UNIQUE ARCHIVE OF SOME 200 LARGE ROLLED PLANS, BLUEPRINTS AND TECHNICAL DRAWINGS executed by a number of different leading engineering companies and relating to the construction of grain elevators, and general improvements and maintenance of the locks along the Ship Canal, with specific reference to Ellesmere Port, Stanlow Oil Dock, Barton Lock, and Salford Docks. Various places of publication including Cheadle Heath, Openshaw, Manchester, Gateshead-on-Tyne, and Walton-on-Thames, various dates including 1914, 1915, 1924, 1928, 1932 and 1949.
1900. Collection of some 200 tightly rolled documents of varying sizes, many on draft linen, and also including blue-prints, and drawings on translucent draft paper, a number partially coloured; all exhibiting signs of use and wear, with some considerable dust-soiling to some edges, the majority creased and many with quite considerable wear to extremities - with some loss in a few places; nevertheless a striking and unusual collection. A fascinating collection, comprising technical drawings, plans and blueprints issued by a number of leading engineering firms, and relating to both recent constructions, and presumably to the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of various buildings and lock systems along the Manchester Ship Canal. Spanning a period between 1914 and 1949, the collection focuses in particular upon Eastham Locks and Gates, Ellesmere Port, Stanlow Oil Docks, Barton Lock and Salford Docks, and provides an unusual and visual insight into the workings of this iconic feat of Victorian engineering.
The moves which led to the formation of the Manchester Ship Canal Company and to the construction of the canal itself began to take practical shape in 1882, at a time when the commercial supremacy of Manchester appeared to be declining. It was thought that this decline was due in large part to the heavy cost of transit within the region, which led to the agitation for the building of a ship canal. The proposal encountered opposition from the railways and from powerful corporate interests in Liverpool and it was 1887 before work could begin. The task occupied six years and might never have been completed had not the city fathers come to the financial rescue of the promoters, lending them £3 millions in 1891 and a further £2 millions in 1893. The canal was opened to traffic in 1894, and was the largest river navigation canal in the world, and enabled the newly created Port of Manchester to become Britain’s third busiest port despite the city being 40 miles inland, and was to play a vital role in the economic success of the city during the twentieth century.
Of particular interest, the collection includes a number of drawings and plans done by the noted engineering firm of Henry Simon Ltd of Cheadle Heath. The entrepreneur and philanthropist Henry Simon was born in Germany, before moving to Manchester in 1860. A noted engineer, his fame rests in having pioneered an innovative flour milling process, and by 1892 his company had built 400 mills in various countries. Though he died in 1899 by that time the firm was the largest flour mill engineering business in the world. The various plans found here refer to the firms construction in 1915 of the famous large Grain Elevator Number 2, and which upon completion was capable of storing 40,000 tons of grain. Bordered on one side by an offshoot of the Manchester Ship Canal - the Bridgewater Canal, and an extensive railway system on the other, the huge 168ft high grain elevator became a notable landmark. Thus we have plans for ‘Sweep Ups and Dust Exhaust B & C on elevators’, ‘Arrangement of Dust Exhaust, Motor Ventilating plants and basement, South End (and North End)’, to name but a couple. Related to the grain elevator, another plan shows the ‘Arrangement of Fan Drives for Exhaust & Weigher Hoppers’ at Ellesmere Port (by Henry Simon, 1928) - the weigher being a method of automatically controlling the filling and emptying of produce in silos and hoppers.
Focused almost entirely upon mechanical engineering, the collection highlights the internal design and workings of buildings at various key locations along the route. The Stanlow Oil Dock was opened in 1922, and various plans included in the collection relate to this - including one showing the ‘Arrangement of Pipes and Shafts at South Shaft’, with another highlighting a proposed sub-station there. Plans for the fenders for the lower gates, and giving details of the gate platforms and brackets are found referring to Barton Lock. Another illustrates a coal converter at Ellesmere Port.
Whilst inevitable that local engineering firms would have a close connection with the canal, the collection also reveals that firms from further afield provided vital technical assistance, including Hackbridge Electric Construction Co. Ltd of Walton-on-Thames, and Clarke, Chapman & Co. Ltd, Electrical Engineers from Gateshead-on-Tyne. Other firms of note include the British Oil Storage Company, the Vaughan Crane Co. Ltd (providing plans and blueprints for a 3/4 Ton Spur Geared Trans Block), and Sir W. H. Bailey & Co., Ltd. A number also have the stamp of the Engineering Office. Whether this refers to a Ship Canal Head Office we are unsure, and indeed we are uncertain as to where this collection originally hails from, other than that we believed it was sold at Tennants Auctioneers several years ago, and subsequently purchased in Haydock. Though obviously including plans for as yet constructed buildings, our assumption is that these technical drawings have been amassed to assist with the general maintenance and upkeep of the many industrialized and mechanized buildings that played such an integral role in the life and success of the canal. A striking and highly visual insight into the building, improvement and maintenance of this iconic feat of Victorian engineering.