Berry, Henry

SUBJECT AREA: Canals, Ports and shipping
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b. 1720 Parr (?), near St Helens, Lancashire, England
d. 30 July 1812 Liverpool, England
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English canal and dock engineer who was responsible for the first true canal, as distinct from a canalized river, in England.
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Little is known of Berry's early life, but it is certain that he knew the district around St Helens intimately, which was of assistance to him in his later canal works. He became Clerk and Assistant to Thomas Steers and proved his natural engineering ability in helping Steers in both the construction of the Newry navigation in Ireland and his supervision of the construction of Salthouse Dock in Liverpool. On Steers's death in 1750 Berry was appointed, at the age of 30, Dock Engineer for Liverpool Docks, and completed the Salthouse Dock three years later. In 1755 he was allowed by the Liverpool Authority—presumably because his full-time service was not required at the docks at that time—to survey and construct the Sankey Brook Navigation (otherwise known as the St Helens Canal), which was completed in 1757. Berry was instructed to make the brook navigable, but with the secret consent and connivance of one of the proprietors he built a lateral canal, the work commencing on 5 September 1755. This was the first dead-water canal in the country, as distinct from an improved river navigation, and preceded Brindley's Bridgewater Canal by some five or six years. On the canal he also constructed at Blackbrook the first pair of staircase locks to be built in England.
Berry later advised on improvements to the Weaver Navigation, and his design for the new locks was accepted. He also carried out in 1769 a survey for a Leeds and Liverpool Canal, but this was not proceeded with and it was left to others to construct this canal. He advised turnpike trustees on bridge construction, but his main work was in Liverpool dock construction and between 1767 and 1771 he built the George's Dock. His final dock work was King's Dock, which was opened on 3 October 1788; he resigned at the age of 68 when the dock was completed. He lived for another 24 years, during which he was described in the local directories as "gentleman" instead of "engineer" or "surveyor" as he had been previously.
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Further Reading
S.A.Harris, 1937, "Liverpool's second dock engineer", Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire 89.
JHB

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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