Posted 23rd Mar 2018
In the next of our History of the Waterways features, courtesy of Insure4Boats and the Canal and River Trust, we find out about Whaley Bridge Wharf
If you ask about the most important historical event during the late 1700s, most people would naturally point to the Industrial Revolution.
However, you may not be aware of the big part Whaley Bridge Wharf played. The success of the Industrial Revolution was primarily down to the new ability to transport huge quantities of goods all over the country, thanks to the canal network and others. Yet one big physical barrier remained - the Peak District.
By dividing the North of England from the South, transporters were forced to use the long and laborious Trent and Mersey Canal for carrying minerals and finished goods to Manchester, along with raw cotton to the East Midlands textile industry.
To get around this issue, plans were put in place to construct the Peak Forest Canal. As part of the canal, Whaley Bridge Wharf, a three-storey warehouse, was constructed in 1801 at Whaley Bridge. Straddling the water, it served as a goods interchange, primarily for the transfer of limestone from Dove Holtes onto canal barges heading the Manchester's ironworks, where it would be used for cotton machinery.
The interchange proved to be so successful that by 1832, the warehouse was expanded to its famous three-tier build, accommodating extension sidings for trains, as it was now a major exchanging point between canal and rail transport.
Did you know...
- In 1915, the warehouse was temporarily taken over by the government as part of the 'war effort', resulting in the removal of the third floor.
- The last section of the canal into Whaley Bridge was worked by a horse-gin (horse mill) right up until 1952.
- To attract workers to the warehouse, employers would offer "a good flannel waistcoat and trousers" as part of the contract.
- Each year, the town of Whaley Bridge holds the 'W3' festival, which celebrates the waterways with music, art, exhibitions and free boat rides.