Site Records

SiteName: Manchester and Salford Junction Canal

Between Great Bridgewater Street and Water Street
OS Grid Ref (Great Northern Warehouse) SJ835978

Sub Brit site visit November 1994

[Source: Nick Catford]

The section of tunnel under the Great Northern Warehouse was visited by members of Subterranea Britannica during the 1994 Manchester Study Weekend.

Irwell entrance today. Photo by Alan Taylor

Access to the canal bed was through a locked manhole in the underground car park in Watson Street. Here a 25 foot vertical ladder drops down to the canal bed amongst brick arches and walls that were added to support the railway goods above. In the middle of the canal bed two vast brick pillars rise upwards toward the roof, these are the remains of the two winch shafts installed for the transhipment of goods between the canal and the railway. Close to the shafts the eastern tunnel portal is amazingly still intact although itself now more than 25 feet undergroud.

The tunnel mouth has been partly bricked across with steps down to the canal bed and a raised tow path along the north side. There is a small brick building built in the canal bed just inside the tunnel mouth, perhaps a WW2 shelter wardens post. There are three accessible bays, numbered from east to west Bay 1, Bay 2 & Bay 3. The bay numbers with an arrow are still clearly painted on the dividing blast walls.

Photo:The two lifts up to the Great Northern Warehouse
Photo by Nick Catford

Bay 2 is the underground transhipment dock, here the tunnel opens out into a huge vaulted chamber with the tow path running around three sides, there is even a mooring bollard alongside the dock. There is an arched doorway to stairs up to the warehouse but these are blocked after a few feet. In Bay 3 the canal bed contains several feet of water but it is still possible to walk along the tow path as far as the next blast wall where there is an arrow pointing to Bay 4. The depth of water made further exploration impossible so it is unclear whether Bay 4 is accessible from here. Further bays are accessible from the basement of the Granada TV studios. Access to this part of the canal tunnel was always refused but following the closure of the studios in June 2013 a small party was allowed to visit in 2014. When the site is redeveloped the canal tunnel will be retained but it will not be part of the development and there will be no public access.

Photo:The half-flooded air raid wardens’ post seen from the towpath, in the clear but stagnant water beneath Granada Studios. The opening on the left leads to a stairway to the surface (now blocked) which was added during WW2.
Photo by Nick Catford

The western end of the canal, including the lock into the River Irwell has now been restored to provide a water feature alongside the new Bridgewater Hall where it terminates in a basin. The Great Northern Warehouse finally closed in 1963 and remained empty until 1998 when work began to transform it into a leisure and shopping complex. The 10-acre site known as 'The Great Northern' is now open for business with bars, cafes, restaurant, shops, a 16-screen AMC megaplex cinema and Virgin Active gym. As part of the ongoing development the owners are planning to restore the tunnel beneath and open it to the public.

For further details of the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal restoration campaign write to PO Box 47, Manchester, M9 4RB or telephone 0161 203 5009


Bay 2 - The underground transhipment dock

Tunnel Portal - note the tunnel wardens post

The Transhipment Dock

Below the underground car park in Watson Street

  • Canals to Manchester by David Owen ISBN 0 7190 0686 4
  • Lost Canals and Waterways of Britain by Ronald Russell ISBN 0 7153 8072 9
  • Bartholomew's Pocket Atlas and Guide to Manchester 1937
  • Pennine Waterways web site


[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated: Tuesday, 04-Jan-2011 14:55:24 GMT
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