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L.S. Lowry and the Bridgewater Canal

L.S. Lowry is now one of Britain’s most recognised and most loved artists but it was not always so.

Born in 1887 to very Victorian parents he spent his whole working life as a property agent for Pall Mall Properties retiring at 65 with his pension well earnt!

For this reason, he was not (initially at least) taken seriously by the Art Critics, particularly those based in London who were wont to dub him as a “Sunday Painter” and many people on first seeing his industrial landscapes with their myriad stick-like figures still say …“My child could do that”.

Well, the truth is that they could not. What appears at first to be somewhat naïve is, in fact, the very opposite. He spent 21 years at Art School in Salford and Manchester, mostly in the evenings learning how to draw and paint. His early drawings show a rare skill in draughtsmanship and it was this base in the technicalities of “Art” that enabled him to develop over the many years he was actively painting and drawing the unique style that is so familiar to us now. His genre was wide, much wider than most people realise, he was an excellent portraitist and landscape artist, he painted seascapes and he told pictorial stories in works such as “Conflict” and “The Fight”

It is not always realised that he was active over a very long time period. 70 years in fact! Those years encompassed two world wars and astonishing changes in our way of life. He saw and recorded sailing ships in Rhyll harbour, super tankers on the river Tyne and he pictured teenagers with mini skirts in the 1960s, as well as old women in traditional widows weeds (black mourning ensemble) in the 1920’s.

Lowry was a frequent visitor to the Bridgewater Canal which was a fairly short tram ride from his home in Station Road Swinton and he produced several drawings and paintings of the well known spots such as the Packet House and the Hump Backed Bridge as well as barges on the Canal. The Lowry Centre on Salford Quays owns the largest collection of his work in the world and is well worth a visit.

Royston Futter is a Green Badge Tourist Guide for the Bridgewater Canal

07952838349
rfutter@yahoo.co.uk

He gives illustrated talks on L.S. Lowry and on Industrial Heritage as well as on the Bridgewater Canal. Why not check out his tour A Right Royal Ramble.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-right-royal-ramble-tickets-320933248987?aff=oddtdtcreator

The Lowry
Skip88, CC BY-SA 3.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It Could Have Been ‘Ferry Cross the Irwell’ – the Irwell Connection

You may well ask, ‘what is the connection between the Irwell and the Bridgewater Canal?’ There is one physical connection and plenty of indirect connections. One of the most indirect is that the original planned course for the Bridgewater Canal would have taken the canal from Monton to continue southeast to join the Irwell necessitating a transhipment across the river into Manchester. Instead, James Brindley, a consultant engineer on the canal’s construction advised a course that it takes today crossing the Manchester Ship Canal which at that time had been the Mersey & Irwell Navigation at Barton Aqueduct in 1761. This avoided the transhipment on the water of the Irwell.

The former Mersey & Irwell Navigation (M&IN) was created in the 1730s, well before the onset of the Bridgewater Canal which was connected to the Mersey at Runcorn in 1773 via a meandering contour route from Stretford that is roughly parallel to the Mersey & Irwell.

The course of the canal is in the Irwell River Catchment from Worsley to Manchester city centre and to Stretford, beyond which it enters the Mersey Catchment. It can be a tempestuous river as shown in 2015 when Storm Eva deposited 128mm in 36 hours on the Upper Irwell. Downstream, 750 houses were flooded in Salford and 670 in the Radcliffe/Redvales area. The river Irwell should be regarded as a major river but it isn’t because it is relatively short, only 39 miles from the source in the West Pennines above Bacup to the junction with the Mersey at Irlam.

In the early 70s there was a brief moment when the profile of the Irwell could have been improved as, in the wake of the 1972 Local Government Act, the new metropolitan borough of Salford was almost given the name Irwell but opposition pointed out that the Irwell flowed through two other boroughs and also didn’t flow through Worsley, even though Worsley Brook is a tributary of the Irwell.

