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Bridgewater Navigation Company Limited


Records of Bridgewater Navigation Company Limited: canal rules and notices 1873-1874, correspondence 1887, traffic permits 1880s, share certificate 20th century, bill for freight 20th century.


1873-20th century

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These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The trustees of the Bridgewater Canal sold their canals, carrying business and waterway property in 1872 to the newly-formed Bridgewater Navigation Company, with Sir Edward Watkin, chairman of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway and W P Price, chairman of the Midland Railway Company. Under the guidance of Edward Leader Williams as general manager and engineer, improvements to the Bridgewater Canal and associated canals and branches were made, primarily at Runcorn. The Fenton Dock at Runcorn, started by the previous governing body, was completed in 1875. That same year, steam screw canal tugs began operating on the canal. Eventually, the Company owned twenty-eight steam tugs. These roughly halved the cost of horse-towing and the money saved was invested in making improvements. The enlarging of the Runcron and Weston Canal and the protective bank-walling improvements were completed at roughly the same time as the drive to construct the Manchester Ship Canal began to peak. The Bridgewater Navigation Company had hoped that their long-term plans would see the Ship Canal rejected as unnecessary. They intended to enlarge the Mersey and Irwell to become the main Manchester to Liverpool route, alternate weirs and sluices to prevent flooding and shoaling, reduce the number of locks from ten to six and increase the breadth and depth of the canal. Giving evidence for the parliamentary committee against the Ship Canal Bill, the company claimed that their improvements would allow four or five times as much traffic to use the Mersey and Irwell, but failed in their attempt to stop the Bill. Henry Collier had succeeded Edward Leader Williams as general manager in 1879, and, ironically, Edward Leader Williams had gone on to become an active supporter of the Ship Canal. The Act of 1885 which authorized the construction of the Ship Canal also sanctioned the purchase of the Bridgewater Navigation Company, which became the Bridgewater Department of the Manchester Ship Canal Company. There was a drop in traffic, which declined further in the first half of the twentieth century, but the canal remined an important waterway. In 1947 the Hulme-Stretford length was deepened and in 1962 Hulme locks were rebuilt. The canal mostly handled local traffic into the 1970s. It is still managed by the Manchester Ship Canal although jointly owned by a trust of local authorities. For further information on the Bridgewater Canal see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and Charles Hadfield and Gordon Biddle's 'The Canals of North West England Volume 2'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain any original structure of record-keeping from the small number of records held for this company. The fonds has therefore been arranged in chronological order.

Associated material

[See also: BW11 and 67 for records of the Bridgewater Canal during other periods of ownership]