Photos of Wigan
Photos of Wigan

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Haigh Foundry swing bridge
Photo: Rev David Long
Views: 664
Item #: 33135
The Sankey Canal was built for Mersey sailing flats - so all the original bridges had to be swing bridges, as stone bridges would get in the way of their masts. In 1830 the canal was extended to meet the Mersey at Widnes. This was to meet competition from the St Helens Railway Company - who built a railway to a new dock they constructed on Spike Island. The railway had to cross the canal to get to the dock - so a swing bridge was installed - it was supplied by Haigh Foundry Wigan, in 1832. Similar railway swing bridges were installed, again built at Haigh Foundry, in the St Helens area.
Photo by the late Harry Arnold.

Comment by: Albert.S. on 11th May 2021 at 09:44

Just a question relating to steam locomotives. At Springs Branch, about 1946, there was a locomotive that was referred to as a utility locomotive. It was a large locomotive, and seemed well designed. Has anyone any knowledge as to why they were referred to as utility locomotive?.

Comment by: DerekB on 11th May 2021 at 12:30

Albert, the locomotive was probably built during WW2 when almost everything was made to utility standard i.e. stripped of everything except essentials. Along with other transport undertakings Wigan Corporation had utility buses with wooden slatted seats, minimal window space and no curves to the bodywork. Furniture, clothing etc had it;s own utility logo. This loco could have been one built in and supplied to Britain by the USA.

Comment by: Albert. S. on 11th May 2021 at 14:34

Derek. I can’ t recollect Wigan Corporation having those type of buses. I did travel on them during the war, the ones where there was a square box, at the front , and in the middle of the bus above the driver, showing the destination number, and a winding stairway at the rear, to the upstairs. It would travel from Station Road, down Standish gate, and turn right opposite Mesnes Street, towards Scholes, to Spring View. Use to get off at Alf Taylor’s.

Comment by: DerekB on 11th May 2021 at 16:13

Albert, the utility buses Wigan had were the only ones ever owned by them which were of a make other than Leyland . They were made by Guy. The government had taken over distribution of the limited supply of new buses and bus operators had to have what was allocated to them. Wigan's utility buses stayed in service for some years post war, albeit with new upholstered seats replacing the wood slatted ones.

Comment by: Barrie on 12th May 2021 at 09:14

What a coincidence Rev.David with this photograph, for in late 1981/early 1982, I was the site agent for a construction company (McTay Construction) that was awarded the contract to revamp the canal (known as the St.Helens Canal) from Spike Island to Fiddlers Ferry Power station bridge. The remnants of this bridge spanning the canal onto Spike Island were still in place ,not aware that it was a rail bridge, The contract was to remove the old girders, renovate the canal walls and turning circle and replace the bridge with a new fixed hardwood bridge for light access (pedestrians & maintenance vehicles ) onto the Island for the public to use. Today, it is still there . The contract was worked through one of the worst winters of the early 80's. If I'm permitted, (it's not the Wigan area), I'll upload the photo's I took on my pre-contract visit to the site.

Comment by: Rev David Long on 12th May 2021 at 14:08

Barrie - As past, and founding, Chairman of the Sankey Canal Restoration Society - and presently Editor (and producer) of its quarterly magazine - I'm aware of the work done in that contract. SCARS has some images of it in its archives - but we'd welcome copies of more (you can email them to me, please - if you're happy to do so). I'm always looking for fresh images for the magazine.
As for the bridge - I'm afraid you're out of date - it was removed last year - see the Winter 2020 copy of the magazine for a pic of where it was:
The canal only became known as the St Helens Canal when it took over the St Helens Railway Company - and became known at the St Helens Canal and Railway Company in 1845. It's proper name, however, is the Sankey Brook Navigation, as the political climate of the time was sympathetic to the canalisation of rivers (such as the Mersey & Irwell and Weaver locally), but not to canals proper - so the 1755 Act promoted the canalisation of the Sankey Brook. The promoters, and engineers, all knew that was not actually possible... and proceeded to create a completely separate canal once the Act was passed.
The Duke of Bridgewater saw its financial success after it was opened in 1757... and set out to build England's second modern canal....

Comment by: George (Hindley) on 12th May 2021 at 14:28

The Sankey Canal is the Sankey Canal. What's generally known as the St.Helens Canal is the St.Helens 'branch' of the Sankey Canal.
Just the same as the Leigh 'branch' of the Leeds Liverpool Canal is the Leigh Canal (to some) but is still the Leeds Liverpool Canal, officially.

Comment by: Rev David Long on 12th May 2021 at 15:00

The branch you're describing, George, is actually in two sections, each with their own name neither of which is 'the St Helens Canal'. The original canal had two northern termini - Blackbrook, at Haydock, and Gerards Bridge, at Parr. The latter was extended into St Helens itself in 1775 - the extension being known as the Ravenhead Branch.

