Bridgewater Canal, Manchester, 1767

Bridgewater Canal Manchester 1767

Source: unknown.

The Bridgewater Canal represents the first entirely artificial canal in Britain, constructed by the engineer James Brindley and mainly financed by Francis Egerton, Duke of Bridgewater (1736-1803), to haul coal from his mines to the growing industrial city of Manchester. Its construction is the earliest known attempt to respond to the imperatives of the industrial revolution, which began in Britain during that time. The no-locks canal linked the coal mines of Worsley to Manchester, 16 km (10 miles) away. Upon its completion in 1761, the cost of coal in Manchester was more than halved, favoring its wider use in burgeoning industrial activities.

In 1776, the canal was extended by 50 km (30 miles) from Manchester to Liverpool. This canal and the others that were subsequently built established a network of inland waterways serving the Industrial Revolution in the half-century before the railway era, which began in the 1850s. New technology saw the introduction of locks, inclined planes, and lifts to cope with elevation changes. By the 1880s, the canal was gradually abandoned for commercial circulation, which endured until 1975. The canal is now used for recreational purposes.