The surveyor for the canal was Henry Berry, a Liverpool Dock Engineer who had worked under Thomas Steers, Steers having constructed Liverpool's first dock in 1715. The canal was designed for Mersey Flats - a sailing craft common to the River Mersey and surrounding waterways. A series of swing bridges were designed to accommodate the Mersey Flats, with locks being designed at various stages of the canal and a dry dock and boat yard at Winwick Quay. Heavy industry soon developed along the canal; along with the coal mines there was an alkali works, Sankey Sugar works, glass works in St Helens and a pottery in Bewsey, all utilising the canal. In 1830, the first railway from Liverpool to Manchester crossed the canal at Newton Common with the Sankey Viaduct constructed by George Stephenson, the viaduct and canal being a monument to the industrial age.
The decline of the canal in the twentieth century saw various branches north of the Sugar Works fall into disrepair, and with the end of the sugar traffic, the canal finally closed in 1963. It soon silted up and various swing bridges were replaced with more permanent bridges due to the development of local road systems. Stretches of the canal were infilled in the 1970s, but by 1985, a Sankey Canal Restoration Society was formed and there are plans to restore the canal. Parts of the canal at Fiddler's Ferry and Spike Island are used as a marina, and there are still many industrial archaeological features to be seen along the canal, which is now part of the Sankey Valley Park.
The Sankey Canal at St. Helens. The Glass Works can be seen on the right hand side.
The Glass Museum at St. Helens, just by the canal.
New Double Lock in St. Helens.
A derelict house by the canal in St. Helens. It may have been a bridge house.
The Ship Inn, St. Helens, one of the many pubs that is located along the canal.
Old Double Lock, St. Helens.
The Sankey Viaduct.
Bradley Lock, near Newton le Willows.
The remains of a wharf side wall at the top of Bradley Lock.
A surviving swing bridge at Newton le Willows, just below Bradley Lock.
The remains of Winwick Lock.
What used to be The Ship at Winwick Quay, a pub situated by the side of the canal.
The boat repair yard at Winwick Quay, the building dates to 1841.
Winwick Quay in the early 1970s before the canal was infilled. The boat repair yard is in the background to the right. (Warrington Borough Council)
Sunset at Fiddler's Ferry yacht haven.
The lock at Fiddler's Ferry. The canal enters the River Mersey.
Where the canal meets the Mersey. There is a boat repair yard and Yacht club at Fiddler's Ferry. Silt can be seen collecting to the right of the lock wall. The Mersey is still tidal here so boats have to wait until high tide to enter the river.
The Polly - a Manx Knobby built in the early 1900s, can still be seen at Fiddlers Ferry. This type of local boat was common to the Liverpool Bay area.
The lock at Spike Island in Widnes, the end of the canal. The canal also enters the River Mersey here.
The remains of a Mersey Flat on the banks of the Mersey, Spike Island.
The remains of another vessel at Spike Island.
A print showing the Sankey Viaduct from Newton Common Lock, c.1830s.
All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison.
The map of the Sankey Canal taken from http://www.pittdixon.go-plus.net/sankey/sankey.htm
The website for the Sankey Canal Restoration Society is well worth a visit: http://www.sankeycanal.co.uk/