Comment by: The Real James Hanson on 12th May 2021 at 15:51

David and George are correct.
The St Helens Canal and Railway Company was just that - St Helens 'Canal and Railway Company'.
The [St Helens] [Canal and Railway Company].
Not [St Helens Canal] and (Railway Company].

Actually, the Sankey Canal was constructed long before the town called St Helens existed.

David. I can imagine the section George describes is the section also known (past tense) as "the hotties". Also, the Blackbrook section is not, and never has been, in Haydock.

Comment by: Rev David Long on 12th May 2021 at 16:50

JH - I was being descriptive, rather than prescriptive - but the boundaries in the area follow the line of the Blackbrook as it was before the canal was cut, and so it meanders to and fro across the terminus site - so some is in St Helens, some in Blackbrook/ Haydock, and some bits are in Billinge.
Yes, where cooling water was pumped into the Sankey from Pilkington's Ravenhead Glassworks became known as The Hotties.
Pilkingtons, and other glassmakers, came to St Helens because the Sankey could bring them the coal to process the high silica local Sherdley Measure sand to make glass - and gave an export route for their products. Copper, iron, and salt-based chemical companies were also attracted by the creation of the canal - and so the little settlement around St Helen's Chapel grew
Incidentally, much of the land in Ravenhead is/was administered by the Baybutt brothers of Greenbank House on Wigan Lane... so we're tenuously on topic....

Comment by: The Real James Hanson on 12th May 2021 at 19:54

The confluence of Black Brook and Clipsley Brook forms the boundary between Parr, Haydock and Ashton in Makerfield. The old Stanley Bank forge was in Ashton in Makerfield. The canal was in Parr.

Pilkington's didn't "come to St.Helens" to make glass. They were a family involved in drinks wholesaling and were linked to Greenall's the brewers.
They had money and they funded existing glass manufacturers, along with other prominent families from the area.

Speaking of Baybutts and Greenbank House, you mention land in Ravenhead (You mean Sutton. That's the name of the place.) and the land being 'administered' by them? (They undertook the reclamation. Administration was undertaken by St.Helens Council)
And, why do you think Greenbank House has that name?
Because the part of Sutton where the Baybutts did the reclamation was known as"Greenbank" and they named their company after it!

Comment by: Cyril on 12th May 2021 at 20:02

In the late 1980s my son and I went along with the Billinge RSPB club to walk along the Sankey Brook at Blackbrook, we then followed a footpath under the east lancs road to go around the wood and the lake at Carr Mill and saw plenty of birdlife and wildlife, I'd previously never been there and remember being told it was the beginning of the Sankey canal, there was plenty of Dippers around too so it must have been full of fish. Well done David for helping to restore and upkeep this nature reserve.

Comment by: Rev David Long on 13th May 2021 at 08:52

Cyril - Carr Mill Dam was constructed as the 'header tank' for the Sankey, and is still owned and maintained by the Canal and River Trust (successors to British Waterways). Although SCARS does have regular work parties which go out to cut back vegetation, litter pick, etc. along the canal, they don't actually touch the dam.
My three elder brothers used to cycle from Kirkby to fish in the dam. One year the eldest, Geof, actually bought a Licence to do so. It was made out to 'G Long' - he was berated by his brothers, John and Joe, for not having it made out as 'J Long', so they could all use it.

Comment by: Barrie. on 13th May 2021 at 09:43

Rev.David, thanks for the update on the bridge as I last visited Spike Island in 2019 before the pandemic arrived so last year was out. It's a 30 min journey from the Wirral via the Gateway crossing. I have no objection in forwarding the construction photographs of the scheme for the Society, after all it is 40 years this year when the start of the canal restoration contract started. Incidentally , the client was Cheshire County Council for the scheme and the original quote was to strip the old bridge and refurbish it but after we had started shot blasting it was found to be "rotten" as I put in my diary so the client decided a hardwood bridge instead. I'll upload a couple of the Haigh foundry bridge as we found it in September 1981

Comment by: The Real James Hanson on 13th May 2021 at 19:48

David. Carr Mill Dam was not "constructed as the 'header tank' for the Sankey".
Carr Mill Dam was "constructed" over 150 years before the Sankey Canal was even an idea!
Of course, the original Carr Mill Dam was nowhere near as big as the one we know today. But it did exist, as a water supply for Carr Mill (1600's) and Stanley Mill in Ashton in Makerfield (1700's).

Cyril, you say "In the late 1980s my son and I went along with the Billinge RSPB club to walk along the Sankey Brook at Blackbrook".
However, I suspect you've beengiven wrong information, as Sankey Brook is not Black Brook and is not near the East Lancs Road. Or Blackbrook.

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