The Salford & Manchester Docks

The Manchester Ship Canal Company was set up in 1882 with the intention of building a canal capable of accommodating ocean going ships from the estuary of the River Mersey to Manchester.  The canal would make it possible for goods to move in and out of Manchester efficiently and it was expected that it would be a significant stimulus to industry and commerce in the city.  Planning the canal and building it proved to be two entirely different things.  A series of roadblocks delayed construction and it wasn't completed for another twelve years.  Queen Victoria opened the canal at the Mode Wheel Locks on May 21, 1894 by pulling a cord from her seat in the stern of the royal yacht 'Enchantress' (see below in the image shown with the permission of the Science & Society Picture Library website.  The image is copyright Science Museum Library, London).


At the eastern end of the Manchester Ship Canal a complex of 9 docks was built on the Salford and Manchester sides of the canal. 

Map provided by The Probert Encyclopaedia

On the Salford side of the canal, above the final lock at Mode Wheel, lay four of these docks, numbered 9 to 6, and on the Trafford side there was a long wharf.


Above:  The Mode Wheel Locks

These docks formed a key part of the Port of Manchester from 1894, until it closed in 1982.  The docks were a destination for both coastal and ocean-bound ships.  Their cargos came from around the world but, as the names of the various quays illustrate, a lot of the trade was with Canada.  In fact the ships plying back and forth between Manchester and Canada also carried a limited number of passengers.

Further upstream, beyond the Trafford Road Swing Bridge were the Pamona Docks.

Here Docks 5 to 1 were to be found.  Dock 5 at Pomona was never fully completed.  Only Dock 1 was actually within Manchester.

Interestingly Dock 5 is shown on the Salford side of the canal in the map at the top of the page.

The introduction of container shipping meant that the Salford / Manchester Docks went into decline in the 1970s.  The new container ships could no longer navigate the ship canal and this, combined with increased trading with Europe and the east, saw trade decrease dramatically. In 1982 the remaining docks closed and the area became derelict.  Salford City Council recognized the importance of the derelict docklands and purchased them in 1984.  A year later they adopted a development plan which led to the Salford Quays that we see today.

At the end of the quay between Docks 9 and 8, seen below, the Lowry Arts centre sits, looking like a ship ready to head out to sea.

Dock 9 is now lined with residential apartments and office buildings.  It has been closed off by a barrier that carries a road and crossed mid-way by the Detroit Bridge, a swing bridge that once carried trains across the canal.  The water in Dock 9 has been cleaned and was the site of the swimming leg of the Salford Triathlon.

The entrance to Dock 8 has been narrowed and a lock controls access.  Dock 7 has been cut off from the ship canal and divided into a series of small basins.  Dock 6 is essentially intact, as you can see below, although once again the warehouses and sheds have been replaced by residential blocks and a hotel.

Among the relics of the former docks are these cranes.

.... and The Dock Office.

The former entrance gateway is still there as well, although it is permanently closed now.

Homages to the docks are represented by two pieces of art work:


Silent Cargo


Ironically, almost 20 years after the docks closed, there is a £120M plan to create a new inland port at Barton, further down the canal.  The bid, by Peel Holdings, involves the creation of Port Salford, a project that will provide a distribution park served by rail, road and sea.  It will offer container ship berths, a rail terminal and new road links.  It will have the capacity to handle two container ships simultaneously and handle over 200,000 pallets of cargo at any one time.

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