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Canal Archive: Bridging the Years

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Specialists at Work

As well as general labourers, specialist workers were employed on the Manchester Ship Canal construction.

Traditional craftsmen were brought in from Holland to do fascine work on the Canal's banks. This involved the weaving of willow over the top of the banks ' surface in order to protect the soil from water erosion, and was put in place on several sections of the route where the banks were thought to be particularly vulnerable.

Craftsmen such as stonemasons, bricklayers and carpenters were also required to carry out specific tasks on site. The Manchester Ship Canal includes five major sets of locks, each requiring huge lock gates. Several vast workshops were established in which to construct these impressive gates. One such shed was at Eastham, where workers produced gates that were 80 feet high and weighed 250 tons each. The majority were made from greenheart wood, renowned for its strength and durability. Spare gates also had to be constructed, so that any damaged by collisions with vessels could be quickly replaced.

On such a project, work not only took place on dry ground. As illustrated by this shot there was also plenty to be done under the surface of the water. Various photographs taken at the time of the Canal's construction show a diver and his team at work on several parts of the Canal.

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This is page 3 of Digging the Big Ditch.
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Man working on fascine work

Man working on fascine work
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Navvy posing on lock gates

Navvy posing on lock gates
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Diver group at Eastham Locks

Diver group at Eastham Locks
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