- Hits: 2145
The Runcorn and Weston Canal was a short canal near Runcorn in Cheshire, England, constructed to link the Weston Canal, which is part of the River Weaver Navigation, to the Bridgewater Canal and Runcorn Docks.
The idea for a canal to link the Bridgewater Canal to the River Weaver Navigation was first proposed in late 1852, when the Bridgewater's general manager, Fereday Smith, met with the trustees of the Weaver. Its purpose was to aid the transfer of salt between the two systems.
The canal was authorised by an Act of Parliament passed on 14 June 1853, which specified that the canal was to run from Francis Dock, which was connected to the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal at Runcorn, to a junction with the River Weaver Navigation or Weston Canal at Weston Point.
It was to be privately funded by the Earl of Ellesmere, who could sell it to his trustees once it was built and then charge tolls for its use.
The Earl died in 1857, when the canal was only partly built, and a new Act of Parliament was required, as the trustees did not have powers to deal with the new Earl. The second Act enabled them to buy the unfinished canal and complete its construction. The cost of this work was restricted to £40,000.
The length of the canal was about 1.4 miles (2.3 km), with a lock at either end, suitable for boats which were 72.2 by 18.4 feet (22.0 by 5.6 m).
The work was completed in 1859, but the canal seems to have been little used, as traffic figures for 1883 indicate that only 4,400 tons of salt travelled along the canal, out of a total of 36,400 tons which arrived at Runcorn Docks from the River Weaver.
The Runcorn end of the canal was changed as a result of work carried out in 1876. The Bridgewater Canal Company turned the first section into a ship basin, by making it wider and deeper, and moving Runcorn lock along the canal to the end of the widened section. The ship basin was called Arnold Dock, and was connected to Fenton Dock by a large lock with three sets of gates, allowing ships up to 120 by 26 feet (37 by 7.9 m) with a draught of 15 feet (4.6 m) to moor and unload in the basin.
The docks prospered, handling 500,000 tons in total during 1877, although the proportion moving along the canal was relatively small.
With the coming of the Manchester Ship Canal, its function continued, as the large shipping using that canal was also a hazard to the smaller canal boats.
The canal remained navigable until the early 1960s: the author John Seymour, in his book Voyage into England, described a difficult 1963 journey up the almost-dry canal at which time a Manchester Ship Canal official commented that it had been "physically, as well as officially" closed for a year.
The flights of locks from the Bridgewater Canal down to Runcorn Docks were filled in when the Runcorn-Widnes road bridge was constructed in 1966. About half of the Runcorn and Weston Canal was filled in at the same time. The southern half remains in water, but is in a derelict state.
The new flight of locks from the Bridgewater Canal was abandoned in 1966, but the old flight was left in place and covered over. Its line is protected by the local council, and there are plans to re-open the locks. This would almost certainly result in the Runcorn and Weston Canal being reopened, in order to provide somewhere for pleasure craft which have descended the flight to go without having to negotiate passage on the Manchester Ship Canal.
Peel Ports, owners of the Manchester Ship Canal, have eased the restrictions on pleasure boats wishing to cruise the Ship Canal, requiring advance notice and a simple 'seaworthiness' survey.
The journey from Ellesmere Port to the Weaver Navigation (via. Weston Marsh Lock) is becoming popular with canal boats.