Report - - The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal - March 2010 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal - March 2010


Staff member
The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal - Visited by Ojay.

I originally visited this place back in 2009 where soon after it was sealed up. Sadly I didn't take a camera and no photos of this magnificent underground space. I have been working on a plan to get back in since, with many failures and recces around town for another way. Eventually the hard work paid off and the time finally came for me to return and take some photos; it was to be a memorable occasion.

Lighting was difficult due to the size of the place, with the exception of the Main Transhipment Dock which was strangely lit up. Also there is a dome cam high up, but have been reliably informed it isn't monitored, only used for safety reasons when they do fire drills. I left this section until last just in case.

In 1799 there were proposals for a Canal link from the River Irwell to the Rochdale Canal. In 1836 a Bill was sent to Parliament, it was eventually passed and built at a cost of £60,000 when it opened on October 28 1839 to traffic - boats & barges. However it was never a commercial success. The 499 yard tunnel was costing £57 per linear yard, it was an expensive project and with the addition of 4 locks and 2 pumps to accomodate the rise of 40 ft from East to West along the route and a gasometer by the Western entrance to supply power for the lamps every 35 yards. There were many setbacks, such as one of the locks collapsing, severe frosts which forced the Canal to close, pumping engines failing and shareholders constantly forced to put more money in to maintain it.

The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal itself joined a short branch of the Rochdale Canal just north of Great Bridgewater Street close to the centre of Manchester. From this junction it ran North Westwards passing under Lower Mosley St through a pair of locks and then under Watson St where it entered a quarter of a mile long tunnel passing under Deansgate and Camp St before reappearing just beyond
Atherton St. Another pair of locks dropped the level still further and a single lock linked the navigation with the Irwell beyond Water St, South of the Victoria and Albert warehouses and about a 150 yds up-river from the entrance of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. A pump was required to lift water from the level of the Irwell to the top of the paired locks to replace what was originally used.

The Western end, adjoining the Irwell, continued as a useful series of docks. When the Great Northern Railway goods depot was built over the tunnel in 1899 2 shafts were sunk 25ft down to the canal for the interchange of goods between the 5 levels of the railway warehouse and the docks of the Manchester Ship Canal via the Irwell. This traffic continued until 1922 and the remaining length of the Canal was abandoned and officially closed for commercial traffic in 1936.

During WW2 the tunnel was drained for use as an air raid shelter. The tunnel was 1600 ft long, 20 ft wide and 17 ft high. Overhead the cover varied along the route, the arch of the tunnel was 18" thick. Capacity of the bunker was estimated at 5,000 people and was to be accessible to anyone within a 10 minute walk.

It was divided into bays, each separated by two offset parallel brick walls for protection against blast, thus 16 blast walls were created every 100 ft to restrict bomb damage. The estimated cost of £18,000 to convert the tunnel also included handrails at the entrances, chemical toilets, water supply, lighting from the mains, an emergency diesel generator, electric fans and a filtered air system.

On 11 May 1948 the use of the tunnel had ceased and all entrances were sealed, today it remains 'lost beneath the city' divided into 2 sections, one lying beneath Granada Studios and the other below
the Great Northern Warehouse and part of Central Station G-Mex.

Situated just underneath Watson St is the original Canal bed amongst brick arches and walls that were added to further support the railway goods above. In the middle of the canal bed 2 vast brick pillars rise upwards toward the roof, these are the remains of the 2 winch shafts installed for the transhipment of goods between the Canal and the railway. Close to the shafts the Eastern tunnel portal is amazingly still intact although itself now more than 25 ft undergroud. The tunnel mouth has been partly bricked across with steps down to the canal bed and a raised tow path along the North side.

There is a small brick building built in the Canal bed inside the tunnel mouth, which was once a wardens post. There are 5 accessible bays, numbered from East to West Bay 1, Bay 2, Bay 3, Bay 4 & Bay 5. The bay numbers with an arrow are still clearly painted on the dividing blast walls.

Bay 2 is the underground transhipment dock, here the tunnel opens out into a huge vaulted chamber with the tow path running around three sides, there is even a mooring bollard alongside the dock. There is an arched doorway to stairs up to the warehouse but these are blocked after a few feet. You can walk as far as Bay 5 before the Canal bed becomes flooded, but using the towpath as far as the next blast wall where there is an arrow pointing to Bay 6. From here on in the Canal beds are flooded all the way down to the remaining section located underneath Granada Studios.

After a £100 million metamorphosis in 1998, the Great Northern now boasts smart bars like Bar 38, cosmopolitan cafes like Café History, restaurants, shops and a casino. It's also home to the 16-screen AMC megaplex cinema and Virgin Active gym.

'Lost Beneath The City' now lies the Manchester and Salford Canal Junction.





Steps leading upto Deansgate

Looking out from the stairwell to the First Aid Post

Immediately below Deansgate is this First Aid Post, it had seperate sections for Males & Females



Steps leading upto Byrom St & more steps behind leading to Camp St


Flooded from bay 5 onwards



The Transhipment Dock, situated below the Great Northern

One of 2 original passageways from the transhipment dock to the warehouse hoists, also the only access to the Great Northern

Old post for tying up Canal boats

I then continued East towards Central Station passing through another couple of Bays



Eventually I came to a larger stairwell that once led out to Watson St



Looking back down from the stairwell at the Eastern portal is this wardens post, the framing on the wall probably supported a shelter notice

Through a small entrance to the right of the stairwell leads into this vast space directly underneath Watson St


Note the ladders that lead upto the street above


Just through the archways to the left are 2 wagon hoists from the Canal to the Central Station goods yard