Sale Photographic Society - The Bridgewater Canal 250 Years On

Tom Everett and Mike Bannister - 02/01/14

Slideshow from The Bridgwater Canal 250 Years On Project, see note below if this slideshow doesn't load.

Separate images can also be viewed from - Images from The Bridgwater Canal 250 Years On Project.

Kindly note the slideshows can take a few seconds to load. Also if the slideshows don't open on your computer then it will down to your Internet Explorer settings. It could be better if you use Firefox or Safari as these applications always seem to work with these slideshows.

Bridgewater Canal History

The first Bridgewater Canal Act was passed on the 23rd March 1759, and the canal was completed as far as Barton by 1761. The Canal then carried across the River Irwell by a unique stone aqueduct over which the first boat sailed across on the 17th July 1761.

In the commercial sphere it contributed greatly to the industrial growth and prosperity of Lancashire and it helped to establish Manchester as a major commercial centre. The Canal was a forerunner of the network of canals which later spread over the whole English countryside.

The story of the Canal revolves around the great figures of Francis, the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater; James Brindley and John Gilbert. The Duke of Bridgewater has gone down in history as the 'Canal Duke' and the 'Father of Britain's Inland Waterways'.

James Brindley was trained initially as a millwright and became the acknowledged expert of his day, in canal route surveying and design. John Gilbert was the Duke's Agent in Worsley, being responsible for all his underground mines and canal works.

The Bridgewater Canal has a special place in history as the first canal that struck out boldly across country rather than following an existing river course. The Duke, Brindley and Gilbert all contributed their enthusiasm, skill and expertise to bring the dream to successful commercial fruition.

The Duke's upbringing, youth and early adult life were rich in tragedy, experience, emotion, hardship and frustration. His love affairs having failed he put all his energies into developing his mines and building his canal. The result was cheaper coal, employment for the people and eventually industrial expansion and economic growth. Furthermore, the Canal which bears his name set the pattern for the Golden Canal Era of 1761 to 1830.


This webpage and images are the result of a project to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the opening of the first section of the Bridgewater Canal from Worsley to Manchester (Castlefield) on the 17th July 1761.

Coming up to that anniversary date, Tom Everett of 'Friends of the Bridgewater Canal, Sale section', put together an historical record of the Bridgewater Canal. This comprised a copy of the original Act of Parliament passed which was necessary for work to commence on its construction, copies of relevant letters, bills for materials and work carried out, illustrations and photographs (in later years) covering first the planning, then the construction of the various sections with a history of relevant events throughout the existence of the canal to the present day.

At the same time as this particular historical exhibition was being put together, it was suggested that Sale Photographic Society contribute to this anniversary exhibition, by taking photographs of the canal at the present day during 2011 showing how the canal looks today. Gone is the transport of coal which was the reason for it being built in the first place. Other commodities such as grain, salt, spirits and even people have also been transported in the past but all commercial transportation ceased around 1974.

New housing developments (mainly apartments) have sprung up in urban areas alongside the canal as it is increasingly perceived to be a benefit to have a canal on your doorstep, offering enhanced leisure possibilities coupled with the relaxing effect of water nearby which a busy road cannot offer. Much of the canal meanders through rural areas and outright countryside which besides being navigated increasingly by boats of various sizes and designs, is used more and more by walkers, anglers, cyclists (where permitted), horse riding in some locations and canoeists etc.

To photograph the Bridgewater Canal in 2011 (250 years after it first opened), the canal was arbitrarily divided into 11 sections with 7 photographs being chosen for each section. The 11 sections essentially were manageable sections for being photographed by different members of Sale Photographic Society who are mentioned in the acknowledgements. The photographs covered aspects of how the canal was used in 2011, how it looked then, some nearby points of interest eg 'The Cross at Lymm' and some of the wildlife found alongside the canal.

Those 77 photographs were mounted as a display during June of 2011 when the Sale Festival for that year was on, with the historical exhibition of 250 years of the canal's existence being displayed at the same time. These exhibitions were displayed throughout July as well, covering the actual 250th anniversary date of 17th July. Since then, it was decided to create a photo book based on those 77 images and this online record is in fact a record of this book which may well be published in due course.

The bulk of the book shows these 77 images divided into the 11 sections of the canal selected with an index page for the 7 images immediately preceding those images. In addition, there is an extra image at the back of the book showing a narrow boat passing close by to Old Trafford (Manchester United's football ground).

A schematic map of the Bridgewater Canal is also included. This map shows the towns and villages the canal passes through including many symbols and numbers to which there is a key on the following page indicating the various roads etc which cross the canal as well as other points of interest.

If you would like any further information then kindly contact our webmaster


The following members of Sale Photographic Society who took the images in the above slideshow are: Mike Bannister, John Earnshaw, Pat Holmes (RIP), Dave Hollows, Joyce Hollows, Ken Matthews, Cy Newton, Liam O'Keeffe, Richard Parish and Clive Robinson.

Tom Everett who advised on historical data relating to the Bridgewater Canal and supplied some of the additional information.

The Bridgewater Canal Company and in particular Mike Webb and his team for allowing the information contained on this website to be used.

Peel Holdings who own the Bridgewater Canal Company

Friends of the Bridgewater Canal (Sale)

  • The Society meets every Thursday with the agenda being focused on digital imaging, print, slide shows, lectures, etc.
  • 2019 Syllabus
  • We meet at St. Mary Magdalene Church Hall, Harboro Road, Sale M33_6GD at 20:00hrs most weeks of the year.
  • Location map.
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