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Canal Archive: Bridging the Years

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Floating Dredgers

Floating dredgers were invaluable additions to the workforce during the cutting of the Manchester Ship Canal.

At the start of construction it was expected that all of the excavation would be done on dry land, except for a section at Ellesmere Port. This changed with the arrival in 1890 of severe floods, which broke through dam defences into excavated areas. Rather than draining out the flood water and continuing with dry excavation, it was decided to dredge these areas with floating dredgers. A separate department was set up to deal with the dredging operations under the control of Mr A O Shenk. Ten dredgers were purchased by the Manchester Ship Canal Company to carry out this work. One of these was the 'Manchester', a hopper dredger, which was built by Williams Simons & Co specifically for the Ship Canal. The 'Manchester' could remove 850 tons an hour when working in suitable conditions.

Another dredger built for the Manchester Ship Canal was the 'Irk', which was constructed by Messrs Fleming & Ferguson of Paisley. The same firm also built another dredger the 'Medlock'. Both dredgers were delivered to Salford Docks in parts and were completed on site in a prepared section of Salford Docks. Water was then allowed into the section to a certain height enabling the 'Irk' to float away. The 'Medlock' had to work its way out, removing the dividing section between the Docks and the rest of the Canal.

The 'Bollin' was also supplied by Fleming & Ferguson. It too was built on site, and had to work its way along the Canal once the section had been filled with water.

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This is page 7 of Digging the Big Ditch.
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Dredger 'Manchester' at Pool Hall cutting

Dredger 'Manchester' at Pool Hall cutting
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Dredger 'Irk' at Salford

Dredger 'Irk' at Salford
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Dredger 'Bollin' under construction at Millbank

Dredger 'Bollin' under construction at Millbank
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