River Irwell

Passenger steamers on the river in Manchester

The picture below, taken in c.1900, shows a steam packet boat moored at the Cathedral Landing Stage on the river Irwell. In 1894, two steam packet offices were built between Palatine and Victoria Bridges near Manchester Cathedral. Being intensely rival companies, they provided their own flights of stairs down to floating landing stages moored in the river. In their eagerness to compete they overlooked the fact that the river channel hereabouts was at its narrowest, being only some 85 feet wide, and that their facilities would be a hindrance to flood water. This problem was exacerbated by the proximity of the confluence of the river Irk with the Irwell just upstream, which was compounded by the unusual but quite natural feature where the Irk points almost upstream rather than the more usual downstream.

The reason for the introduction of these services was to take advantage of the Manchester Ship Canal, which opened for trade in late 1893 and was then officially opened by Queen Victoria on the 1 January 1894. Regular sight-seeing tours ran around the new Manchester Docks and along the canal to Barton, Irlam and Lymm. Some trips even went as far as Liverpool but the frequency of these is unknown. Mainly due to problems with flooding, the two companies only remained in business for a few years and they closed down in late 1906.

The building in the background is the Palatine Hotel, built by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, and on the right is the old Chetham College. The former hotel is now a part of Chetham College of Music.

Steam Packet Boat.

Victoria Bridge.

The above picture shows Victoria Bridge looking upstream past Manchester Cathedral. This bridge has a span of 100 feet and it was opened in 1839 at a cost of nearly £21,000.

The building on the right was Ben Lang's Music Hall. He also owned rowing boats for hire and four passenger steamers, one of which can be seen at the landing stage. These steamers were popular with the public and they ran trips down the river to Pomona Pleasure Gardens near Old Trafford as well as to Throstlenest, a local beauty spot two miles away. Before the coming of the Manchester Ship Canal, Throstlenest Lock was the first to be encountered by boats going down the Mersey and Irwell Navigation on their way to Liverpool. Chetham's College stands centre left in the background and the Palatine Hotel is on the left behind the factories.

Pomona Pleasure Gardens
Pomona Gardens on the banks of the river Irwell were named after Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards and they occupied the site of Dock 2 and parts of Docks 1 and 3 of Manchester Ship Canal. By road they were approached along Cornbrook Road and by river they could be approached by steamer, a ferry boat from the towpath on the Salford side of the river and by rowing boat.

The gardens originally surrounded a private residence with orchards but in the 1830s these were converted into public Zoological Gardens and in later years pavilions were built for refreshment and dancing. Famous people of the day who visited these pavilions to make speeches include Benjamin Disraeli, John Bright and the Duke of Devonshire.

Now I'm going to sing of a nice young Lady Fair. I met some time ago at the corner of Albert Square. She had jet black eyes, I thought I'd like to own her. In a voice so sweet she asked of me the way down to Pomona.
We met in Albert Square, that night. I'll ne'er forget. Her eyes shone like diamonds and the evening it was wet. Her hair hung down in curls, that lovely little Donah. We rode that night in great delight; away down to Pomona.
We had scarce got in the cab; when she asked of me my name. Of course, I gave it to her and asked of her the same. She lifted up her veil, for her face was covered over. And upon my life it was my wife I was taking down to Pomona.
She said, 'Do you know me now, for we are not in the dark?' Of course, I answered, 'Yes, but it was only a lark.'' Then for your larking pay, forgetting your lonely Donah.' 'You've had your say and now you'll have to pay.' 'For taking your wife down to Pomona.'