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Last updated:28 May 2015

Plate celebrating the passing of the Manchester Ship Canal Bill, August 1885

The idea of a ship canal giving Manchester direct access to the sea was championed by Manchester engineer and boiler manufacturer Daniel Adamson from 1882 onwards. Civil engineer Edward Leader Williams's plans were selected to form the basis of a Bill submitted to Parliament in November 1882.

manchester ship canal plateThe Bill attracted intense opposition from the city of Liverpool and several railway companies, and although a scheme for a canal was passed by the House of Commons in 1883, opposition in the Lords meant that the plans were rejected.

It was not until 5 August 1885 that a Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament at the third time of asking, enabling the Manchester Ship Canal Act to receive Royal Assent the following day.

Various festivities took place in Manchester and the surrounding areas to mark the occasion. The ox roast commemorated on this plate is said to have attracted 30,000 people. Daniel Adamson was met by bands and cheering crowds when he returned from London.

A lot of hard work to raise the finance for the Canal still lay ahead. Construction started in November 1887 and the full length of the canal was opened to commercial traffic on 1 January 1894. It has been estimated that 17,000 men worked on the construction - and that at least 100 died, with many more injured, as a result of accidents as they worked on ‘the Big Ditch'.

September 2011

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Resources about the Manchester Ship Canal in the library collection

DA Farnie, The Manchester Ship Canal and the rise of the Port of Manchester, 1894-1975 (1980) - Shelfmark: E15

Bosdin Leech, History of the Manchester Ship Canal from its inception to its completion: with personal reminiscences 2 vols (1907) - Shelfmark: E17

Ian Harford, Manchester and its Ship Canal movement: class, work and politics in late-Victorian England (1994) - Shelfmark: M09

Eccles Library Writers, Tall tales and short stories of the Manchester Ship Canal 1894 to 1994 (1994) - Shelfmark: AG Manchester Box 3

PN Reed, The Manchester Ship Canal (1967) - Shelfmark: AG Eccles and District History Society Box 2

Manchester Ship Canal Company, Port of Manchester: plan of the Manchester Ship Canal (1977) - Shelfmark: AG Greater Manchester Box 2

Manchester Education Committee, The inland port of Manchester: its ships and their cargoes, 1938 - Shelfmark: AG Manchester Box 2

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