Manchester's Ship Canal, The Big Ditch


Nowadays most of us think of the Manchester Ship Canal as that bit of water under the Thelwall Viaduct as we sit in one of England's traffic jam black spots but in the days before the M6, the Manchester Ship Canal was an important route from the docks at Salford and industrial Manchester to the world. From banana boats to cattle carriers, from tramp steamers to pleasure steamers, all sorts of ships used this busy thoroughfare. It wasn't always like this - at one time the docks at Birkenhead and Liverpool received the goods that Manchester needed and everything travelled by railway, canal or road to the North's industrial metropolis.

In the 1880s, construction started on Britain's largest man-made inland waterway and soon sizeable ships sailed to Salford. A stunning engineering project in its own right, the 'Big Ditch' also spawned smaller marvels such as the Barton Aqueduct and it remained busy for almost a century. Now Little used, it still remains a marvel of Victorian engineering.