complete stand unless money could be raised to pay the workmen, the Duke took the road to London on horseback, attended only by his groom, to try what could be done with his London bankers.  The house of Messrs. Child and Co., Temple Bar, was then the principal banking-house in the metropolis, as it is the oldest; and most of the aristocratic families kept their accounts there.  The Duke had determined at the outset of his undertaking not to mortgage his landed property, and he had held to this resolution.  But the time arrived when he could not avoid borrowing money of his bankers on such other security as he could offer them.  He had already created a valuable and lucrative property, which was happily available for the purpose.  The canal from Worsley to Manchester had proved remunerative in an extraordinary degree, and was already producing a large income.  He had not the same scruples as to the pledging of the revenues of his canal that he had to the mortgaging of his lands; and an arrangement was concluded with the Messrs. Child under which they agreed to advance the Duke sums of money from time to time, by means of which he was eventually enabled to finish the entire canal.

    The Messrs. Child and Co. have kindly permitted an examination of their books to be made for the purposes of this memoir; and we are accordingly enabled to state that from them it appears that the Duke obtained his first advance of £3,800 from the firm about the middle of the year 1765, at which time he was in the greatest difficulty; shortly after a further sum of £15,000; then £2,000, and various other sums, making a total of £25,000; which remained owing until the year 1769, when the whole was paid off— doubtless from the profits of the canal traffic as well as the economised rental of the Duke's unburthened estates.

    The entire level length of the new canal from Longford Bridge to the upper part of Runcorn, nearly twenty-eight miles in extent, was finished and opened for traffic in the year 1767, after the lapse of about five years from the passing of the Act.  The formidable flight of locks, from the level part of the canal down to the waters of the Mersey at Runcorn, were not finished for several years later, by which time the receipts derived by the Duke from the sale of his coals and the local traffic of the undertaking enabled him to complete them with comparatively little difficulty.  Considerable delay was occasioned by the resistance of an obstinate landowner near Runcorn, Sir Richard Brooke, who interposed every obstacle which it was in his power to offer; but his opposition too was at length overcome, and the new and complete line of water-communication between Manchester and Liverpool was finally opened throughout.


    In a letter written from Runcorn, dated the 1st January, 1773, we find it stated that "yesterday the locks were opened, and the Heart of Oak, a vessel of 50 tons burden, for Liverpool, passed through them.  This day, upwards of six hundred of his Grace's workmen were entertained upon the lock banks with an ox roasted whole and plenty of good liquor.  The Duke's health and many other toasts were drunk with the loudest acclamations by the multitude, who crowded from all parts of the country to be spectators of these astonishing works.  The gentlemen of the country for a long time entertained a very unfavourable opinion of this undertaking, esteeming it too difficult to be accomplished, and fearing their lands would be cut and defaced without producing any real benefit to themselves or the public; but they now see with pleasure that their fears and apprehensions were ill-grounded, and they join with one voice in applauding the work, which cannot fail to produce the most beneficial consequences to the landed property, as well as to the trade and commerce of this part of the kingdom."

    Whilst the canal works had been in progress, great changes had taken place at Worsley.  The Duke had year by year been extending the workings of the coal; and when the King of Denmark, travelling under the title of Prince Travindahl, visited the Duke in 1768, the tunnels had already been extended for nearly two miles under the hill.  When the Duke began the works, he possessed only such of the coal-mines as belonged to the Worsley estate; but he purchased by degrees the adjoining lands containing seams of coal which run under the high ground between Worsley, Bolton, and Bury; and in course of time the underground canals connecting the different workings extended for a distance of nearly forty miles.  Both the hereditary and the purchased mines are worked upon two main levels, though in all there are four different levels, the highest being a hundred and twenty yards above the lowest.  In opening up the underground workings the Duke is said to have expended about £168,000; but the immense revenue derived from the sale of the coals by canal rendered this an exceedingly productive outlay.  Besides the extension of the canal along these tunnels, the Duke subsequently carried a branch by the edge of Chat-Moss to Leigh, by which means new supplies of coal were introduced to Manchester from that district, and the traffic was still further increased.  It was a saying of the Duke's, that "a navigation should always have coals at the heels of it."

