Egerton, Brindley and Gilbert: the Bridgewater Canal

Portraits of the men credited with the design and engineering of the Bridgewater Canal are displayed together in the Victorian Gallery. They include: the third Duke of Bridgewater (Francis Egerton (pictured centre)), engineer James Brindley (left), and his agent John Gilbert (right). Gilbert is said to have suggested building a canal as a way to transport large deliveries of coal from Egerton’s mines in Worsley to textile factories in Manchester. The engineer Brindley is noted for his construction of some of the most difficult parts of the canal, including the Barton Aqueduct over the river Irwell, now demolished, and a subterranean channel. His achievement is even greater in that Brindley reportedly completed all his projects without paperwork, meaning there are no written calculations or drawings of his designs. He suggested the canal be built as a gravity-flow canal rather than using locks, making this the first canal of its kind in modern Britain. The ease with which heavy goods could then be transported meant canal use was high, reportedly carrying over three million tonnes of traffic. A 48km extension to Liverpool followed its success.

Brindley went on to construct many more canals using the same technique, vastly improving communication across industrial Britain. The canal is no longer used for the transportation of goods.