History - 79 AD to 2015

Roman Road to Hulmes Ferry and out to the Atlantic Gateway.

Water channel background

Invading Romans from 43 AD built their own roads to carry troops and supplies foraging northwards to scotland to the west of the pennines.
Mountain View
They established the fort of Mamucium in 79 AD at a strategic position near a crossing point on the River Medlock.
Mountain View A typical roman fort.
The fort was sited on a sandstone bluff near the confluence of the rivers Medlock and Irwell in a naturally defensible position, a position which was later became instrumental in the formation of the Manchester Ship Canal along the path of the Irwell and Mersey rivers.
Mountain View Tragically, nothing remains of the castle itself as the area of castlefield on which it stood was leveled in the rush to form a rail link which fueled the industrial revolution but a reconstructed gateway of Mamucium fort can be seen here with the rail bridge in the background.
When Rome abandoned britain in the 4th centuary, the 500 soldiers gone, the remaining civilians who had survived by trading with the soldiers continued trading, probably by bartering as coinage introduced by romans wasn't reintroduced for several centuries later. Hence the fort reinvented itself as a market town. Flemish weavers settling in the area had an impact on this trade and later this would turn into a textile industry fueling manchesters boom.
Manchester trundled along as a market town for some time and then boomed by utilizing water power from its streams and rivers in its surrounding areas to produce cotton products by water powered mills.
Summerseat Mill Joshua Hoyles mill, Summerseat nestling above the river Irwell, once driving over 60,000 spindles, a place close to the authors heart. Now reinvented as luxuary appartments and a restaurant.
Railways also played an important part in the boom to transport goods to a wider market. The first steam train railway in the UK being installed between Manchester and Liverpool.
Mountain View Summerseat rail viaduct in front of Joshua Hoyles Mill.
Peel Tower Peel Tower, overlooking summerseat, erected as a monument to mill owner Sir Robert Peel who went on to become Prime Minister and founded the Metropolitan Police Force. His extended company Peel Holdings now leading the Mamuciums latest reinvention as an Atlantic Gateway in an attempt to balance the North / South divide between the rich capital and the poorer northern industrial towns.
The rivers Mersey and Irwell were first made navigable in the early 18th century. Goods were also transported on the Runcorn extension of the Bridgewater Canal (from 1776) and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (from 1830).
Irwell Inlet Boysnope Wharf on the River Irwell ( Old Course ) inlet seen here adjacent to the Hulmes ferry, Irlam Jetty, which was already playing its role in transparting goods before the Ship Canal was started - Click Here to read its history
Mountain View Bridgewater Canal side by side with the Manchester Liverpool Railway at the junction of Castlefield.
Manchester's business community viewed the charges imposed by Liverpool's docks and the railway companies as excessive. A ship canal was therefore proposed as a way of giving ocean-going vessels direct access to Manchester. They initiated a public campaign to enlist support for the scheme, which was first presented to Parliament as a bill in 1882. Faced with stiff opposition from Liverpool, the canal's supporters were unable to gain the necessary Act of Parliament to allow the scheme to go ahead until 1885. Construction began in 1887; it took six years and cost £15 million (equivalent to about £1.65 billion in 2011).
Mountain View Excavation at the Irlam Viaduct.
Mountain View A plater using muscle power and basic hand tools for construction.
Mountain View A railway built in the canal bottom takes away materials excavated with pickaxes and shovels by 16,000 men and boys.
Mountain View A cargo ship under the Irlam viaduct.
When the ship canal opened in January 1894 it was the largest river navigation canal in the world, and enabled the newly created Port of Manchester to become Britain's third busiest port despite the city being about 40 miles (64 km) inland.
Mountain View Manchester Port.
To accommodate the large ships hulmes bridge connecting flixton and Irlam had to be demolished and required a ferry service in order to continue for the right of way people had between the communities of Irlam, Eccles, Flixton and Davyhulme.
The hulmes bridge already had a ferry boat before the canal was built as back up due to the low lying bridge sometimes being submerged during high water and thus the right of way could be maintained.
After the 1885 act the canal owners where made responsible for covering the costs of the ferry in order to keep the Public Right of Way open.
The cutting for the canal between Barton and Caddishead proved to be the most difficult. Not because the digging was hard but because no less than 15 streams passed over the location of the cutting.
Wooden trestles had to be constructed to take all the stream water over the cutting whilst it was being dug out and also trestles where constructed to take people over such as for workers to Calledonia Mill.
Mountain View One of the low lying bridges over the mersey that became victim to the new canal.
An Act of Parliament dated 6 August 1885 which authorised the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal requires that a free ferry and access paths are provided by the canal owners at the point where the Hulme Bridge used to be and henceforth the hulmes bridge ferry was established.