    The total cost of completing the canal from Worsley to Manchester, and from Longford Bridge to the Mersey at Runcorn, amounted to £220,000.  A truly magnificent undertaking, nobly planned and nobly executed.  The power imparted by riches was probably never more munificently exercised than in this case; for, though the traffic proved a source of immense wealth to the Duke, it also conferred incalculable blessings upon the population of the district.  It added much to their comforts, increased their employment, and facilitated the operations of industry in all ways.  As soon as the canal was opened its advantages began to be felt.  The charge for water-carriage between Liverpool and Manchester was lowered one-half.  All sorts of produce were brought to the latter town, at moderate rates, from the farms and gardens adjacent to the navigation, whilst the value of agricultural property was immediately raised by the facilities afforded for the conveyance of lime and manure, as well as by reason of the more ready access to good markets which it provided for the farming classes.  The Earl of Ellesmere has not less truly than elegantly observed, that "the history of Francis Duke of Bridgewater is engraved in intaglio on the face of the country he helped to civilize and enrich."

    Probably the most remarkable circumstance connected with the money history of the enterprise is this: that although the canal yielded an income which eventually reached about £80,000 a year, it was planned and executed by Brindley at a rate of pay considerably less than that of an ordinary mechanic of the present day.  The highest wage he received whilst in the employment of the Duke was 3s. 6d. a day.  For the greater part of the time he received only half-a-crown.  Brindley, no doubt, accommodated himself to the Duke's pinched means, and the satisfactory completion of the canal was with him as much a matter of disinterested ambition and of professional character as of pay.  He seems to have kept his own expenses down to the very lowest point.  Whilst superintending the works at Longford Bridge, we find him making an entry for his day's personal charges at only 6d. for "ating and drink."  On other days his outgoings were confined to "2d. for the turnpike."  When living at the "Bull," near the works at Throstle Nest, we find his dinner costing 8d, and his breakfast 6d.  His expenditure throughout was on an equally low scale for he studied in all ways to economize the Duke's means, that every available shilling might be devoted to the prosecution of the works.

    The Earl of Bridgewater, in his singular publication, the 'Letter to the Parisians,' above referred to, states that "Brindley offered to stay entirely with the Duke, and do business for no one else, if he would give him a guinea a week;" and this statement is repeated by the late Earl of Ellesmere in his 'Essays on History, Biography,' &c.  But, on the face of it, the statement looks untrue; and we have since found, from Brindley's own note-book, that on the 25th of May, 1762, he was receiving a guinea a day from the Earl of Warrington for performing services for that nobleman; nor is it at all likely that he would prefer the Duke's three-and-sixpence a day to the more adequate rate of payment which he was accustomed to charge and to receive from other employers.  It is quite true, however—and the fact is confirmed by Brindley's own record—that he received no more than a guinea a week whilst in the Duke's service; which only affords an illustration of the fact that eminent constructive genius may be displayed and engineering greatness achieved in the absence of any adequate material reward.

    In a statement of the claims of Brindley's representatives, forwarded to the Earl of Bridgewater on the 3rd of November, 1803, it was stated that "during the period of his employ under His Grace, many highly advantageous and lucrative offers were made to him, particularly one from the Prince of Hesse, in 1766, who at that time was meditating a canal through his dominions in Germany, and who offered to subscribe to any terms Mr. Brindley might stipulate.  To this engagement his family strongly urged him, but the solicitation of the Duke, in this as in every other instance, to remain with him, outweighed all pecuniary considerations; relying upon such a remuneration from His Grace as the profits of his work might afterwards justify." [p.227]

    The inadequate character of his remuneration was doubtless well enough known to Brindley himself, and rendered him very independent in his bearing towards the Duke.  They had frequent differences as to the proper mode of carrying on the works; but Brindley was quite as obstinate as the Duke on such occasions, and when he felt convinced that his own plan was the right one he would not yield au inch.  It is said that, after long evening discussions at the hearth of the old timbered hall at Worsley, or at the Duke's house at Liverpool, while the works there were in progress the two would often part at night almost at daggers-drawn. The next morning, on meeting at breakfast, the Duke would very frankly say to his engineer, "Well, Brindley, I have been thinking over what we were talking about last night.  I find you may be right after all; so just finish the work in your own way."

    The Duke himself, to the end of his life, took the greatest personal interest in the working of his coal-mines, his canals, his mills, and his various branches of industry.  These were his hobbies, and he took pleasure in nothing else.  He was utterly lost to the fashionable world, and, as some thought, to a sense of its proprieties.  Shortly after his canal had been opened for the conveyance of coals, the Duke established a service of passage-boats between Manchester and Worsley, and between Manchester and a station within two miles of Warrington, by which passengers were conveyed at the rate of a penny a mile. [p.228]  The boats were fitted up like the Dutch treekschuyts, and, being found cheap as well as convenient, were largely patronized by the public.  This service was afterwards extended to Runcorn, and from thence to Liverpool.

