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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 – )

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 /

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


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.


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.’

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

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 / 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, via Wikimedia Commons

Chat Moss, the Bridgewater Canal and the Industrial Revolution

Chat Moss has an almost mythical character yet is very much a living landscape. Its mythical roots come from its origins 10,000 years ago during the Ice Age. Daniel Defoe’s description of the area as frightful in 1724 during his tour of Britain contributed to this sense of a land beyond civilisation. He could not imagine what nature meant by the production of such a waste land.

The Manchester to Liverpool railway line crossed Chat Moss in the early 19th century, commencing the Railway Mania. The northern border of the Moss is marked by the Bridgewater Canal which ushered in the age of Canal Mania years before the Railways took over.

If you open John Aikin’s Description of the country for Thirty to Forty Miles around Manchester (1795) you very quickly encounter a map of the northwest of England and a striking feature of that map is the number of canals on that map. The engineering wonders that were created with the canals generated fantastic images that Aikin evokes as,

the extraordinary sight, never before beheld in this country, of one vessel, sailing over the top of another; and those who had at first ridiculed the attempt, as equivalent to building a castle in the air, were obliged to join in admiration of the wonderful abilities of the engineer (p.114).

This was at Barton upon Irwell where James Brindley built the first aqueduct for the Bridgewater Canal across the River Irwell, on the eastern edge of Chat Moss. It enabled Brindley to plot a better route to Runcorn and the Mersey avoiding the original idea of taking the canal across Chat Moss.

Northwest England has a significant landscape heritage of peat bogs and Chat Moss is a key recovering element of that landscape. Little Woolden Moss is part of Chat Moss; it is now owned and is being restored by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. If you look north across Little Woolden Moss on a clear day you can see an apparently uninterrupted greenscape leading up Winter Hill part of the West Pennines. Chat Moss is a lowland peat moss and much of the West Pennines is upland peat moss.

These mosslands began to form about 10,000 years ago during the last ice age when peat began to be laid down on marine, estuarine or fluvial deposits adjacent to estuaries, on river floodplains, or on the site of shallow glacial lakes. These wet, waterlogged areas were originally colonised by reeds and rushes. When this plant material died it could not be fully broken down and this led to the formation of fen peat. Then bog mosses (Sphagnum mosses) began to colonise and changed the underlying peat from fen to bog peat. As the peat accumulated, the surface of the bog was elevated above the surrounding land, forming a dome, hence often these are known as raised bogs.

Chat Moss has a rich industrial heritage also, it was used historically as a waste disposal site for Manchester. The waste was a mixture of organic and mineral wastes, ranging from manures to steelworks waste. Chat Moss was purchased by the Manchester Corporation in 1895 for use as a waste disposal site to alleviate growing waste generation by the city population, but also to reclaim the peat for agricultural purposes. During drainage, the waste from Manchester was incorporated into the moss to reduce loss of soil volume as the peat dried out. The earliest waste used was nightsoil, which was mainly ashes mixed with the contents of privies.

Since the mid-19th century, the area of lowland raised bog in the UK has fallen by 94% from 95,000 ha to 6,000 ha. Chat Moss has in that period been industrially mined for peat for fuel and as an agricultural and garden product. This extraction of moss only ended on Little Woolden Moss in 2017 but fortunately that area is now being actively restored as a peat moss by the wildlife trust.

If you are interested in learning more about Chat Moss then contact Bridgewater Green Badge Guide – David Barnes Tel: 07961 535163


On Worsley Green there is an iron bollard sat on its own and looking very out of place.

Worsley Yard Iron Bollard

Have you ever wondered why it is there?

What is a bollard?

A bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post and originally described a post on a ship or wharf used principally for using ropes to secure boats.

The word is probably related to bole, referring to a tree trunk.

From the 17th and 18th centuries, old cannon were often buried muzzle first to be used as bollards on quaysides.

From the 19th century bollards were purpose-made, but often inherited a similar “cannon” shape.

What about our bollard?

