The Professor Theo Barker Archive - The Sankey Navigation

Professor Theo Barker's 1948 Thesis on the Sankey - "The Sankey Navigation", has been the bedrock of SCARS' claim on the primacy of the Canal among English industrial waterways. The thesis was published in the "Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire", 1948, Volume 100.


Professor Barker kindly consented to allow the Society to grant us permission to reproduce the article as a booklet (see our Publications page), and supplied us with copies of the original photographs used in that journal, along with some which were unpublished. This is the Archive, dating from 1948, presented here.

Professor Barker collaborated with JR Harris to produce "A Merseyside Town in the Industrial Revolution, 1750-1900" from their graduate research. The role of the Sankey in the development of St. Helens is fully explored in that work. This was published in 1954, and has recently been reprinted. It is a classic text of Industrial History and Archaeology.

In 1960 he published "Pilkington Brothers and the Glass Industry", and in 1977 "The Glassmakers - Pilkington, the rise of an international company".


Other works from him include: Histories of three London livery companies - The Girdlers (1957); the Carpenters (with BWE Alford 1968); the Pewterers (with MJ Hatcher, 1974); "The History of London Transport (with RM Robbins) Vol.1, 1974, Vol.2, 1976; a revised edn. of CI Savage's "Economic History of Transport", 1975.


Please click on individual image for more notes.



Sankey Bridges

North of Sankey Bridges. The large boat in the foreground is the DELAMERE, built as an inspection launch for the Weaver Navigation. It was requisitioned in WW2 for duty as a fire-fighting vessel in Birkenhead Docks, from its then owners, Caldwells Foundry of Stockton Heath. Her steam engine was exchanged for a diesel. She was bought as surplus by the Leigh family of Gt. Sankey, and was normally in use on the Weaver, but was brought closer to home in the winter.
Hulme Lock

Hulme Lock - the site of current SCARS restoration and archaeological work. In the distance, above the walker's head, may be seen the Winwick Repair Works (see Vialls' Archive). Note the mooring bollards, French- style, across the towpath.
Winwick Workshops

Maintenance floats moored up on the offside below the Winwick Repair Works (Hulme Lock visible in the distance). The derrick on the right is presumably for lifting the footbridge across the entrance to the dry dock
Dallam Sluice

At Dallam the Sankey Brook crossed the line of the canal on the level below Hulme Lock. The water was let out of the canal by means of these sluices. There are remains still visible, although the waters of the Brook have been diverted wholly into a deepened channel of the canal to prevent flooding in Bewsey and Dallam at times of high tides and strong up-river winds.
Sankey Sugar Works

Motor Packet EH BURTON, ahead of two dumb barges discharging at the Sankey Sugar Works.
Newton Common Lock

After the 1931 Abandonment Act, Newton Common Lock became the limit of navigation, and fixed stone bridges were built to replace the wooden swing bridges which had restricted the weight of road traffic to the east of St. Helens.
Old Double Locks

The first pair of staircase locks in England were built on the Sankey between 1755 and 1757. This view is taken from the railway swing bridge across the top chamber, and shows the pedestrian swing bridge across the lower chamber. Constructing swing bridges, especially after the canal had been built, across lock chambers was the most economical course - the waterway narrows there anyway, and the groundwork is substantial enough to carry the additional engineering.
Blackbrook Terminus

The original terminus of the Canal, before the 1775 extension to the present town centre area around Ravenhead, was at Blackbrook - shown here. Car Mill Dam, not far behind the photographer, provided the water supply for the canal.
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© 2014 SCARS Sankey Canal Restoration Society

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