    The Duke took particular pleasure in travelling by his own boats, preferring them to any more stately and aristocratic method.  He often went by them to Manchester to watch how the coal-trade was going on.  When the passengers alighted at the coal-wharf, there were usually many poor people about, wheeling away their barrow-loads of coals.  One of the Duke's regulations was, that whenever any deficiency in the supply was apprehended, those people who came with their wheelbarrows, baskets, and aprons for small quantities, should be served first, and waggons, carts, and horses sent away until the supply was more abundant.  The numbers of small customers who thus resorted to the Duke's coal-yard rendered it a somewhat busy scene, and the Duke liked to look on and watch the proceedings.

    One day a customer of the poorer sort, having got his sack filled, looked about for some one to help it on to his back.  He observed a stoutish man standing near, dressed in a spencer, with dark drab smallclothes.  "Heigh! mester!" said the man, "come, gie me a lift wi' this sack o' coal on to my shouder."  Without any hesitation, the person in the spencer gave the man the required "lift," and off he trudged with the load.  Some one near, who had witnessed the transaction, ran up to the man and asked, "Dun yo know who's that yo've been speaking tull?"  "Naw! who is he?"  "Why, it's th' Duke his-sen!"  "The Duke!" exclaimed the man, dropping the bag of coals from his shoulder, "Hey! what'll he do at me?  Maun a goo an ax his pardon?"  But the Duke had disappeared. [p.229]

    He was very fond of watching his men at work, especially when any new enterprise was on foot.  When they were boring for coal at Worsley, the Duke came every morning and looked on for a long time together.  The men did not like to leave off work whilst he remained there, and they became so dissatisfied at having to work so long beyond the hour at which the bell rang, that Brindley had difficulty in getting a sufficient number of hands to continue the boring.  On inquiry, he found out the cause and communicated it to the Duke, who from that time made a point of immediately walking off when the bell rang, returning when the men had resumed work, and remaining with them usually until six o'clock.  He observed, however, that though the me n dropped work promptly as the bell rang, when he was not by, the men dropped work promptly as the he was not by, they were not nearly so punctual in resuming work, some straggling in many minutes after time.  He asked to know the reason, and the men's excuse was, that though they could always hear the clock when it struck twelve, they not so readily hear it when it struck only one.  On this, the Duke had the mechanism of the clock altered so as to make it strike thirteen at one o'clock; which it continues to do to this day.

    On another occasion, going into the yard at Worsley, he saw two men employed in grinding an axe, and three others looking on, probably waiting their turn at the grindstone.  The Duke said nothing; but next morning he was in the yard early, and said to the foreman that he had observed it took five men to grind an axe.  He then ordered that a water-wheel should be put up to drive the grindstone, and it was set about at once.  The Duke was often after seen grinding the ferrule of his walking-stick against the self-acting machine.

    His time was very fully occupied with his various business concerns, to which he gave a great deal of personal attention.  Habit made him a business man—punctual in his appointments, precise in his arrangements, and economical both of money and time.  When it was necessary for him to see any persons about matters of business, he preferred going to them instead of letting them come to him; "for," said he, "if they come to me, they may stay as long as they please; if I go to them, I stay as long as I please."  His enforced habits of economy during the construction of the canal had fully impressed upon his mind the value of money.  Yet, though "near," he was not penurious but was usually liberal, and sometimes munificent.  When the Loyalty Loan was raised, he contributed to it no less a sum than £100,000 in cash.  He was thoroughly and strongly national, and a generous patron of many public benevolent institutions.

    The employer of a vast number of workpeople, he exercised his influence over them in such a manner as to evoke their gratitude and blessings.  He did not "lord it" over them, but practically taught them, above all things, to help themselves.  He was the pattern employer of his neighbourhood.  With a kind concern for the welfare of his colliery workmen—then a half-savage class—he built comfortable dwellings and established shops and markets for them; by which he ensured that at least a certain portion of their weekly earnings should go to their wives and families in housing, food, and clothing, instead of being squandered in idle dissipation and drunkenness.

