Today we were addressed by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, aka Tom Everett dressed as an 18th Century Gentleman. Tom was introduced by Gordon Whitehead, a friend of many years and he was accompanied by his wife, Carol.
The Bridgewater Canal was the first real canal to be built in England and the forerunner of the network of canals which later spread over the whole English countryside. It contributed greatly to the industrial growth and prosperity of Lancashire and helped to establish Manchester as a major commercial centre.
Transport was an increasing frustration to mine-owners such as the Duke of Bridgewater and so in 1759 he obtained permission from King George II to construct the 40 mile long canal. Short canals had been used in the mines to move the coal and equipment but the Duke had the vision to see the possibilities and advantages of transporting his coal and other goods much more quickly than the traditional ways.
The Duke, of course, was no engineer and he appointed John Gilbert to be his agent to further the project. John Gilbert was educated and a skilled engineer but, of course, he had never built a canal and so they turned to James Brindley, a poorly educated millwright who had experience in the construction of machinery for use with water and waterway projects and was inventive and far-seeing.
He needed to be as there were many obstacles to be overcome before the canal reached Manchester by 1765. The most notable of these obstacles was at Barton and resulted in the Barton Aqueduct which carried the canal over the River Irwell. Later the canal was extended to reach the River Mersey.
Tom pointed out that it was the construction of this canal that facilitated the Industrial revolution happening in the north of England and the growth of Manchester as an important centre of industry,
Tom’s enthusiasm for his subject was palpable and, perhaps, his interesting and informative talk will lead us to look at our local waterways in a new light.