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!
Photo Credit – Laura Dyer Hild