As Irlam flourished from 1910 with the industrial revolution producing steel, margarine and soap the free ferry during this period become essential to transport workers accross the canal.
Mountain View Irlam Soap Works.
Mountain View Irlam Steal Works.
Mountain View Irlam Margarine Works.
One of the rear-oared scully boats which would have been used to ferry people from 6am to 11pm in the services busy days ... picture kindly donated by Helen Hubbard.
Mountain View
Hulmes ferry becomes a winter wonderland the year the canal froze over ... Pictures kindly donated by Helen Booth. Note that rowing boats had replaced the origional rear oar skully boats.
Mountain View Mountain View Mountain View Mountain View Mountain View Mountain View
In its hay day the service played an essential part in the industrial revolution transporting workers to and from the factories in Irlam but in recent times its mainly used for leisure activities. The hulmes free ferry service ran 124 years until 2009 when when the former ferryman John McDermott died suddenly. The service was not reinstatated after Johns death although was said to have not been disscontinued by Peel Holdings.
However great interest and passion for the free ferry still remained in the local people and a campaign lead by June Mabon from Trafford Ramblers got the ferry reinstated by 2011 for the people of Irlam and Flixton.
The old ferry mans historic cottage which was recently saved from redevelopement can be seen here....

Progress from 2011 to 2015 has been slow to non-existant, Irlam council not seeing the potential for this tranquil and historic spot, doing very little to reinstate their overgrown rubbish strewn path leading to the Irlam Jetty. Little publicity apart from sparce reports on the internet and a tiny barely noticable sign means the ferry whilst still in existance is still underused but has the potential to be a beauty spot for local people and tourists.

The ferry service is planned to continue in 2015 from May till September but descisions are still being made as to the size of boat that will be used. Previous ferries took bicycles accross but the large boat was replaced by a smaller one as cycles shouldn't be transported over. The smaller boat was inadequate due to stability, numbers of passengers it was capable of carrying and difficulty in boarding from the jetty and a surveyer recomended a larger craft.

There was a slight delay to the 2015 schedule whilst we awaited a larger boat but one wasn't provided and the service must run so the service has resumed again with the smaller boat.

As of June 2015 the author after gaining his power boat licence has been given the job of Ferry Person and I aim to improve the service but the driving power has to partly come from the people who are to use the service. The Manchester Ship Canal Company do provide the service for free with a fair amount of money considering it is little used and they do respond to public demand. As ferry person I have to log all the crossings and its a case of use it or lose it, every crossing is counted.

As people still dont realize that the ferry service is still running there is a lot of work ahead in promoting this and whilst I cleared some weeds and put up a sign on the Irlam side the council path still needs improvement. Also the boats whilst functional also need improving but we can only work with what tools we are given to supply the current low demand for the time being. However I do propose to to campaign to improve all aspects of the service in good time.

The Ferry Mans cottage has now been purchased by a builder intending to renovate the property and live in it, modernizing it but leaving the property more or less as is, thus a piece of history has been preserved from redevelopment.

And a historic reminder of the dedication that was provided by the Manchester Ship Canal company to uphold the Public Right of Way using an 'on call' ferryman living on site remains standing.
And here are some recent photos of the ferry with kind permission from Phil( photographer ) of North Ports : CLICK HERE - A fiberglass dingy with small outboard now replaces the wooden rowing boats.
Hulmes Ferry is now on Facebook and Twitter