Bridgewater Canal

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When Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater built the Bridgewater Canal, the task of crossing the Irwell was one of the main obstacles he faced. The solution was to build a canal-carrying bridge across the river, the first barge aqueduct in England.[71] The aqueduct, which opened in 1761, measured 12 metres (39 ft) high and 200 metres (656 ft) long,[72] and became one of the wonders or the age.[73] The Mersey and Irwell Navigation and the Bridgewater Canal competed for trade to and from Manchester for the next 120 years and specially designed barges with a shallow draft, known as "Mersey flats", were used on both waterways.[74] Over the years both trade and rivalry continued to grow with each company offering reduced freight charges or special rates and concessions to gain business from the other. The most important cargo carried was raw cotton from Liverpool to Manchester but timber, dyewoods, pig iron, lead, copper, nails, tar, sand, grain and flour were also carried.[75] Passenger services had been operating on the Bridgewater Canal for some years and in 1807 the Irwell and Mersey Navigation Company began to compete with daily services between Runcorn and Manchester. In 1816 they began to use packet steamers. However, in 1830 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened; packet boat services went into decline, and ceased to operate completely in the 1860s.[75] In Manchester two other canals used the Irwell as a point of access: the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal from 1809, and the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal from 1839. The previous year, the short Hulme Locks Branch Canal had also connected the Irwell to the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield. All are now non-navigable, although the first is under restoration.[76]

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