There are claims that the river Mersey is a rarity among rivers in not being named after the larger tributary, i.e. the Irwell, rather than the smaller Mersey from the point at which they meet. The rivers met at Irlam and the confluence is now with the Manchester Ship Canal near Irlam Locks. The Mersey possibly also had the ascendancy in the name game because it was a boundary river between historic Lancashire and Cheshire and before that between the territories of Mercia to the south and Elmet to the north. So, whether or not it should have been ‘Ferry Across the Irwell’ is a moot point but shows that the Irwell is a historically under-rated river.

The Irwell should be regarded as a major river for its significant role in the development of the world’s first industrial revolution. And the conduit, so to speak, for that role has been two canals, the Bridgewater Canal and the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal (MBBC). The relationship, the connection, between the three waterways is currently made on the 1.6km stretch of the Irwell between the Pomona Locks on the Bridgewater Canal and the Middlewood Locks on the MBBC.

The Pomona Lock Branch joins the Bridgewater Canal to the Ship Canal and river Irwell
The Bridgewater Canal joins the Ship Canal/Irwell at Pomona Lock (2009)

It is commonly accepted that the drivers for the world’s first industrial revolution were the features that came together in Manchester, namely coal, canals and cotton. Cotton was a consumer and industrial product and it was made affordable by the proximity of coal which was brought to market by the two canals. Thus, the mines at Worsley Delph and along the Irwell Valley gave up the coal that the two canals delivered; the Bridgewater to the wharfs at Castlefield and the MBBC to the wharfs at the aptly named Upper Wharf Street in Salford.

Of course, the Bridgewater Canal Company for many years did not want connections to be made for either the M&IN or the Johnny-come-lately of the MBBC which were both seen as a threat to its business ascendancy. The connection via Pomona docks was only made in 1995 and replaced the short Hulme Locks branch canal opened in 1839 to connect the Bridgewater Canal to the M&IN. In the same year, the MBBC finally made a connection via the river Irwell at Middlewood Locks to the wider network with the construction of the Manchester & Salford Junction Canal (M&SJC) which today can still be seen joining the Rochdale canal near the Rain! Bar in city centre Manchester. It is probably not a coincidence that the canals made the connections in the decade that launched the Railway era and consequent severe competition for the canals’ trade.

The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal joins the river Irwell (map courtesy of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society – https://www.mbbcs.org.uk/ )

It is worth reflecting a little more on the intrinsic qualities of the river Irwell, regardless of its canal connections. Cyril Bracegirdle’s book “The Dark River – the Irwell” reflected in its title both its industrial heritage and pollution with 400 mills in proximity to the river found in a survey of 1800, and its propensity to flood.

Even in 1972, Bracegirdle records, the flow of water at the Adelphi Weir in Salford was 120 million gallons and that included 32 million gallons of outflow from seven sewage works and another 14 million gallons of industrial effluent from twenty-one factories. Today it is a much cleaner river with the totemic kingfishers seen regularly along the full length and in recent years the arrival of otters. In the late 19th century, Joseph Anthony wrote,

              Whoe’er hath seen dark Irwell’s tide,

              Its sombre look and sullen glide,

              Would never deem that it, I ween,

              Had ever brighter, gayer been

It’s not perfect now but it is certainly brighter than in those dark Irwell days and is overdue a recognition for its role in canal creation and the industrial revolution.

Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal joins the Irwell at Middlewood Locks (2024)

David Barnes Green Badge Tourist Guide for the Bridgewater Canal

If you are interested in visiting the Bridgewater Canal with a guide contact David on:

07961535163 / davidbarnes.david@gmail.com

Photo credits:

Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal joins the Irwell at Middlewood Locks – photo by David Barnes

Bridgewater Canal – joins the Ship Canal/Irwell via Pomona Lock – photo by David Barnes

Barton Stone Aqueduct

From Castle to Wonder – The Tale of Two Aqueducts

Castle

In 1759 the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, Francis Egerton, wanted to transport coal from his mines in Worsley to the rapidly expanding market in Manchester.  The roads of the time were atrocious and a horse & cart could not carry very much so the Duke decided to build a canal.  Along with his agent, John Gilbert, a scheme was devised to build a canal to the bank of the river Irwell in Salford and an Act of Parliament approved.  The Duke and Gilbert then recruited millwright and water engineer James Brindley.  This triumvirate soon decided they needed to cross the river Irwell and take the coal direct to the heart of Manchester. 

