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The River Mersey

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River MerseyThe Mersey begins in Stockport and stretches for 20 or so miles through South Manchester before entering the Manchester Ship Canal in Flixton.

The river, one of the largest in the area, has acted as a barrier and boundary for hundreds of years. The name 'Mersey' is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for 'boundary'. The names 'Moss' 'Ees' and 'Carrs', which are associated with the river reflect its wetlands and periodic flooding.

Over time the towns grew into cities and the increased population put pressure on the valley. Areas of poor agricultural land were set aside for rubbish tips and sewage works. Gravel was extracted for the building of the M63 in the sixties.

In the seventies the river banks were raised and flood storage basins were built. This reduced the problem of flooding. Reclamation schemes turned tips into agricultural land. Sewage works became nature reserves and gravel pits became water parks.

In 1978 the Mersey Valley Countryside Warden Service was created to manage the valley for people and wildlife.

Nearly 1000 acres of land is thus managed by the bouroughs of Manchester, Trafford and Stockport. This land provides a haven for wildlife and facilities such as horse riding, cycling, orienteering, fishing, birdwatching and picnicing for the local people.

The Dry Weir, Hawthorn Lane

The Bridgewater Canal Company was greatly concerned about flood damage to the Barfoot Bridge aqueduct. To help reduce the problem they built a stone weir upstream, which allowed floodwater to run along a channel, by-passing the bridge. link ( The Geograph Britain and Ireland project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland, and you can be part of it).

You can still see a plaque built into the weir bearing the insription: 'This weir was begun on the 16th April 1841 and was completed on the 24th day of September 1841. William Cubbitt FRS Engineer John Tompkinson Contractor who undertook to execute it on the falilure of the previous work, which was swept away by the flood of the River Mersey on the 17th August 1840'.

The weir was last used in 1915.

The Watch House

The Watch House Cruising Club building, situated on the Bridgewater Canal at Hawthorn Rd, used to be the residence of the foreman responsible for canal bank maintenance. One of his most important jobs was to 'watch' Barfoot Bridge when the Mersey was in flood.

If the bridge was in danger, it could be isolated and the canal waters shut off by placing across the canal massive timber baulks in groves. Barfoot is still standing despite a hundred years of river floods.

Sale Ees Flood Basin

For centuries the river Mersey has flooded the areas of Sale, Northenden and Didsbury after high rainfall. As development and increased population took over more land on the river's edges, the old flood banks and measures such as widening the river channel were less and less successful.

Nowadays the problem has been taken care of by new flood storage basins at Didsbury and Sale operated by the Water Authority.

When the water level is too high, sluice gates near Jackson's Boat pub are opened up. This allow surplus water to flood open land at Sale Water Park. When the water levels fall, the flood water will drain back to the river downstream of the Bridgewater Canal.

Jacksons Boat (formerly the 'Bridge Inn' or 'Greyhound')

Jacson's Boat ca. 1880




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The river Mersey is the traditional boundary between Cheshire and Lancashire. Because of natural changes in the course of the river Mersey centuries ago, Jacksons Boat is in the odd situation of being in old Lancashire (within the boundary of Manchester city) but on the Cheshire (i.e. south) side of the river.

The inn was built at the end of the eighteenth century, replacing and old wood and planter house. Illegal cock fights used to take place in the surrounding fields. The pub is said to have had associations with the Manchester Jacobites. It is said that men like Colonel Townley of the Manchester regiment and the famous Dr John Byrom used to meet there regularly with other royalists to drink the health of the King.

The pub was named after a local farmer named Jackson who cultivated land in the area and who regularly ferried people across the river by boat, charging them a small fee. In 1814 the land came up for sale as 'Jackson's of the Boat' or the 'Boat House'. In 1816 a footbridge was built and a halfpenny toll charged to cross it on foot or one penny with a bicycle. This bridge was washed away in a storm and was rebuilt in 1881 as an iron girder bridge, still charging a toll to cross the river. In the 1940s Manchester Corporation bought the bridge and the toll was abolished by the end of the decade.




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