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“The Lancashire Cotton Lobby and the Making of the Manchester Ship Canal from 1883 to the Interwar Period”

from Part I - Port Case Studies

Edouard Guionnet
Affiliation:
taught at the University of Avignon and Rheims Polytechnic and is now at the University of Paris XIII.
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Summary

This study focuses on the influence of the Lancashire cotton lobby in the creation and development of a port at Manchester for ocean-going ships. On the surface, the idea seems paradoxical on several grounds. Manchester was not far from Liverpool, England's second port, a city connected to every part of the world, dealing with the world's leading exchanges, and with docks able to berth and unload the largest steamers and sailing vessels. Moreover, Manchester and other Lancashire industrial towns were served by an extensive railway and canal network. Finally, to turn a city situated thirty-six miles from the sea into a seaport involved digging a canal from the Mersey estuary that was navigable by deep-draught ships. The idea was not new, and several schemes had been proposed (and rejected) previously. But the issue came to a head at the beginning of the 1880s when British manufactures (especially cotton products) began to face intense international competition. In this context, the recent slump in the traffic of Liverpool pointed out by the local mercantile community and a general discontent with the slow pace in improving the situation revived the idea of a canal. Debates over the construction of such a waterway opened in Parliament in 1883. The bill was finally approved in 1885, and the canal opened in 1894.

At the outset, the scheme was promoted by a provisional committee, but after the bill received Royal assent the Ship Canal Company (SCC) was created. Lancashire cotton men played prominent roles in both these bodies. Their leader until 1887 was Daniel Adamson, an engineer who also chaired the board of a Manchester spinning concern. He was assisted by a number of other prominent spinners and manufacturers, including Edward Walmsley and Joseph Leigh. Both were Stockport spinners, but their influence was much broader: the former presided over the Cotton Spinner's Association, while the latter was Mayor of Stockport on several occasions and was also Adamson's son-in-law. Another prominent supporter was William Richardson, who was not a spinner but represented Piatt Bros, and Co., a firm which made cotton processing machinery. The board of the SCC also included J.K. Bythell. Before becoming the board's chairman and vice-president of the Manchester Cotton Association in 1894, Bythell had been resident partner in India for Gaddum and Co. and chairman of the Bombay Chamber of Commerce.

Type
Chapter
Information
Making Global and Local Connections
Historical Perspectives on Ports
, pp. 23 - 42
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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