For this development they needed an aqueduct to carry the proposed canal over the river Irwell, something unheard of previously.  A location next to the existing road crossing at Barton was chosen.  A second Act of Parliament was required to divert the canal but Parliament could not conceive of how this could work.  Brindley made a model of the proposed aqueduct from a round of Cheshire Cheese to demonstrate the plan to Parliament.  The Act was passed and the aqueduct was built within 3 years!

Barton Stone Aqueduct as shown in the ‘Penny Magazine’ issue 286 September 1836. 

On 17th July 1761 the canal was opened from Worsley to Stretford and the first boat sailed over the stone aqueduct high above the river Irwell.  It was described at the time as a ‘castle in the air’ and people came from far and wide to see this amazing engineering feat.

The price of coal in Manchester was halved overnight and the industrial revolution carried on apace.  The Duke’s canal was then also extended to Runcorn where it met the river Mersey, providing a vital, reliable waterway between the two cities of Manchester and Liverpool, albeit on a circuitous ‘contour’ route.

Wonder

Manchester and Salford grew and then the railways came in 1830 so the expansion continued further.  Eventually the business and civic interests in Manchester decided that there was a need for a more direct connection to the sea.  The proposal was made for a ship canal following in general the courses of the rivers Mersey and Irwell.  An Act of Parliament was passed in 1885 and work commenced on the Manchester Ship Canal.

One significant engineering challenge was how to carry the Bridgewater Canal over the new Ship Canal.  The stone aqueduct, suitable until this time for the boats used on the River Irwell, would not allow passage of the size of ships expected to travel on the Ship Canal.  Ship Canal chief engineer, Edward Leader Williams, came up with the solution – a swing aqueduct: a tank of water allowing boats to continue passing along the Bridgewater Canal but when a vessel needed to pass along the Ship Canal this tank could be sealed at either end and swung out of the way. 

‘Arklow Fern’ passes Barton Swing Aqueduct on its way towards Manchester.

In 1894 the Manchester Ship Canal opened and over 125 years later the ‘unique’ Barton Swing Aqueduct is still the king of swing!  Barton Swing Aqueduct is listed as one of the seven ‘Wonders of the Waterways.’

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/canal-history/history-features-and-articles/the-seven-wonders-of-the-waterways?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI06_35fDv4QIVzp3tCh3nkgaJEAAYASAAEgLdKvD_BwE

Today you can visit Barton Pocket Park to see the Swing Aqueduct and the remains of the Stone Aqueduct. 

If you are interested in visiting the aqueducts and other places along the Bridgewater Canal in Salford contact:

Mark Charnley, Green Badge Tourist Guide for the Bridgewater Canal in Salford

Tel: 07884 121021

Barton Swing Aqueduct and Swing Road Bridge from the air in 2005
Chat Moss Opposite Boothstown Marina

The Music of Chat Moss

Chat Moss is a parcel of moss land located south of the stretch of the Bridgewater Canal between Worsley and Leigh.   Apart from the beautiful sounds of nature on the mosses, it is famous for provoking and inspiring reactions from many who see it.  This includes music. 

What or where is Chat Moss?  Chat Moss is an important peat bog located in Greater Manchester on the border of Salford, Wigan and Trafford.  It is adjacent to the Bridgewater canal in part, and covers some 10.6 square miles (27.5 km2) in total. It is an important landscape with both national and international protection designations.  It  is a site of special scientific interest and part of a European Special Area of Conservation.  Consequently, it hosts a wide variety of wildlife. 

View from Boothstown towards Chat Moss

It dates from the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago.  Although there has been land reclamation to allow it to be used for agriculture, the peat is as much as 30ft (9m) deep in parts.  In 1958, special artefacts were found within the peat during the reclamation process including the head of a man known as ‘Worsley Man’, a Romano-British man dated approximately from 100 AD.   

