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Clifton Power Scheme

John Heathcote owner of the Clifton Estate between Manchester and Bolton was experiencing problems with his coal mine at Clifton. It was totally drowned out and therefore could not be worked. On his wedding day he heard about Brindley's great ability and made a mental note that maybe Brindley could help him. Time went by and eventually Heathcote did send for Brindley, who then considered the problem of the flooded mine. After studying the plans of the Clifton Estate and the mine for a while, Brindley came up with a solution. His plans were accepted as feasible and after doing a survey, Brindley carried out the scheme in 1752 and the project was completed four years later in 1756.

Brindley constructed Ringley Weir and from above this he created a tunnel for the water to flow through. When the water reaches the river Irwell, a vertical pit goes down through a siphon under the bed of the river. It then goes back up to ground level on the other side and along an open channel till it enters the side of the hill and ends in a large chamber where there is a water wheel. Over this length described the river Irwell falls 35 feet, which produced enough power to drive the overshot 30-foot diameter wheel. The powerful river Irwell produced enough energy for Brindley to harness and to use to drive a set of pumps that cleared the mines of water and kept them clear.

In 1867 (after 111 years of use) the water wheel was replaced by a water turbine and this was used until a steam pump took its place in 1924. Wet Earth Colliery was closed down in 1929.

This project led to Brindley proving himself to be the leading engineer at that time who was not only able to conceive and plan a project, but could also follow it through to completion. No wonder Brindley was nicknamed 'The Schemer'!

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