An unusual photo showing French navvies working on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal 1890. Notice the so-called 'steam-navvy' behind them. The Manchester Ship Canal was one of the biggest and most audacious civil engineering projects undertaken in the 19th century. The improvement and deepening of the course of the Rivers Mersey and Irwell, the construction of large locks allowed sea-going ships into the 'Port of Manchester'. The Ship Canal was opened on the 21st May 1894 by Queen Victoria.