|Greater Manchester's Waterways
The Roman settlement of Mamuciam was built on the banks of the River Irwell in an area known today as Castlefield.
The Romans left in 140 AD in a period when Anglian and Danish Invaders were ravaging the country. More than 1100 years later a manor house and church were built further up the Irwell on a sandstone promentary overlooking the river. The city of Manchester grew up around that manor house and the bridges that crossed the Irwell. The Irwell was navigable to ships of the day and goods were unloaded at the end of what is today Quay Street.
Two rivers join the Irwell in the vicinity of the growing city centre: the Irk, in close proximity to the original manor house and church, and the Medlock, which meandered around the southern and eastern boundary before joining the Irwell close to the location of Roman Manuciam.
The Industrial Revolution shaped this city and the transportation of raw materials and manufactured products in and out of the city was crucial to its success. First the Duke of Bridgewater built the canal, named after him, to bring coal to the city centre. Then the Ashton and Rochdale Canals linked the city to important centers to the north and east.
Within the city centre mills, factories and warehouses were served by a complex network of surface and underground canals. Without doubt though, the most important waterway was the Manchester Ship Canal which allowed ocean going ships to navigate into the docks that were built in Salford and Old Trafford. Not only did the canal assist in the efficient importing and exporting of goods it also stimulated the growth of industry in Trafford Park beside the docks.
Before, and for a time after the arrival of the railway, waterways had an important affect on the location and develoment of Manchester. Today, the heavily polluted rivers have been rehabilitated, the canals have long since ceased to trade commercially and Manchester's waterways have a role that is more recreational than commercial. However, they still make a contribution to the personality of this important northern city.