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Let’s Reopen the Manchester Canal!

I spent a recent sunny afternoon walking the once operational Manchester “Mill” Canal. Unfortunately, the canal has not been in service for quite some time and now holds mostly shallow stagnant water and over grown water grasses.

That wasn’t always the case. At one time a charter was set forth by William Byrd III ensuring that Manchester would be able to share the hydropower from the James River with Richmond. The Manchester “Mill” Canal was operational by 1800. The canal received water from the Manchester Dam to service the textile and grist mill industries that were erected along the river. The Mill Canal would terminate into Mill Pond (east of Hull Street) and overflow into Walker’s Creek. This area survived the Civil War but was later demolished to make way for the flood wall.

Below are pictures showing the journey from Manchester Dam, moving eastward along the canal, with a final stop at Mill Pond.

The canal needs a considerable amount of work, but to see water flowing through it once more would be a positive step. The green environment could still enhance the waterway much like the area down by the low line canal (north of the James River). Not only would the clean up of the canal enhance the human experience, but the natural abundance of wild life, birds, and flora would also benefit greatly from the revival of this area.

An enormous, slumbering asset in the form of the Manchester Canal is lying dormant waiting for us to seize the opportunity and make it great again. City of Richmond, are you listening? Let’s Reopen the Manchester Canal!

Manchester Dam



Canal Controls



Entry point to canal from James River



View of canal going under railroad tracks



On flood wall looking north to the city



Overgrown grass in canal looking westward



View of canal looking eastward



Manchester Canal History Plaque



Canal at west side of Hull Street



Mill Pond at east side of Hull Street



Photo Credit – Laura Dyer Hild

99 thoughts on “Let’s Reopen the Manchester Canal!

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  1. Bad idea. 1. A restored Manchester Canal would divert water from the main stem of the James, which should be preserved for environmental and recreational reasons. If the Manchester Canal were rebuilt, it could again be licensed for hydropower use, which would be destructive. It should be recalled that, not so many years ago, ALL of the James River in the section depicted in these photos was diverted and used for power production on the north and south sides of the river. This effectively destroyed the riverine environment and there were NO fish, no eagles, no osprey, heron, etc.}. 2. A restored canal would make more appropriate commercial development along the river, in Manchester, more costly and more difficult. 3. The canal carries with it certain water “rights,’ that may be in conflict with the public interest. 4. There are many proposed projects that, in my opinion, should have priority. One is the redevelopment of the Norfolk Southern rail loop area, in accordance with the adopted Richmond Riverfront Plan. Therefore, I would like to see the Manchester Canal openings in the flood wall blocked, and the canal itself obliterated.

  2. Since Manchester is Richmond’s Brooklyn, any and all water improved water features is a boon for the neighborhood.