Runcorn Locks once linked the Bridgewater Canal to the Runcorn & Weston Canal, the Manchester Ship Canal and, previously, the River Mersey.
Opened in 1776, the Bridgewater Canal was linked to the River Mersey at Runcorn by a flight of ten locks, arranged as five pairs of staircase locks. These became so busy another flight of ten individual locks was constructed to provide a parallel route, becoming known as Runcorn New Locks, while the original flight became know as Runcorn Old Locks. In 1859 the Runcorn & Weston Canal opened, completing a link between the River Weaver Navigation and the two lines of locks at Runcorn, forming junctions with them two locks from the bottom.
When the Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894 the canal was shortened and opened into the ship canal, with a further lock, now derelict, allowing access from the ship canal to the River Mersey. The canal gradually fell into disuse and both old and new flights of locks were filled in around 1965 when the line was blocked by construction of the approach roads for the Runcorn Road Bridge. The new locks line has been built over with modern houses but the line of Runcorn Old Locks has been preserved and the only obstacle to restoration seems to be the bridge approach roads.
A new road crossing for the River Mersey, the Mersey Gateway, is under construction with opening planned for late 2017. This will take much of the traffic from the old road bridge and may permit reconstruction or realignment of its approach roads to permit re-opening of the canal. The Runcorn Locks Restoration Society, formed in 2004, developed the Unlock Runcorn Campaign to support the restoration of Runcorn Old Locks. If this is accompanied by restoration of the Runcorn & Weston Canal to restore the route through to the River Weaver Navigation it will create a new cruising ring, including the Anderton Boat Lift.
The Runcorn & Weston Canal ran parallel to the River Mersey, through the outskirts of Runcorn, for 2.4km (1.5 miles). At the southern end it joined the Weston Canal of the River Weaver Navigation through one lock. At the northern end it joined the Runcorn New Locks and Old Locks lines of the Bridgewater Canal.
We’re standing at the end of the Runcorn & Weston Canal which came straight towards us from its junction with the River Weaver about 2.4km (1.5 miles) ago. This is the junction with the line of Runcorn Old Locks which came down from the Bridgewater Canal (to our left) to the River Mersey (to our right).
The line of Runcorn New Locks has been built over and we are looking down the flight which passes through the house in the centre of the photo. Fortunately the line of Runcorn Old Locks has been protected and they are still available for restoration.
The limit of the water on the Runcorn & Weston Canal. The remaining 1.7km (just over a mile) is filled in and some parts are built over. Restoration may be possible on an alternative alignment but will cause considerable disruption to local industries. The route first meets the line of Runcorn New Locks (which have been built over) and finishes at Runcorn Old Locks (which could still be restored).
We’re standing on the first bridge of the Runcorn & Weston Canal and peering through the adjacent pipe bridge towards the entrance lock. This bridge has been filled in, with a culvert for the water flow.
The derelict entrance lock from the River Weaver leads onto the Runcorn & Weston Canal which is in water for about 600m (650 yards), although the bridges have been filled in with culverts for the water flow so navigation isn’t possible even if you could get there with a canoe.