News & Information – Grand Opening

Canal Brought Back to Life
Friday, 19 September, 2008

Two hundred years after it was built, a major milestone in the restoration of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal will be achieved with completion of the first section of restored canal at Middlewood, Salford. The opening of the section of waterway is the most challenging phase in the restoration of the 15.2-mile long canal which was once vital to the transportation of coal and cotton during the Industrial Revolution.

Filled in during the 1960s, the canal through Middlewood represents the focal point for £600 million of urban regeneration which will comprise of a mixed use development.

One of the last major waterways in Greater Manchester to be restored, restoration works have included the creation of a tunnel under the Salford Inner relief road which then extends under the Manchester/Wigan Rail Viaduct. This new tunnel will be known as the ‘Margaret Fletcher Tunnel’, dedicated to the late and much respected Chairman of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society.

Other engineering works included: the excavation of 80,000 tonnes of rubble and material; the widening of East Ordsall Lane road bridge; the creation of two small circular basins; the restoration of the original Lock 3 and the construction of a new seven-metre deep lock which will be the third deepest lock within British Waterways’ 2,200-mile network. Although the first section to be reopened is just 437m long, its reconnects the canal to the rest of the UK’s inland waterway network via the River Irwell and paves the way for the restoration of the canal to its terminuses at both Bolton and Bury.

The £5.9 million project, delivered by contractors Volker Stevin and led by British Waterways was funded by Northwest European Regional Development Fund (through Manchester Enterprises), Salford City Council, North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and Valley & Vale Properties Ltd.

The next stage in restoring the wider Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal could be achieved within five to ten years subject to funding.

Robin Evans, Chief Executive, British Waterways said: "The waterways in the North West which were once vital for industry are still playing an important role in society. Rather than carrying goods and raw materials, the restored Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal will be an attractive place to live, work and to spend leisure time. The restoration of one of the last major waterways in Manchester shows just how much the fortunes of canals have changed. From dereliction and decline, the Manchester, Bolton & Bury is set to enjoy a second golden age."

Salford City Council lead member for planning, Councillor Derek Antrobus added: "Salford is undergoing a huge transformation and the re-opening of this section of the canal is another significant piece of that jigsaw. This shows that the city’s regeneration is not just about creating new buildings but also about breathing new life into its heritage and encouraging people, both residents and visitors, to think about the city differently"

Peter White, Executive Director of Development at the NWDA, said: "This has been an exciting, challenging project and one the NWDA has been pleased to support. Restoration of this section of the canal has significantly improved the area for local people and visitors, and is a step forward towards greater regeneration in Salford. 
"Waterways are also a part of our heritage and it is excellent that this piece of history has been restored to benefit the local area and future generations."

John Fletcher, Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society chairman concluded: "This remarkable project shows just what can be achieved through partnership. I would like to pay tribute to all those from various organisations who have, over the years, worked towards this re-opening and commend it as an example of how well staff and volunteers from different sectors can work together.

"My late wife, Margaret, had faith as to what could be achieved and I am most grateful to British Waterways who have allowed the tunnel to be dedicated to her memory. The wording on the plaque which I will unveil encapsulates what has to be said: ‘From her endeavours success will be achieved’. We look forward to further re-openings along the line of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal."

A complete set of images of the opening of The Margaret Fletcher Tunnel can be seen below – click on any of the images..

  • The first boats entering the Margaret Fletcher Tunnel
  • The first boats entering the Margaret Fletcher Tunnel
  • The first boat in the new deep lock
  • John Fletcher speaking with the Mayors
  • John Fletcher stood by the plaque
  • The Mayors with the plaque
  • Boats exiting the deep lock
  • Boats exiting the deep lock
  • Boats in the new basin


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