Worsley Green used to be a busy industrial yard dating from the opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. The yard built up around the Delph area to service the mines and canal at Worsley. It was not until the early 20th century that the yard was turned into the green that we know today. Our bollard is one of the last remnants of Worsley Yard.


An Ordnance Survey (OS) map from 1848 shows a mineral railway from Sanderson Pit (colliery), just east of Roe Green to the coal staithe on the canal at Worsley. At the time the coal wagons were moved by gravity and horses.

In 1864 the Eccles, Tyldesley & Wigan Railway opened which ran through Worsley Woods between Monton Green and Roe Green. It was connected to the mineral railway at Sanderson’s Siding. This led to the first steam locomotive being delivered to Worsley Yard in 1870 to replace horsepower and a branch line with an engine shed was built.

The OS map from around 1900 shows the area of the yard and the railway with location of new houses and green superimposed:

The bollard is opposite house No.146 and is shown on the map next to the railway that crossed the yard.  It was close to the engine shed and was possibly used to tie up locomotive or wagons.

In 1905 the yard was cleared of almost all evidence of its industrial past and the houses we see today were built around what we now know as Worsley green.  All that remains is the base of the yard chimney which became the Duke of Bridgewater memorial, the sluice for the culverted Worsley Brook, the ‘ghosts’ of the railway sleepers…And of course, our own ‘Worsley Yard Iron Bollard’ which is now over 150 years old and if sentient would have stories to tell.

Map of Worsley Green: From Ordnance Survey map survey of 1889, revised in 1904 and published 1908 (Image copied from Alan Godfrey Maps edition published 2003).

Thanks for additional detail of houses built around the Green and map provided by John Aldred.

Written by Mark Charnley, Bridgewater Canal Green Badge Guide.

Eccles Cakes

Eccles cakes are a sweet pastry cake filled with dried fruits, usually currants and raisins, sugar, spices and sometimes butter.

The true origins of the cake are not known but the first recorded recipe for something like an Eccles Cake and called “sweet patties” was published by Elizabeth Raffald, housekeeper at Arley Hall, Cheshire in 1769 as part of a book of 800 recipes.  The recipe included boiled calf’s foot as well as dried fruit.

In 1793, James Birch opened a bakery in Eccles and started to sell cakes similar to Elizabeth Raffald’s sweet patties and they quickly became known as Eccles cakes. 

Eccles cakes proved very popular and were exported to Australia, America, the West Indies and Spain.  Alcohol was added (usually brandy or rum) as a preservative for exported cakes.

Eccles cakes do not have protected status as that afforded to Stilton cheese or Melton Mowbray pork pies, so they are made and sold in many countries across the world.

Few places make Eccles cakes commercially in Eccles now.  The major manufacturer is the Real Lancashire Eccles Cake company which is in Ardwick, Manchester.  A local commercial bakery, Quayside, on the Lyntown industrial estate beside the railway between Eccles and Patricroft stations is the largest producer locally in Eccles.  Two local small bakeries also make their own Eccles cakes: Law’s bakery on Parrin Lane, Winton, Eccles (near Monton church) and Wards Bakery on Barton Lane.

In 2004 and again in 2013, Eccles cakes made national headlines as Greggs bakery stopped selling Eccles cakes in all its shops, claiming there was no market for them, customers preferring chocolate cakes and muffins.  In 2013, during the Eccles Cake Festival, they again refused to stock them, even in their Eccles branch.

Lancashire Fire service have reported that Eccles cakes can catch fire if heated in a microwave oven, possibly due to the sugar content so if you prefer warm Eccles cakes, it is best to reheat them in the oven.

In the 2013 Eccles cake festival there was a competition called the “Great Eccles Cake-off” to find the best amateur bakers including the best Eccles cake.  The winner, a Mrs E Charnley of Eccles, received one dozen Eccles cakes as a prize (!)

So, love them or loathe them, call them dead fly cakes, fly pies, fly cemeteries, sweet patties, eat them hot or cold, from a famous chef recipe or an old favourite, enjoy this fine and tasty treat from Eccles, preferably one of the locally made ones!

