Competition & Conflict
Much of the 19th century was taken up with battles in Parliament between the Canal Trustees and the new railways. The proposed Manchester to Liverpool railway was a huge threat to the Bridgewater Canal. The Railway’s Bill in 1825 was opposed to by the Trustees, but this was withdrawn when 1,000 railway shares were allocated to the life tenant and the right to appoint three directors to the Company.
The Trustees gradually took the view that railways and canal could exist side by side, but even so they opposed over 170 Parliamentary Bills to safeguard their interests. For instance, the railway through Eccles was not allowed to reach Worsley until 1861 and even then the railway directors turned up for the cutting of the first sod for Worsley railway station in a canal barge!
A canal improvement at the Manchester end took place in 1838 when, to stop flooding from the Medlock channel at the Castlefield terminus, flood gates were erected and an overflow built. At the same time, the old channel to the Irwell was improved by the creation of the Hulme Locks.
In 1845 the competitive Mersey and Irwell Navigation was purchased by the Bridgewater Trustees for the sum of £550,000.