    In order to put a stop to idle Mondays, he imposed a fine of half-a-crown on any workman who did not go down the pit at the usual hour on that morning; and hence the origin of what is called Half Crown Row at Worsley, as thus described by one of the colliers:—"T'ould dook fined ony men as didn't go daown pit o' Moonday mornin auve a craown, and abeaut thot toime he made a new road to t'pit, so t'colliers caw'd it Auve Craown Row."

    Debts contracted by the men at public-houses were not recognised by the pay-agents.  The steadiest workmen were allowed to occupy the best and pleasantest houses as a reward for their good conduct.  The Duke also bound the men to contribute so much of their weekly earnings to a general sick club; and he encouraged a religious tone of character amongst his people by the establishment of Sunday schools, which were directly superintended by his agents, selected from the best available class.  The consequence was, that the Duke's colliers soon held a higher character for sobriety, intelligence, and good conduct, than the weavers and other workpeople of the adjacent country.

    He did not often visit London, where he had long ceased to maintain a house; but when he went there he made an arrangement with one of his friends, who undertook for a stipulated sum to provide a daily dinner for His Grace and a certain number of guests whilst he remained in town.  He also made occasional visits to his fine estate of Ashridge, in Buckinghamshire, taking the opportunity of spending a few days, going or coming, with Earl Gower and his Countess, the Duke's only sister, Lady Louisa Egerton, at Trentham Park.  During his visits at the latter place, the Duke would get ensconced on a sofa in some distant corner of the room in the evenings, and discourse earnestly to those who would listen to him about the extraordinary advantages of canals.  There was a good deal of fun made on these occasions about "the Duke's hobby."  But he was always like a fish out of water until he got back to Worsley, to John Gilbert, his coal-pits, his drainage, his mills, and his canals.

    No wonder he was fond of Worsley.  It had been the scene of his triumphs, and the foundation of his greatness.  Illustrious visitors from all parts resorted thither to witness Brindley's "castle in the air," and to explore the underground canals at Worsley-hill.  Frisi, the Italian, the King of Denmark, and others, regarded these subterranean works with wonder and admiration when they were only from 1½ to 2 miles in length; soon they extended to nearly 40 miles.  Among the visitors entertained by the Duke was Fulton, the American artist, with whose speculations be was much interested.  Fulton had given his attention to the subject of canals, and was then speculating on the employment of steam power for propelling canal boats.  The Duke was so much impressed with Fulton's ingenuity, that he urged him to give up the profession of a painter and devote himself to that of a civil engineer.  Fulton acted on his advice, and shortly after we find him residing at Birmingham—the central workshop of England—studying practical mechanics, and fitting himself for superintending the construction of canals, on which he was afterwards employed in the midland counties. [p.233-1]

    The Duke did not forget the idea which Fulton had communicated to him as to the employment of steam as a motive power for boats, instead of horses; and when he afterwards heard that Symington's steam-boat, The Dundas, had been tried successfully on the Forth and Clyde Canal, he arranged to have six canal boats constructed after Symington's model; for he was a man to shrink from no expense in carrying out an enterprise which, to use his own words, had "utility at the heels of it."  The Earl of Ellesmere, in his 'Essay on Aqueducts and Canals,' states that the Duke made actual experiment of a steam-tug, and quotes the following from the communication of one of the Duke's servants, alive in 1844: "I well remember the steam-tug experiment on the canal.  It was between 1796 and 1799.  Captain Shanks, R.N., from Deptford, was at Worsley many weeks preparing it, by the Duke's own orders and under his own eye.  It was set going and tried with coal-boats; but it went slowly, and the paddles made sad work with the bottom of the canal, and also threw the water on the bank.  The Worsley people called it Bonaparte." [p.233-2]  But the Duke dying shortly after, the trustees refused to proceed with the experiment, and the project consequently fell through.  Had the Duke lived, canal steam-tugs would doubtless have been fairly tried; and he might thus have initiated the practical introduction of steam-navigation in England, as he unquestionably laid the foundations of the canal system.  He lived long enough, however, to witness the introduction of tram-roads, and he saw considerable grounds for apprehension in them.  "We may do very well," he once observed to Lord Kenyon, "if we can keep clear of these—tram roads."

