British Waterways - Weaver Navigation Files
The records original filing order has been retained
Initially the River Weaver was navigable to the tidal limit at Pickerings. Between 1711-1720, four bills were introduced to bring improvements but none were successful due to oppositions from the land carriers. Finally in 1721 an Act was secured to improve the Weaver as navigable up to Winsford. Around 1730 work on this began, with Thomas Robinson acting as surveyor general. Control of the Weaver was over-seen by undertakers, eminent men of Cheshire. Commissioners were brought in to administer the undertakers, empowered to sunction expenditure, appoint them and take over the work if they failed, and this they did in 1757. By 1732 vessels were able to reach Winsford. With the 1760 Act, 105 public trustees replaced the undertakers and under the trustees the new Weaver works continued, with locks taking crafts 68'x16.9' and Robert Pownall as engineer. From the start, work on the Weaver had been hindered by the tides. The solution to which was a new deep-water entrance, and Weston Point, on the upstream side of the Weaver estuary, was judged the best place for this. The four-mile Weston Canal and Basin at Weston Point contained in the 1807 Act. By 1810, the canal and basin were completed and functioned successfully from the beginning. During the 1830's more shortening cuts were made, there were 12 locks, including the river lock into the Mersey at Weston Point and lock at Frodsham. During 1840's work proceeded on the locks to take 100 ton capacity flats. The River Weaver Navigation trustees were employers with a strong sense of the welfare, including spiritual. They paid pensions, employed widows of former employees and helped the founding of schools in Northwich, Winsford and Weston Point. Also three churches were erected by the trustees at Weston Point, Northwich and Winsford. All these improvements were financed from the revenue and by 1845 the trustees had handed over half a million pounds to the country. In 1856 Edweard Leader Williams jnr. Became engineer of the navigation. During his tenure of the office the Weaver rose to new heights of efficiency, utilising steam, and the first steam-packet coaster appeared in 1864. An Act 1866 led to the construction of a new Mersey entrance 50' wide and of the Delamere dock, which opened in 1870. Edward William proposed to build a boat-lift at Anderton, which was opened in 1875 and worked well. Construction of the Manchester Ship canal helped Weaver Because ships no longer needed to lock out into the Mersey at Weston Point but could use the Ship Canal to the deep water channel at Eastham at reduced rates. The Ship Canal provided a side lock into the river at Weston Mersey, allowing Weston Point traffic to pass into the river free of toll. In 1891, the Weston March lock was built from the Weston Canal direct into the Ship Canal. The pattern of traffic on the Weaver was changing. Salt and coal tonnage had dropped sharply by the 1890's because of brine pipes and rail transport, but was replaced by chemicals carried to and from the works of Brunner, Mond & Co, established at Weston and Winnington alongside the navigation. The 1888 County Act led to a reorganisation of the Weaver trustees, who from 1895 were to number 38: 22 from the new Cheshire County Council, 14 from traders on the river, one from Northwich and one from Winsford. In 1903 the gates and hydraulic pumps on the Anderton lift were converted to electricity. By 1900, 2 swing bridges had been installed at Northwich and larger swing bridges were built at Sutton Weaver in 1923 and Acton in 1932. The stone bridge at Hartford was replaced by the present steel structure in 1938, which allowed coasters with fixed-masts to reach Winsford. After 1918 the prospects were not so good. Winsford traffic ceased at the end of the 1950's. Weston Point traffic, which had fallen badly by 1948, rose dramatically, particularly since the start of container services. Frodsham lock on the old river parallel with the Weston Canal was closed in 1955 and Sutton lock eliminated about the same time. Coasters use the navigation but the chemicals packets, the "Brunners", ceased to trade in 1980. in spite of their buoyant activity in the 1970s, Weston Point Docks were closed in 1984.
Cheshire and Chester record Office: River Weaver Navigation (ref LNW). Further material relating to the Navigation will be found amongst the Quarter Sessions records, County Council records and the papers of Messrs Chambers & Co of Northwich, (ref DCN) who were solicitors to the Trustees for many years. A full account of the origin and development of the Navigation is given in T S Willan The Navigation of the River Weaver in the Eighteenth Century (Chetham Society, Third Series, vol III, 1951)