Monday, 16 January 2017

Of floods and weirs and floating hay ricks

"It was," wrote Thomas Ellwood the local historian
“no uncommon thing to see the great level of green fields completely covered with water presenting the appearance of a large lake , several miles in circuit.”

It was for this reason that the weir was built.  Just beyond the point where the Brook joins the Mersey and at a bend in the river the weir was built to divert flood water from the Mersey down channels harmlessly out to Stretford and the Kicketty Brook.

After a heavy flood in August 1799 broke the banks where Chorlton Brook joined the Mersey, there were fears that the Bridgewater Aqueduct across the flood plain could be damaged by flooding it was decided to build an overflow channel improving the course of Kicketty Brook and build the stone weir.

Not that it always worked.  Soon after it had been built flood water swept it away and during the nineteenth century neither the weir nor the heighted river banks prevented the Mersey bursting out across the plain.

In July 1828 the Mersey flood water transported hay ricks from the farm behind Barlow Hall down to Stretford only later to bring them back, while on another occasion one man was forced to take refuge in a birch tree till the following morning.

Later floods proved to be even more destructive, destroying a bridge across Chorlton Brook and making for six major floods between  December 1880 and October  1881. The last time the weir took an overflow of flood water was 1915.

On a cold bleak and rain swept morning it is possible to sense the importance of the weir.

Stretching out from the wall is a deep and placid pool of water home to ducks and broken by bunches of water plants.

But with just a little imagination how different it might have been on a stormy night when the river swollen with rain water burst over the weir.

Pictures; Higginbotham’s field in flood, J Montgomery 1963, painted from a photograph dated 1946, m800092, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, picture of weir in 1915 from the collection of Tony Walker

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