    He was an admirable judge of character, and was rarely deceived as to the men he placed confidence in.  John Gilbert was throughout his confidential adviser—a practical out-doors man, full of energy and perseverance.  When any proposal was made to the Duke, he would say, "Well, thou must go to Gilbert and tell him all about it; I'll do nothing without I consult him."  From living so much amongst his people, he had contracted their style of speaking, and "thee'd" and "thou'd" those whom he addressed, after the custom of the district.  He was rough in his speech, and gruff and emphatic in his manner, like those amidst whom he lived; but with the rough word he meant and did the kindly act.  His early want of education debarred him in a measure from the refining influences of letters; for he read little, except perhaps an occasional newspaper, and he avoided writing whenever he could.  He also denied himself the graces of female society; and the seclusion which his early disappointment in love had first driven him to, at length grew into a habit.  He lived wifeless and died childless.  He would not even allow a woman servant to wait upon him.


    In person he was large and corpulent; and the slim youth on whom the bet had been laid that he would be blown off his horse when riding the race in Trentham Park so many years before, had grown into a bulky and unwieldy man.  His features strikingly resembled those of George III. and other members of the Royal Family.  He dressed carelessly, and usually wore a suit of brown—something of the cut of Dr. Johnson's—with dark drab breeches, fastened at the knee with silver buckles.  At dinner he rejected, with a kind of antipathy, all poultry, veal, and such like, calling them "white meats," and wondered that everybody, like himself, did not prefer the brown.  He was a great smoker, and smoked far more than he talked.  Smoking was his principal evening's occupation when Brindley and Gilbert were pondering with him over the difficulty of raising funds to complete the navigation, and the Duke continued his solitary enjoyment through life.  One of the droll habits to which he was addicted was that of rushing out of the room every five minutes, with the pipe in his mouth, to look at the barometer.  Out of doors he snuffed, and he would pull huge pinches out of his right waistcoat pocket and thrust the powder up his nose, accompanying the operation with sundry strong short snorts.

    He would have neither conservatory, pinery, flower-garden, nor shrubbery at Worsley; and once, on his return from London, finding some flowers which had been planted in his absence, he whipped their heads off with his cane, and ordered them to be rooted up.  The only new things introduced about the place were some Turkey oaks, with which his character seemed to have more sympathy.  But he took a sudden fancy for pictures, and with his almost boundless means the formation of a valuable collection of pictures was easy. [p.236]

    Lord Ellesmere says: "An accident laid the foundation of the Bridgewater collection.  Dining one day with his nephew, Lord Gower, afterwards Duke of Sutherland, the Duke saw and admired a picture which the latter had picked up a bargain, for some £10, at a broker's in the morning.  'You must take me,' he said, 'to that—fellow to-morrow.'  Whether this impetuosity produced any immediate result we are not informed, but plenty of such 'fellows' were doubtless not wanting to cater for the taste thus suddenly developed."

    Fortunately the Duke's investments in paintings appear well directed; and a discerning eye seems to have guided a liberal hand in selecting fine separate works, as well as the gems from Continental collections which were then dispersed and found their way hither, thus enabling him to lay the foundation of the famous Bridgewater Gallery, one of the finest private collections in Europe.  At his death, in 1803, its value was estimated at £150,000.

    The Duke very seldom took part in politics, but usually followed the lead of his relative Earl Gower, afterwards Marquis of Stafford, who was a Whig.  In 1762, we find his name in a division on a motion to withdraw the British troops from Germany, and on the loss of the motion he joined in a protest on the subject.  When the repeal of the American Stamp Act was under discussion His Grace was found in the ranks of the opposition to the measure.  He strongly supported Mr. Fox's India Bill, and generally approved the policy of that statesman.

    The title of Duke of Bridgewater died with him.  The Earldom went to his cousin General Egerton, seventh Earl of Bridgewater, and from him to his brother the crazed Francis Henry, eighth Earl; and on his death at Paris, in February, 1829, that title too became extinct.  The Duke bequeathed about £600,000 in legacies to his relatives, General Egerton, the Countess of Carlisle, Lady Anne Vernon, and Lady Louisa Macdonald.  He devised most of his houses, his pictures, and his canals, to his nephew George Granville (son of Earl Gower), second Marquis of Stafford and first Duke of Sutherland, with reversion to his second son, Lord Francis Egerton, first Earl of Ellesmere, who thus succeeded to the principal part of the vast property created by the Duke of Bridgewater.  The Duke was buried in the family vault at Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, in the plainest manner, without any state, at his own express request.  On his monument was inscribed the simple and appropriate epitaph Impulit ille rates ubi duxit aratra Colonus.


Memorial plaque to the Duke of Bridgewater. [p.237]
Photo: Editor.

