Manchester Dry Docks

Above the Mode Wheel Locks on the Trafford side of the canal you will find three former dry docks.  In the photograph above, taken from the Imperial War Museum tower, you can see a blue lorry parked on the quay between two of the docks.  The image below was taken at sunset in late October 2010 and shows a number of small ships occupying the docks suggesting that they still have some purpose.

The dry docks were opened in 1894 by the Manchester Ship Canal Pontoons and Dry Dock Co.  Later it was known as the Manchester Drydock Co. Ltd.  There were three dry docks in this facility, the largest being 535 feet long, the others being 430 and 450 feet long, all of them have a width of 65 feet.  There was also a floating drydock, which can be seen in the aerial photographs below, indicated by the arrow.  It is also shown in the postcard image further down the page. 


The dry docks were not immune to the decline in the use of the canal and the Salford Docks and closed in 1979.  In more recent times the dry docks were reopened by a company called Lengthline Ltd.  An article in the Independent in 2000 said this about the docks, "What it lacks in the deafening enterprise of traditional dockside metal-bashing, a small repair yard has made up for in imagination by bringing shipbuilding back to the Manchester Ship Canal after a gap of more than 80 years.

The canal's last shipbuilders worked between 1900 and 1914 for the select group of large lines enticed to the area by the Ship Canal Company as it tried to whip up oceangoing traffic. The latest output, by contrast, comes from Lengthline, a ship-repair company employing just 50 people at Salford Docks. In their heyday, in 1950, the docks employed almost 2,500 people for repair work and were looking to recruit more.

Lengthline has already dispatched a trawler for a Scottish shrimp fishing crew by road but its next two vessels will be of even of more symbolic importance as they are to be floated in the canal and sailed across the Irish Sea for their purchasers. The company has further contracts for an aluminium catamaran, a 200-tonne dredger and two cargo vessels - the largest of which is 1,500 tonnes."

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