On this day May 21, 1894

The Manchester Ship Canal, linking Greater Manchester in North West England to the Irish Sea, officially opened, becoming the largest navigation canal in the world at the time.

On 21 May 1894 Queen Victoria visited to perform the official opening. The Queen knighted the mayor of Salford, William Henry Bailey and the lord mayor of Manchester, Anthony Marshall at the opening of the Canal, during one of the three royal visits the Queen made to Manchester. Edward Leader Williams was knighted by the Queen on 2 July by Letters Patent.

The project took six years to complete, at a cost of just over £15M, and was in its day the largest navigation canal in the world. More than 54 million cubic yards (41,000,000 m³) of material were excavated, about half as much as was removed in the building of the Suez Canal. An average of 12,000 workers were employed during construction, peaking at 17,000.

Regular navvies were paid at a rate of 4+12d per hour for a 10-hour working day, equivalent to about £70 per day as of 2008. In terms of machinery, the scheme called upon over 200 miles (320 km) of temporary rail track, 180 locomotives, over 6,000 trucks and wagons, 124 steam-powered cranes, 192 other steam engines, and 97 steam excavators. Major engineering landmarks of the scheme included the Barton Swing Aqueduct (carrying the Bridgewater Canal over the Ship Canal) and a neighbouring swing bridge for road traffic at Barton.

In 1909, the water level in the canal was raised by 2 feet (0.61 m), increasing the canal’s depth from 26 feet (7.9 m) to 28 feet (8.5 m), to match that of the Suez Canal.

The canal is a 36-mile (58 km) long river navigation in North West England. Designed to give the city of Manchester direct access to the sea, it was built between 1887 and 1894 at a cost of about £15M, and in its day was the largest navigation canal in the world.

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