In 1898 Manchester Liners Ltd was launched, four second hand ships were purchased and the company naming policy of applying the prefix Manchester was established.
The company began to operate services to Canada and the USA. Manchester Liners started WW1 with 15 ships in its fleet. During the war 10 ships were lost to enemy action, but because of the purchase of replacements the fleet was at 12 in 1918. At the outbreak of WW2, Manchester Liners had 10 ships in service. War losses were 7 ships, but the delivery of war-standard ships maintained the fleet at 8, which was sufficient to resume a weekly service to Canada.
The Manchester dockworkers strike record became so bad, that in 1973 the company decided to move half of its container services to Felixstowe. Furthermore, to obtain lower costs per unit, container ships were becoming bigger than the Canal limits.
This was a history of economic growth and prosperity, for some. Tangible commerce, the wealth of a nation built on making things, moving things. Cranes, ships, stevedores and sailors, the world and his wife converging at the base of the Manchester Ship Canal.
All this is long gone, containerisation, recession and state engineered shifts in global manufacture and trade.
They took away the cranes.
The area is now awash with intangible activity – what goes on behind the smoked and mirrored glass?
Just who is moving what around, how, where and why?
But hidden away between here and there is a tiled underpass.
A permissive path.
Where once there was a bridge – before the Manchester Ship Canal was built, the course of the River Irwell was approx. 50-100 yards further north of where the Ship Canal now passes under Trafford Road. This plaque is next to a pedestrian tunnel under Trafford Road, roughly on the line of the old navigation.
Archive photographs Salford History
So here it is a hidden, harshly lit, slightly disabused tribute to the brave souls who sailed the seven seas, stayed ashore, weighed, loaded and shifted stuff.
We all deserve a better deal.