Barton Lane Aqueduct Portal


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Near Junction of Barton Lane (B5230) and Barton Road (B5211) Barton-upon-Irwell, Eccles, Salford, Greater Manchester


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Near Junction of Barton Lane (B5230) and Barton Road (B5211) Barton-upon-Irwell, Eccles, Salford, Greater Manchester
Salford (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Canal aqueduct portal, built between 1822 and 1824 for the Bridgewater Canal Company.

Reasons for Designation

Barton Lane Aqueduct Portal, built between 1822 and 1824 as part of the Bridgewater Canal, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* it falls into the pre-1830 date range when canal structures warrant serious consideration for listing; * the classical-style portal exhibits a high-standard of architectural design and workmanship, with good-quality ashlar sandstone blocks, obtained locally from the Worsley Delph Quarry; * it displays a notable and wide range of well delineated early-C19 masons' marks.

Historic interest:

* it formed part of the world renowned Barton Aqueduct commissioned by the third Duke of Bridgewater in 1760 with the engineer James Brindley, and was an integral part of the historically significant and innovative Bridgewater canal; * the late-C19 commemorative preservation of the portal is an early example of the recognition of the historical significance of the Bridgewater Canal's role in the industrial revolution.

Group value:

* the portal has a functional and spatial group value with the Grade II*-listed Barton Bridge, Barton Aqueduct and Control Tower; it also has a functional group value with over 40 other Grade II-listed structures along the length of the Bridgewater Canal.


The Bridgwater Canal, conceived by Francis Egerton the 3rd Duke of Bridgwater and his Estate Manager John Gilbert, first received Royal Assent on 23 March 1759, however a change of route necessitated a second Act of Parliament in 1760. Construction work begun in September 1760 and the canal opened on 17 July 1761; it was the forerunner of all modern canals in Great Britain. The canal divided the landscape in a way that had not been seen before and a solution had to be found to allow unimpeded movement along roads. Consequently accommodation bridges and canal aqueducts had to be built, for the very first time in the British Isles. James Brindley, the Duke’s consulting engineer, designed Barton Aqueduct to carry the canal over the River Irwell; many doubted the feasibility of canal barges sailing over another navigable waterway, and one engineer even scoffed: 'I have often heard of castles in the air, but never before saw where one was to be erected'. The aqueduct consisted of three component parts: Barton Lane Aqueduct; a 102m (336ft) long stone revetted approach embankment, and the three-arched Barton Aqueduct over the River Irwell. Barton Lane Aqueduct was the first canal aqueduct in England to be built over a public road, using a substantial wide masonry arch to support the weight of the canal, which was contained within a walled channel, water-proofed with puddled clay. The canal was an instant success and the aqueduct drew crowds of tourists to see this 'wonder of the age', and as a token of pride, it featured in the background of portraits of both the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater and James Brindley.

Between 1822 and 1824, Barton Lane Aqueduct and the adjoining embankment were widened, strengthened, and re-faced as aggrandisement in the classical style, using ashlar sandstone blocks from the Bridgewater Canal Company's Worsley Delph Quarry. The company bought the Mersey and Irwell Navigation in 1885 and in turn, it was bought-out by the Manchester Ship Canal, to allow the unimpeded passage of modern ocean-going ships to Salford. These changes resulted in the construction of the Grade II*-listed Barton hydraulic swing bridge, and control tower (National Heritage List for England (NHLE): 1356522), which necessitated the re-alignment of the Bridgewater Canal and the demolition in 1893 of Brindley’s three-span Barton Aqueduct, and the Barton Lane Aqueduct. Remarkably, the historic significance of the Barton Lane Aqueduct was recognised at the time; the west portal was carefully dismantled and re-erected in 1894 on the north side of Barton Lane, as a commemorative memorial, set into a blue engineering brick retaining wall, on the northern side of Barton Lane. The portal became a Transport Trust 'red wheel' transport heritage site and a red plaque was attached to it in 2016.

Francis Egerton, the third Duke of Bridgewater (1736–1803) was an aristocratic entrepreneur with extensive estates and mines, who had the vision, wealth and connections to build the Bridgewater Canal, England’s first arterial canal. James Brindley (1716-1772) is considered to be the pioneering engineer of the English canal system, having been the principal engineer on numerous canals, including the Bridgewater Canal, the Trent and Mersey Canal, the Oxford Canal, and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, and he is considered to be a major figure of the Industrial Revolution.


Canal aqueduct portal , 1822-1824 for the Bridgewater Canal Company; removed and re-erected 1894 as a commemorative monument.

MATERIALS: ashlar Sherwood Sandstone.

PLAN: a single-span bridge portal arch.

DESCRIPTION: the portal consists of a deep segmental arch of radiating graduated ashlar blocks that spring from skewbacks, flanked by a pair of battered buttresses, each comprising eight courses of large rusticated vee-jointed blocks. An ovolo moulded cornice provides the base for an ashlar parapet that has saddle back copings and projecting end piers, with pyramidal cap stones. A number of the stone blocks exhibit masons' marks, including the moulded cornice. An ashlar tablet attached to the parapet reads: THIS ARCH/ ORIGINALLY FORMED PART OF THE/ FAMOUS BARTON AQUEDUCT, AND/ SPANNED THIS ROAD AT A POINT/ 15 YARDS EAST OF THIS TABLET/ IT WAS REMOVED TO ALLOW OF/ BARTON LANE BEING WIDENED IN 1893/ AND RE-ERECTED IN ITS PRESENT/ POSITION IN 1894 BY THE/ ECCLES CORPORATION./ MELLOR/ MAYOR. A 'red wheel' Transport Trust transport heritage site plaque is attached to the right-hand buttress.


Books and journals
Cossons, N, BP Book of Industrial Archaeology, (1993), 343-345
De Mare, Eric (Author), The Canals of England, (1956), 13, 16, 22, 35, 37-39, 61-62, 119
Yorke, S (Author), English Canals Explained, (2017), 16, 81-87
National Portrait Gallery - Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, accessed 15 May 2019 from
National Portrait Gallery - James Brindley, accessed 15 May 2019 from
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - Egerton, Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, accessed 27 March 2020 from
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - James Brindley, accessed 27 March 2020 from
The Bridgewater Canal - History - A Proud Heritage, accessed 20 March 2020 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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