    The Duke was a great public benefactor.  The boldness of his enterprise, and the salutary results which flowed from its execution, entitle him to be regarded as one of the most useful men of his age.  A Liverpool letter of 1765 says, "The services the Duke has rendered to the town and neighbourhood of Manchester have endeared him to the country, more especially to the poor, who, with grateful benedictions, repay their noble benefactor." [p.238-1]  If he became rich through his enterprise, the public grew rich with him and by him; for his undertaking was no less productive to his neighbours than it was to himself.  His memory was long venerated by the people amongst whom he lived,—a self-reliant, self-asserting race, proud of their independence, full of persevering energy, and strong in their attachments.  The Duke was a man very much after their own hearts, and a good deal after their own manners.  In respecting him, they were perhaps but paying homage to those qualities which they most cherished in themselves.  Long after the Duke had gone from amongst them, they spoke to each other of his rough words and his kindly acts, his business zeal and his indomitable courage.  He was the first great Manchester man."  His example deeply penetrated the Lancashire character, and his presence seems even yet to hover about the district.  "The Duke's canal" still carries a large proportion of the merchandise of Manchester and the neighbouring towns; "the Duke's horses" [p.238-2] still draw "the Duke's boats; the Duke's coals "still issue from" the Duke's levels and when any question affecting the traffic of the district is under consideration, the questions are still asked of "What will the Duke say?"  "What will the Duke do?" [p.239-1]

    Manchester men of this day may possibly be surprised to learn that they owe so much to a Duke, or that the old blood has helped the new so materially in the development of England's modern industry. But it is nevertheless true that the Duke of Bridgewater, more than any other single man, contributed to lay the foundations of the prosperity of Manchester, Liverpool, and the surrounding districts. The cutting of the canal from Worsley to Manchester conferred upon that town the immediate benefit of a cheap and abundant supply of coal; and when Watt's steam-engine became the great motive power in manufactures, such supply became absolutely essential to its existence as a manufacturing town. Being the first to secure this great advantage, Manchester thus got the start forward which she has never since lost. [p.239-2]

    But, besides being a waterway for coal, the Duke's canal, when opened out to Liverpool, immediately conferred upon Manchester the immense advantage of direct connection with an excellent seaport.  New canals, supported by the Duke and constructed by the Duke's engineer, grew out of the original scheme between Manchester and Runcorn, which had the further effect of placing the former town in direct water-communication with the rich districts of the north-west of England.  Then the Duke's canal terminus became so important, that most of the new navigations were laid out to join it; those of Leigh, Bolton, Stockport, Rochdale, and the West Riding of Yorkshire, being all connected with the Duke's system, whose centre was at Manchester.  And thus the whole industry of these districts was brought, as it were, to the very doors of that town.

    But Liverpool was not less directly benefited by the Duke's enterprise.  Before his canal was constructed, the small quantity of Manchester woollens and cottons manufactured for exportation was carried on horses' backs to Bewdley and Bridgenorth on the Severn, from whence they were floated down that river to Bristol, then the chief seaport on the west coast.  No sooner, however, was the new water-way opened out than the Bridgenorth pack-horses were taken off, and the whole export trade of the district was concentrated at Liverpool.  The additional accommodation required for the increased business of the port was promptly provided as occasion required.  New harbours and docks were built, and before many years had passed Liverpool had shot far ahead of Bristol, and became the chief port on the west coast, if not in all England.  Had Bristol been blessed with a Duke of Bridgewater, the result might have been altogether different; and the valleys of Wilts, the coal and iron fields of Wales, and the estuary of the Severn might have been what South Lancashire and the Mersey are now.  Were statues any proof of merit, the Duke would long since have had the highest statue in Manchester as well as Liverpool erected to his memory, and that of Brindley would have been found standing by his side; for they were both heroes of industry and of peace, though even in commercial towns men of war are sometimes more honoured.

    We can only briefly glance at the extraordinary growth of Manchester since the formation of the Duke's canal, as indicated by the annexed plan.


