Coals from Worsley to Liverpool: new light on the Bridgewater Canal – a Twitter archaeology paper


The eastern entrance into The Delph, at Worsley, on the Bridgewater Canal

Twitter archaeology conferences are on the rise. The micro-blogging format allows many papers from many individual in many countries to take part without the expense and climate damage of travelling long distances to get to a venue.

The parameters vary but often involve 10 or 12 twitter posts supported by images, links, and threads. The challenge of writing a twitter conference paper (is that the right phrase?) might be seen as the equivalent of writing a poem such as a haiku, sonnet, or clerihew. The structure of no more than 280 characters per post forces the writer to combine a density of meaning with brevity, whilst also being able to post pictures or graphics. For this year’s Festival of Archaeology I was fortunate enough to take part in a twitter archaeology conference (23 July, #ArchMoL19) run by the Museum of Liverpool around the theme of latest archaeology research in the region. Here is my ‘haiku’ archaeology paper!

“‘Coals from Worsley to Liverpool: new light on the Bridgewater Canal’. You think you know a monument well, but surprises can and do regularly happen in archaeology. So it was with the Bridgewater Canal at Worsley in 2018. @MuseumLiverpool #ArchMoL19 #festivalofarchaeology

2/10 The Bridgewater Canal is the first arterial industrial canal in the world. Opened in 1761 & extended to Ellesmere Port in 1773 it brought coals from Worsley to Manchester and then Liverpool & beyond.

3/10 Imagine our surprise, then, to discover during restoration works in The Delph by Salford City Council a previously unknown tunnel leading from the canal basin to the site of the corn mill.

4/10 This tunnel gave access to vehicles & at the entrance was a previously unrecorded quay and a winch. It may date to the E19.

5/10 The road tunnel also had a smaller branch running south & parallel with the eastern entrance into The Delph.

6/10 So why was the tunnel there? The Delph was the entrance into c. 80km of underground colliery canals. Around 12 boats a day left the mine in late C18 so controlling boat movements essential. Only access was under the bridge.

7/10 The discovery of the tunnel & the unknown quays, a 2nd was found parallel to the C18 bridge that forms the south side of The Delph, shows that boat movements were actively managed.

8/10 The winch found on the quay by the road tunnel was probably used to help haul boats under the road bridge into The Delph. There is no canal towpath under the bridge.

9/10 The newly discovered road tunnel and eastern quay allowed direct access to The Delph for vehicles. Presumably boats tied up and was coal unloaded perhaps for use by the local steam-powered corn mill.

10/10 Until the 1880s Worsley coals heated the homes of Manchester cotton spinners & weavers, & later powered Manchester mills & was exported thru Liverpool. The Delph has now been restored but the canal workshops on The Green await investigation.”



One thought on “Coals from Worsley to Liverpool: new light on the Bridgewater Canal – a Twitter archaeology paper

  1. Very interesting. Always been fascinated by the canals and engineers involved, some of them also carried on work or advised Lord Carlisle on his coalfield and planned railway ; James Loch being one, which was one of my areas of interest.

    What are the possibilities of visiting some of the areas with a small group of interested parties?
    Clive Seal.

    P.s. I don’t do Twitter

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