The name Chat Moss is thought to be named after St Chad the Bishop of the Mercians, a 7th century monk, but it could also be named after the Celtic for wooded area ‘Ced’. The land was wet and wooded and that is why over the centuries it formed into peat bog.

Chat Moss Keepers Turn

Daniel Defoe, the 18th century writer, journalist, and spy, referred to Chat Moss in 1754 in his diary:

“We pass’d the great bog or waste call’d Chatmos, the first of that kind that we see in England … The surface, at a distance, looks black and dirty, and is indeed frightful to think of, for it will bear neither horse or man, unless in an exceeding dry season, and then not so as to be passable, or that any one should travel over them … What nature meant by such a useless production, ’tis hard to imagine; but the land is entirely waste…”

However, dismal it may have looked, it proved to be an inspirational landscape in the 20th century for one local musician, Peter Maxwell Davies, who composed an orchestral tone poem entitled Chat Moss in 1993/4.

Salford born Davies (1934 – 2016), was born in Holly Street, Langworthy and grew up in Swinton on Wyville Drive. He was the son of Thomas Davies, a manufacturer of optical instruments, and his wife Hilda, an amateur painter. However, at a very early age he became interested in music after hearing the Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan. He became a composer, eventually rising to be “Master of the Queens Music” and gained a knighthood.

Attending Leigh Grammar School, he entered a BBC radio competition aged 14 with a composition entitled Blue IceThis proved to be a pivotal point in his career progression.  He studied at Manchester University and the Royal College of Music in Manchester (Now the Royal Northern College of Music). Together with some important British composers, he created a new movement of contemporary music composers that became popular in the late 20th century known as New Music Manchester which included Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr, Elgar Howarth and John Ogdon as well as Davies.

A tone poem is a piece of orchestral music, usually in a single continuous movement, which illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting or landscape.  Chat Moss evokes Davies’ emotions and memories of this special landscape that he must have passed daily throughout his school days, and for that reason it is special.

This short, richly textured, tone-poem was created to allow a school orchestra to perform at its best. Characteristically, Davies finds ways to engage and stretch young players while staying within the bounds of what is practical for them. This creative and vivid piece allows them to shine.  Chat Moss also formed the basis for a much larger piece Davies’ Fifth Symphony.  

Chat Moss was first performed on 16 March 1994 by the chamber orchestra of St Edward’s College, Liverpool.

Join the Bridgewater Canal Guided Tours to hear more about the 20th century music of the canal including Chat Moss.

Click below to listen to the BBC Philharmonic perform Chat Moss.

Alexandra Fairclough – Bridgewater Canal Tourist Guide

Tel 07956 226699

Alexatours@outlook.com

The Great Glaziers of St Mark’s Church

St Mark’s Church was endowed by the Egerton family who moved to Worsley following the succession of Lord Francis Egerton, (the Earl of Ellesmere) as beneficiary of the Bridgewater trust.

He described Worsley as “A God-forgotten place, its inhabitants much addicted to drink and rude sports, their morals deplorably low” and the family set about improving the village provisions.

The Church foundation stone was laid on 15 June 1844 and completed and consecrated 2 July 1846.

No expense was spared and the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott built a fine Gothic church for which glass windows needed to be acquired. The Morning Post wrote on Mon. 13 October 1851 “The Queen and the Prince Consort were greeted at the church door … and they proceeded down the main aisle. Victoria seemed very pleased by the architecture and sculpture of the church, and its rich stained-glass windows.” The visit had taken place on 10th October and the only coloured windows at that time were the main East windows, installed only a few weeks prior.

Renovations of the family house in London had connected the Egerton family to Sir Charles Barry. Barry had famously won the competition to rebuild the Palace of Westminster following the fire in 1834 for which he was knighted. For that work Barry had recruited Augustus Welby Pugin to help with the interior design. Pugin further collaborated with the lesser-known John Hardman of Birmingham, whose family business expanded to introduce ecclesiastical metal work made to Pugin’s designs and also stained glass.

Therefore, when the Egerton’s were looking for an East Window design to impress, they employed the finest architects of the time. Charles Barry visited Worsley in 1851 to discuss alterations to Worsley Old Hall and the church.

