How did money from slavery help develop Greater Manchester?

Manchester Ship Canal cruet and stand

Made by Lee & Wigfall, Elkington & Co, 1894
Silver plate

Object number 1954.906
Given by Mrs S Baynes, 1954

See this object at Manchester Art Gallery This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.

Manchester Ship Canal cruet and stand

The Manchester Ship Canal is the eighth-longest ship canal in the world, only slightly shorter than the Panama Canal in Central America. On its completion, in 1894, it was the largest navigation canal in the world and enabled Manchester to become Britain's third busiest port, despite being about 40 miles (64 km) inland.

During the 1700s and 1800s, Manchester developed to become the world's leading producer and exporter of cotton goods. Transport networks in and out of the city, including canals and railways, developed to accommodate the movement of massive amounts of cotton and associated goods. During the 1720s, the rivers Irwell and Mersey were made navigable, enabling access to the sea at Liverpool for small ships. In 1776, the Bridgewater Canal was built between Manchester and Runcorn, on the Mersey. This was followed, in 1830, by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Both developments dramatically increased the efficiency of  transporting goods in and out of Manchester.

However, by 1872, the Bridgewater Canal had fallen into disrepair and the excessive costs of rail transport led to the proposal to build a ship canal, giving Manchester direct access to the sea. The project took six years to complete, at a cost of just over £15m (£1.2b in today's money). More than 41m cubic metres of material were excavated, and an average of 12,000 workers were employed at any one time.

This elaborate and curious silver cruet and stand, designed to hold salt, pepper and other condiments, was produced to commemorate the building of the canal. The two small boat-shaped salt dishes bear the names Lord Egerton, in reference to Lord Egerton of Tatton, the chairman of the Ship Canal Company, and Daniel Adamson, the Manchester engineer who was the driving force behind the project. It was made by the firm of Elkington & Co, who were also commissioned to produce the civic silver for Manchester Town Hall in 1877, reflecting the city's pride in its industrial achievements.

This information was provided by curators at Manchester Art Gallery.