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Manchester’s rich canal heritage coincided with the birth of the Industrial Revolution.  In 1761 boats started to carry coal from the Duke of Bridgewater's mine to the centre of Manchester on his Bridgewater Canal.

Crippling high taxes on goods destined to and from the city in the ports at Liverpool had a devastating effect on Manchester.  The response from Mancunians was The Manchester Ship Canal.  The plan was for ships to bypass Liverpool, but the building work almost bankrupted Manchester.  It opened to huge fanfare in 1894, with one commentator saying “When finished (the canal) will be the most extraordinary thing in the kingdom, if not Europe”.  This new engineering marvel escalated the rivalry between the cities, with the effects still being felt today.

At their height, the canals were an important part of Manchester’s economic growth by linking the city to the rest of the UK and the wider world.  Salford Quays is 36 miles inland, but it still became one of the biggest ports in Britain, it even had its own shipping company (Manchester Liners).  Trafford Park, the world's first industrial estate, was created on the banks of the Bridgewater and Ship Canals.  Today Trafford Park still has 35,000 employees in 1,400 companies, including the Trafford Centre.  This retail outlet has a mooring on the Bridgewater Canal and is regularly used by owners of leisure craft.

Both canals now have very little commercial use.  This was because of the rise of the railways, the development of roads, and also the devastating decline in the cotton and heavy industries.  The canal network and ports were all but dead by the 1980s.  Many other countries around the world now see their canal networks as an inconvenience, with many cities filling them in or simply building over them.

So, in this project, I explore these areas of calm and solitude cutting through a city of competitive businesses, fast-paced urban life and car congestion.  I am looking for remnants of the past,  plus the relationship the local population has with both stretches of water.

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