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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria’s Journal - The opening of Manchester Ship Canal, 21st May 1894

Updated: May 30

On 21st May 1894, Queen Victoria opened Manchester Ship Canal. At the time of the opening, the canal was the largest river navigation canal in the world which spans 36 miles!

The whole project cost around £15 million to build ( which is around £2 billion today) and 17,000 labourers known as navies dug the 36-mile-long canal, which was dug mostly by hand with spades. Construction started on 11 November 1887 and took over six years to complete.


The Queen declared the Canal & Docks open and by opening a large lock with an electric wire attached to hydraulic machinery, a salute was fired to officially announce the opening.


Queen Victoria’s Journal:


“At 11, we all left Windsor for Manchester, on the way to Balmoral. Beatrice, Marie L., Liko, Ismay Southampton, (who has replaced the Dss of Atholl) Ina Mc Neill, Ethel C. Ld Carrington, Sir H. Ponsonby, Sir J. Mc Neill, Sir F. Edwards, Mr Yorke, Major Legge, Mr Muther & Dr Reid went with me. the day was not bright & we had a little rain. Reached Manchester at 4.30. & was received at the station by the Ld Mayor & Corporation & the General Commanding the North Western District. There was a Guard of Honour & Yeomanry were drawn up outside the station. In the first carriage with me were Marie L., Beatrice & Liko, & I had an escort of the 14th Hussars. We drove first to Albert Square where I received an Address from the Ld Mayor who was presented by Ld Spencer. The Square is a fine one with a statue of dearest Albert under a canopy, in the style of Sir W. Scott’s monument in Edinburgh & like the Hyde Park one We then went on to the Municipal School of Art, where an Address was handed to me by Dr Ward the Principal of the Owen's College, & from there to the Trafford Wharf, having stopped on the way at Old Trafford to receive a bouquet from one of the pupils of Manchester Deaf & Dumb School. At the Wharf Ld Egerton of Tatton & the principal members of the Manchester Ship Canal Co received me & we embarked on the "Enchantress". I sat in the stern of the ship, which was rather a draughty place, under an awning, & here numerous presentations took place, & Ld Egerton of Tatton presented an address on behalf of the Company, after which I knighted Mr A. Marshall (Ld Mayor) & Mr W. Bailey (Mayor of Salford). We then steamed slowly to the Mode Wheel Docks, where I declared the Canal & Docks open, by opening the large lock with an electric wire attached to hydraulic machinery, when a salute was fired. This done, the "Enchantress" returned to the Trafford Wharf, where I re-entered my carriage & drove to the Exchange Station, a different one to the one we arrived at. On the way we stopped at the Ordsall Park, where an address in a silver casket, was presented by the Mayor of Salford. The Mayoress presented a basket of red roses. I cannot attempt to describe the very wonderful & enthusiastically loyal & affectate. Demonstration I received from over a million & ½ of people! Excepting Liverpool, I never saw anything like it. This cheering & waving of hats & handkerchiefs was quite tremendous & I feel deeply touched & gratified by it. The town was splendidly decorated with flags of every sort & kind, garlands suspended across the streets, which were everywhere lined with troops, & several beautiful arches. We left Manchester at 7.30”


RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 21 May 1894 (Princess Beatrice's copies) retrieved 20th May 2024

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