Lady Ellesmere appears to have been very involved with the design of the East window and we know this from her correspondence stating her displeasure at the finished product.

“The Window in Worsley Church is completed & I am sorry to say unsuccessful. The execution is pretty in itself but wholly unsuited to the rest in colouring. It has the effect of a gown of which the skirt is crimson, & the body pink.

Now the question is can anything be done to improve it. Who is the executor of it? Did he ever see the window?

I should be inclined to have him down to look at it; but before determining upon this, should like to know his name & address”.

Approximately a week after this communication, all three men Barry, Pugin and Hardman, visited Worsley. What exactly was discussed at this meeting and what changes were made we may never know.

The main sections of the East were probably acquired by the George Gilbert Soctt or the Earl  from a church in southern Germany and the tracery glass above these main panels is that designed by A W Pugin. Why not visit for yourself and decide whether you agree with Lady Ellesmere.

The Coal, Cake and Canal walking tour run by Bridgewater Canal Guided Tours finishes with a visit to St Mark’s church for tea and cake. The perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Book now

Michele Thompson – Bridgewater Canal Tourist Guide

gotguided@gmail.com / 07786992053

The Liverpool to Manchester Railway

The Rocket

On 15th September 1830, the World’s first passenger railway opened to a large crowd waiting on Liverpool Road Manchester.

The first part of the project (June 1826) started with efforts to drain Chat Moss swamp close to the Bridgewater Canal and provide the 6.4km Chat Moss crossing – over the peat bog.

On the opening day a grand reception and banquet was laid on to celebrate the historic occasion. Eight trains set off from Liverpool along two tracks.  One stopped as the wheels came off the track. The train behind crashed into it and thus the world’s first passenger train crash occurred. Luckily there were no injuries.

Eventually both trains continued their journey. Half way to Manchester, they stopped as the engines needed water. The passengers were told to stay on the  trains, but many got off to stretch their legs. This included the MP William Huskisson unsteady and unnerved he stumbled into the track of Rocket passing from the other direction and was hit. He needed urgent medical attention, so a marching band on another train, who were meant to play in Manchester, were told to get off to allow the injured man to rush to Eccles for treatment.

Sadly Huskisson later died – the world’s first railway passenger death. The band were told to walk the 18 miles back to Liverpool.

The trains were mostly open carriages, full of lords, ladies & VIPs in their finest clothes. As the trains approached Eccles, the skies darkened & there was a huge downpour. The passengers got drenched.

At last they came into Manchester looking very bedraggled & distressed.  There were cheers to welcome them, but most of crowd were booing & jeering. The people of Manchester were unhappy. The Peterloo Massacre was still fresh in Mancunian memory & these trains were full of the lords & politicians who did not support parliamentary reform. The local military were trying to control the hostile crowd.

The PM, the Duke of Wellington, sensed the negative Mancunian mood and the hero of Waterloo decided to return to Liverpool. Salfordians who lined the track and bridges, added to the damp passengers misery by pelting the open carriages with all manner of filth along the way. The trains had to stop to clear a wheel-barrow off the track. This was a radical act of railway vandalism.

Where the incline was too much for Rocket and her carriageway, passengers had to get out and walk as the trains struggled. However, these passengers were way better off than the military band who were later seen still miserably trudging alongside the track in the dark as the train passed them.

When they all finally arrived back in Liverpool, the passengers were tired and miserable. The grand ball was cancelled and Wellington swore he would never travel by train ever again. 

Mancunians and Salfordians had played their small part in making sure the day did not go to plan, but the railways would soon come to play an enormous role in the development and histories of Manchester, Salford and the industrial revolution.

On 17th September 1830, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway welcomed the first paying passengers. Freight transport began on 1st December 1830. The whole line was constructed for £739,165 less than the original estimate of £796,246. It necessitated some 2.3 million cubic meters of excavation a feat of engineering and technology in itself.

Alexandra Fairclough

Image Nick-D, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Emma Fox

Emma Fox

Emma Fox is a born and bred Mancunian who loves sharing stories and insider knowledge about her home city. She studied European Studies, including history, international relations and German and has lived in Berlin and Vienna. Emma spricht Deutsch.

