The Benjamin Hobson Archive: Fiddlers Ferry in 1901
These photographs date from about 1901. Benjamin Hobson was the Registrar of Births and Deaths for Penketh and Cuerdley. He wrote a brief history of the Penketh district in the 1880's. It exists only in hand-written form, and may be viewed at the Local History section of Warrington Library.
At the age of eighty he set about taking a series of photographs to illustrate his earlier history. His family has made this collection of images available to SCARS, and to Warrington Museum, from whom copies may be obtained. SCARS has made use of only a small number of pictures - those featuring Fiddlers Ferry.
Please click on the individual image for further notes.
Two wooden Mersey Flats, the boats for which the Sankey Navigation was built, at the old boatyard beside Fiddlers Ferry lock. As steam tugs came into operation many flats were dismasted and converted to dumb barges, to be towed by a steam packet.
A Mersey Flat uses its own derrick crane to offload hides for the nearby Penketh Tannery. The advantage of water over land transport can be appreciated in this photograph: Each laden cart carries less than a ton. It would have taken fifty or sixty carts to carry away the cargo from the flat's hold, yet that flat could have been towed up the canal by a single horse. Horses were used to haul the flats once they were on the canal, as they could only occasionally make use of their sails.
The Fiddlers Ferry Inn is still there. It was built to cater for travellers using the ferry across the Mersey at this point.
On the site of the westernmost lock of the original two built when the Sankey was extended from Sankey Bridges in 1762 a Sheep Dip works was built where a boatyard had stood. This was occupied by Wilkinson's (1859 - 1885) and Hill & Grundy (1877 - 1880). Lists of craft built there are featured in "Schooner Port", by HF Starkey, now in its second edition. The site returned to being a boatyard during the First World War, when concrete barges were built and launched here.
The lock into the Mersey, looking east. Two locks were originally built here. The second disappeared when the canal was straightened to accommodate the Warrington - Garston railway line in 1847. The Canal had been extended beyond Fiddlers Ferry to Widnes in 1830, but the locks here remained in use at times of congestion there.
Another view of the lock, looking west from across the Canal. The long wooden building, presumably part of the boatyard, features in the first view in this gallery. Two cottages are in view, dating from before the extension to Widnes.
A swing bridge was at the eastern end of the Fiddlers Ferry area - but this is the next one to the east, at Hall Lane, known as "Thompson's Crossing". The foundations of the cottage are still to be found.
The swing bridge leading to the Sheep Dip Works. All the bridges on the Sankey were built to swing aside for the Mersey Flats' masts. The signal, and telegraph poles of the Warrington - Garston line of the LNWR, by now owners of the Sankey, are clearly visible.
A train departs from Fiddlers Ferry Station. The main buildings are still standing. The base of the yard crane for the sidings on the right is still visible in what has become the car park for the Ferry Inn. Note the two-track signal on the left - the lower one set at "Danger" after the passing of the train.
A "nobby", a fishing vessel of the Mersey estuary and Morecambe Bay, is moored in the Canal. The signals featured in the view from the east are more clearly visible. A single post serving two lines is unusual. the swing bridge leading to the Ferry Inn is visible on the right. Goods wagons stand in the siding on the left. The station was opened in 1856, and was closed to passengers in 1950.