    Though Manchester was a place of some importance about the middle of last century, it was altogether insignificant in extent, trade, and population, compared with what it is now.  It consisted of a few principal streets—narrow, dark, and tortuous—one of them leading from the Market Place to St. Ann's Square, being very appropriately named "Dark Entry."  Deansgate was the principal original street of the town, and so called because of its leading to the dean or valley along which it partly extended.  From thence a few streets diverged in different directions into the open country.  St. Ann's Square, the fashionable centre of modern Manchester, was in 1770 a corn-field surrounded with lofty trees, and known by the name of "Acre's Field."  The cattle-fairs of the town were held there, the entrance from Deansgate being by Toll Lane, a narrow, dirty, unpaved way, so called because toll was there levied on the cattle proceeding towards the fair.  The ancient seat of the Radcliffe family still stood at Pool Fold, close to the site of the modern Cross Street, and the water in the moat was used as a ducking-pond for scolds.  When the pool became filled up, the ducking-pond was removed to Daub Holes, then on the outskirts of the town, where the Infirmary now stands.  The site of King Street, now the very heart of Manchester, was as yet comparatively retired, a colony of rooks having established themselves in the tall trees at its upper end, from which they were only finally expelled about forty years ago.  Cannon Street was the principal place of business, the merchants and their families living in the comparatively humble tenements fronting the street, the equally humble warehouses in which their business was done standing in the rear.  The ground on which the crowded thoroughfares of Oldham Street, London Road, Mosley Street, and their continuations, now exist, was as yet but garden or pasture-land.  Salford itself was only a hamlet occupying the bend of the Irwell.  It consisted of a double line of mean houses, extending from the Old Bridge (now Victoria Bridge) to about the end of Gravel Lane, then a country road containing only a few detached cottages.  The comparatively rural character of Manchester may be inferred from the circumstance that the Medlock and the Irk, the Tib and Shooter's Brook, were favourite fishing streams.  Salmon were caught in the Medlock and at the mouth of the Irk; and the others were well stocked with trout.  The Medlock and the Irk are now as black as old ink, and as thick; but the Tib and Shooter's Brook are entirely lost,—having been absorbed, like the London Fleet, in the sewage system of the town.  Tib Street and Tib Lane indicate the former course of the Tib; but of Shooter's Brook not a trace is left.

    The townships of Ardwick Green, Hulme, and Chorlton-upon-Medlock (formerly called Chorlton Row), were entirely rural.  The old rate-books of Chorlton Row exhibit some curious facts as to the transformations effected in that township.  In 1720, a "lay" of 14d. in the pound produced a sum of £26 18s., the whole disbursements for the year amounting to £28 8s. 5d.  From the highway rate laid in 1722, it appears that the contributors were only twenty persons in all, whose payments ranged from 8d. to £1 13s. 4d., producing a total levy of £6 18s. 10d. for the year.  From the disbursements, it appears that the regular wage paid to the workmen employed was a shilling a-day.  In 1750, a lay of 3d. in the pound produced only £6 2s. 1½d.; so that the population and value of property in Chorlton Row had not much increased during the thirty years that had passed.  In 1770, two levies brought in £57 8s. 6d.; and in 1794, four, made in that year, produced £208 2s. 4d. [p.243]  Among the list of contributors in the latter year we find "Mrs. Quincey 16s. 6d."—the mother of De Quincey, the English opium-eater, who was brought up in Chorlton Row.  De Quincey describes the home of his childhood as a solitary house, "beyond which was nothing but a cluster of cottages, composing the little hamlet of Greenhill."  It was connected by a winding lane with the Rusholme road.  The house, called Greenheys—the nucleus of an immense suburban district—built by De Quincey's father, "was then," he says, "a clear mile from the outskirts of Manchester," Princess Street being then the termination of the town on that side. [p.244-1] Now it is enveloped by buildings in all directions, and nothing of the former rural character of the neighbourhood remains but the names of Greenhill, Rusholme, and Greenheys.

    Coming down to the second expansion of Manchester, as exhibited on our plan, it will be observed that a considerable increase of buildings had taken place in the interval between 1770 and 1804.  The greater part of the town was then contained in the area bounded by Deansgate, the crooked lanes leading to Princess Street, Bond Street, and David Street, to the Rochdale Canal, and round by Ancoats Lane (now Great Ancoats Street) and Swan Street, to Long Millgate, then a steep narrow lane forming the great highway into North Lancashire.  Very few buildings existed outside the irregular quadrangle indicated by the streets we have named.  The straggling houses of Deansgate, which were principally of timber, ended at Knott Mill.  A few dye-works stood at intervals along the Medlock, now densely occupied by buildings for miles along both banks.  Salford had not yet extended to St. Stephen's Street in one direction, nor above half way to Broughton Bridge in another. [p.244-2]  The comparatively limited spaces thus indicated sufficed, however, for places of business and habitations for the population.  Now the central districts are almost exclusively occupied for business purposes, and houses for dwellings have rapidly extended in all directions.  The populous districts of Broughton, Higher and Lower, did not exist thirty-five years ago.  They contained no buildings excepting Strangeways Hall and a few cottages which lay scattered beyond the bottom of the workhouse brow; the locality where the new Assize Courts have been erected, which the citizens of Manchester claim to be unequalled in the kingdom for magnificence and accommodation.