Elizabeth Charnley is a Green Badge Guide for the Bridgewater Canal.

Check out her website to contact her directly.

Worsley Delph

by Alexandra Fairclough

The newly refurbished Delph, Worsley

Looking today at the recently refurbished Worsley Delph, we can see a floodlit cross feature set within a distinctive stone-faced water filled hollow. This former stone quarry was used for many of the local buildings but it was the start of the Bridgewater Canal, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution.

Francis Egerton, the third Duke of Bridgewater, wanted to mine his coal deposits out of his land.  Coal had been mined in Lancashire for centuries but the Worsley mines ran deep and kept flooding.  Influenced by his father’s idea to drain the mines, Francis Egerton decided to cut a water course to help reduce flooding, access and retrieve the coal and also transport it to market.

In 1761, the Bridgewater Canal from Worsley Delph to Manchester was completed. Coal from the Worsley colliery canal tunnels and other local pits could get to market quickly and more cheaply than ever before.

The main consumers for this coal initially were households for cooking and heating, however, a constant and much cheaper supply led to demand from industry such as brick-making, metal trades, glass-making and eventually to larger scale manufacturing industries involving imported raw cotton. Due to fact that almost 50% of the world’s raw cotton was manufactured in the 19th century was  traded from Manchester, it became a wealthy city known as ‘Cottonopolis’.

Learn more about the Worsley Delph, the mines, the people who created or visited the canal and the meaning of the public art on one of our Worsley Tours. The Creative Worsley tour also includes the artists musicians architects and writers associated with the first cut canal in England.

Alexandra runs regular tours around the Bridgewater canal.

To contact her visit

Book our next Worsley tour here

Saturday 3rd October 2020

11am Meet outside the Delph Bar & Restaurant

Steam Hammer

The Salford Steam Hammer

by Michele Thompson

Many a local in Salford will walk or drive past Nasmyth’s Business Park on Green Lane, Patricroft and may glance with interest at the structure now surrounded by mirrored panelling at the entrance, but few will know how important it was to the Industrial Revolution.

The site was home to James Nasmyth’s Bridgewater Foundry in the 19th Century, making machinery, locomotives and tools. Standing proudly outfront with a fresh lick of light blue paint, is one of Nasmyth’s finest inventions, the steam hammer.

James Nasmyth chose Salford as the spot for his new engineering works after walking the route of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830. He stopped for a break at the point where the railway crosses the Bridgewater Canal and the site obviously made an impression on him. When he had to move from his premises above a glass works in Dale Street (because some machinery fell through the floor!), he moved to the Patricroft site.

The steam hammer design was an innovation for metal work, as before its conception metal hammers struck every blow with the same amount of force. The steam hammer could be controlled to gently break the top of an egg placed in a wine glass or fall with such force that the vibrations could be felt for miles. A party trick often displayed for the Earl of Ellesmere and his guests.

The hammer was developed initially for Isambard Kingdom Brunel in order to make steam ships and was sold across the world transforming manufacturing. It was quickly adapted and used in pile driving. Bridges such as the High Bridge in Newcastle and The Royal Border Bridge in Berwick upon Tweed were built much more quickly than ever possible before due to the speed and efficiency of the pile driver. Piles which previously would have taken men 12 hrs to install now took minutes.

The Steam Hammer on Green Lane is nicknamed Thor and was in use in Elsecar Colliery in Barnsley. It is one of the smallest of the hammers that was available. Others could reach 20ft tall and could deliver blows of over 100 tons. As part of the EST 1761 project to revitalise the Bridgewater Canal funding and local enthusiasts brought it to Salford for renovation.

James Nasmyth was originally born in Scotland but spent much of his life in the Industrial heartlands of England.

If you would like to hear more about James Nasmyth, the steam hammer and the Bridgewater Canal in Salford why not check out our series of walks around the area.

Michele is a Green Badge Guide for the Bridgewater Canal

Contact her directly to discuss a tour:

Call: 0778692053