Manchester Ship Canal
The archive of the Manchester Ship Canal Company held at the Greater Manchester County Record Office is an invaluable resource relating to one of the companies which changed the face of the North West of England. The company kept comprehensive photographic records of its activities, which complement the enormous written archive. The result is a photographic archive which contains over 20,000 images. A sample of these photographs is shown here, alongside items from the company's archives, including posters and other promotional material.

The photographs date right back to the construction of the canal in the 1880s and 1890s. The archive is particularly rich on this subject, recording the way in which the Ship Canal transformed the landscape of the area. Indeed, the visual record fills in some of the gaps in the written one. There are almost no written archives relating to the thousands of people who actually built the canal. These labourers, some of whom were very young, would have been hired on a casual basis, and their names went largely unrecorded. The photographic record, however, gives at least a glimpse into their working lives, and clearly depicts the backbreaking physical labour which was necessary in order to bring this extraordinary project to fruition.

The Ship Canal turned Manchester, a city over 30 miles inland, into Britain’s fourth largest port, and the photographs reflect this development. There are scores of photographs showing the huge variety of goods which were traded along the canal from all over the world, including cotton, coal, vehicles, timber, grain, wool, tea and fruit.
122 photos · 6,372 views