    But pastures, corn-fields, and gardens rapidly gave place to streets and factory buildings. [p.245]  The suburban districts of Ardwick, Hulme, and Cheetham, became wholly absorbed in the great city.  Stretford New Road, a broad street nearly a mile and a half long, forms the main highway for a district occupied during the life of the present generation by a population greater than that of many cities.  Not fifty years since, a few farm-houses and detached dwellings were all the buildings it contained, and Chester Road, the principal one in the district, was a narrow winding lane, with hedges on each side.  Jackson's Lane, remembered as a mere farm-road through corn-fields, has become a spacious thoroughfare dignified with the name of Great Jackson Street, that contains a relic of rural Hulme in the remnant of "Jackson's Farm" buildings, which gave the name, first to the "lane" and then to the "street."  It is a single-storey building, covered with grey flags, and stands in an oblique recess on the left-hand side, about halfway between Chester Road and the recently formed City Road.  Higher up, at the junction of Chapman and Preston Streets, the houses, also covered with grey flags, still remain, which, within a comparatively recent period, stood amidst fields, and were known as "Geary's Farm,"—these buildings are now surrounded by streets on every side.  About thirty years since, the part of Hulme nearest to Manchester was occupied by "tea gardens," and places of resort much used by the "town" population.  The principal of these was at the White House; and it is said of late roysterers at that place, that unless they could form a party or secure the services of "the patrol," they had frequently to sojourn there all night.  The officers constituting the patrol [p.246] carried swords and horn lanterns; and, clad as they were in heavy greatcoats with many capes, they were by no means light of foot, or at all formidable adversaries to the footpads who "worked" the district.

    Among the most remarkable improvements in Manchester of late years, have been the numerous spacious thoroughfares which have been opened up in all directions.  In this respect, the public spirit of Manchester has not been surpassed by any town in the kingdom,—the new streets being laid out on a settled plan with a view to future extension, and executed with admirable judgment.  Narrow, dark, and crooked ways have been converted into wide and straight streets, admitting light, air, and health to the inhabitants, and affording spacious highways for the great and growing traffic of the district.  The important street-improvements executed in Manchester during the last thirty years have cost an aggregate of about £800,000.  The central and oldest part of the town has thus undergone a complete transformation.  So numerous are the dark and narrow entries that have been opened up—the obstructive buildings that have been swept away, the projecting angles that have been cut off, and the crooked ways that have been made straight—that the denizen of a former age would be very unlikely to recognise the Manchester of to-day, were it possible for him to revisit it.

    Some of the street-improvements have their peculiar social aspects, and call up curious reminiscences.  The stocks, pillory, and Old Market Cross, were removed from the Market Place in 1816.  The public whipping of culprits on the pillory stage is within the recollection of the elder portion of the present inhabitants.  Another "social institution," of a somewhat different character, was extinguished much more recently, by the construction of the splendid piece of terrace-road in front of the cathedral, known as the Hunt's Bank improvement.  This road swept away a number of buildings, shown on the old plans of Manchester as standing on the water's edge, close to the confluence of the Irk with the Irwell.  They were reached by a flight of some thirty steps, and consisted of a dye-work, employing three or four hands, two public-houses, and about a dozen cottages and other buildings.  The public-houses, the 'Ring o' Bells' and the 'Blackamoor,' particularly the former, were famous places in their day.  On Mondays, wedding-parties from the country, consisting sometimes of from twenty to thirty couples, accompanied by fiddlers, visited "t' Owd Church" to get married.  The 'Ring o' Bells' was the rendezvous until the parties were duly married and ready to form and depart homewards, in a more or less orderly manner, headed by their fiddlers as they had come.  The 'Ring o' Bells' was also a favourite resort of the recruiting-serjeant, and more recruits, it is said, were enlisted there than at any other public-house in the kingdom.  But these, and many curious characteristics of old Manchester, have long since passed away; and not only the town but its population have become entirely new.



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