The 21st March 1776 marked a unique date in history with the culmination of what was then, one of greatest engineering feats in recorded history. It was the date when the dream of the Duke of Bridgewater was dramatically fulfilled following the opening of the World’s first profitable manmade inland water route. The new route running all the way from Manchester, by way of the Duke’s coal mines at Worsely, crossing the Mersey at Barnton, before entering the Mersey itself via a series of locks at Runcorn. Together with his Engineer James Brindley, the Duke had, at a single stroke, halved the hitherto crippling transport costs and in so doing, contributed markedly to the advent of the industrial revolution.
At its peak, the canal required two sets of double locks between the Bridgewater Canal at Top Locks and the River Mersey; this was in order to cope with the high volume of traffic on its way to and from the River. Over the years the canal fell into disuse culminating in both lock flights being filled in around 1965, at the time of the building of the Runcorn – Widnes Road Bridge.
In recent years the canal network has seen a resurgence with the rapid expansion of recreational boating; and with the building of a brand new Runcorn – Widnes Bridge has given the opportunity to open one of the two flights of locks, which would now outlet into the Manchester Ship Canal thereby creating several new canal Rings.
The Runcorn Locks Restoration Society (RLRS) was formed in 2004 to champion the restoration of the old flight, thereby giving impetus to the re-emergence of Runcorn’s previous heritage as a National centre for boating, a fact now recognised by a commemorative plaque situated on the wall of the Brindley Theatre.
The trustees of RLRS feel the time has arrived for a unique opportunity for Runcorn to be returned to the rightful place as one of the major canal centres in Britain; the time for a new and vibrant leisure waterways era, currently estimated to attract more than £500 million per annum - an important and vital part of the UK tourist industry and a bright and sustainable economic future for boaters. Something, we feel, our next generation can rightly be proud of!
I support the campaign to Unlock Runcorn's potential by first
re-opening the flight of Canal locks in the Old Town.