Emma is an official tour guide for Manchester, the Bridgewater Canal in Salford and a trainee guide for North Wales. She is very much looking forward to the RHS Bridgewater Gardens opening in summer 2021, and hopes to show visitors what other gardens, heritage and cultural offerings there are nearby.

Since 2009 she has enjoyed meeting people from all around the world and bringing historical and modern Manchester to life. Each tour is unique but specialisms include industrial heritage the Scuttlers and Victorian slums, radical ideas, arts, sports, architecture, literature cotton and slavery, Factory Records, Southern Cemetery, Manchester bees, Worsley and the Bridgewater Canal gardens and green spaces.

She has been described in reviews as vivacious, knowledgeable, accomplished and engaging.

Emma Fox
Emma Fox

Emma Fox
07500 774200
showmemanchester@yahoo.co.uk
@showmemcr on social media

Mark Charnley

Mark Charnley

I have lived in Eccles all my life and becoming a Bridgewater Guide has given me the opportunity to share the stories and history of the area to locals and visitors.

A former railwayman for over 30 years I acquired a detailed knowledge on the area and its links not only to the railways but to coal mining and beyond.

The Bridgewater Canal and the wider Salford Metropolitan Borough area have a rich history and this has inspired me to become a guide so that I can pass on our important past and hopefully inspire others to enjoy our rich heritage.

As one of a group of local Green Badge Guides I help provide regular tours along the Bridgewater Canal and also other areas of Salford. Our group can also do private tailored tours covering specific aspects of our local heritage.

Mark Charnley
Mark Charnley

Mark Charnley
07884 121021
Facebook – Markwcharnley
Twitter – Markwcharnley

markwcharnley@gmail.com

Elizabeth Charnley

Elizabeth Charnley

Born in Bury, Lancashire, I now live in Eccles.

As a Green Badge Guide for the Bridgewater Canal in Salford, I feel perfectly at home in the canal environment, having grown up living close to the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal.

The Bridgewater Canal in Salford is diverse, beautiful, historical and modern at the same time.

I love telling my guests stories of its people (famous & not so famous,) places, neighbourhood areas and unique treasures such as the Barton Swing Aqueduct & Worsley Delph.

I am happy to guide groups on walking tours, bike tours and Nordic Walking tours combining a guided tour with a workout. I can also do a guided tour commentary for your boat trip along the Bridgewater Canal

My specialties are guiding children & families, school groups and those with walking or sensory disabilities. I am also available to give illustrated talks and lectures about the Bridgewater Canal to groups of all ages and interests.

Before qualifying as a tourist guide I worked in the NHS, initially as a pharmacy technician and later as a manager. I still work for the NHS, but now as a volunteer community first responder with the North West Ambulance Service.

I look forward to welcoming you on a tour soon.

Elizabeth Charnley
Elizabeth Charnley

Elizabeth Charnley
Tel: 07979 232817
Charnleysoutdoors@btinternet.com
@tourswalkstalks

Right Royal Ramble – 2024!

Book a tour

2024 dates on sale now – Ramble your way through the royal history in and around The Bridgewater Canal and Worsley

Join Green Badge Guide Royston Futter and, in your imagination, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, The Duke of Wellington and various other Royals and Luminaries who visited Worsley New Hall and the Bridgewater Canal in their heyday.

The circular guided tour, taking in the magnificent gates shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition, St Marks Churchyard, Worsley Delph and The Bridgewater Canal starts and ends in the carpark of RHS Bridgewater so you can visit the garden and have refreshments before or after the walk.

Please see Eventbrite for available dates.

Start 2pm – tour will last approx 2 ½ hrs (Distance around 4.5miles – generally flat but moderate uphill walk back towards the gardens.)

Tour Dates:

Sunday 12th May, 16th June, 21st July and 1st September 2024

Adults £13 plus booking fee

For children under 12 use promo code CHILD – price £6 plus fee.

https://rightroyalramble.eventbrite.co.uk

Booking essential