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The River Mersey ( ) is a river in North West England. It is around long, stretching from Stockportmarker, Greater Manchestermarker, and ending at Liverpool Baymarker, Merseyside. For centuries, it formed part of the ancient county divide between Lancashiremarker and Cheshiremarker.


The Mersey is formed from three tributaries: the River Etherow, the River Goytmarker, and the River Tamemarker. The modern accepted start of the Mersey is at the confluence of the Tame and Goyt, in central Stockportmarker, Greater Manchestermarker. However, older definitions, and many older maps, place its start a few miles up the Goyt; for example the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica states "It is formed by the junction of the Goyt and the Etherow a short distance below Marplemarker in Greater Manchester on the first-named stream."

Stockport to Warrington

From Stockport it flows near Didsburymarker, Northendenmarker, Stretfordmarker, Urmstonmarker and Flixtonmarker, then at Irlammarker it flows into the Manchester Ship Canal, which is the canalised River Irwell to this point. The course of the Mersey has been obliterated by the Canal past Hollins Greenmarker to Rixtonmarker although the old river bed can be seen outside Irlam and also at Warburtonmarker. At Rixton the River Bollinmarker enters the Canal from the south and the Mersey leaves the Canal to the north, meandering through Woolstonmarker, where the Ship Canal Company's dredgings have formed a nature reserve (Woolston Eyes), and Warringtonmarker. It is tidal from Howley Weir in Warrington, although high spring tides often top the weir. A small bypass around Howley Weir, Howley Lock, was created before the ship canal existed, but is now redundant. The lock can still be seen to this day.

Runcorn Gap

West of Warrington the river widens, passing through the Runcorn Gap between the towns of Runcornmarker and Widnesmarker, in Haltonmarker. The Manchester Ship Canal also lies in the Gap, along the southern bank of the river.

The Runcorn Gap is bridged by the Silver Jubilee Bridgemarker and Runcorn Railway Bridge, while a project known as Mersey Gatewaymarker to build a new road bridge over the Mersey east of the existing bridges is currently under consideration, and has received some government support.


From the Runcorn Gap, the river widens into a large estuary, which is three miles (5 km) wide at its widest point near Ellesmere Portmarker. The course of the river then heads north, with Liverpoolmarker to the east and the Wirral Peninsulamarker to the west. The Manchester Ship Canal continues along the Cheshire bank of the river as far as Eastham Locksmarker, where it enters the river. The eastern part of this estuary is much affected by silting, and part of it is marked on modern maps as dry land instead of as tidal. These wetlands are of importance to wildlife, and are listed as a Ramsar site.

The Estuary is also the home of Seaforth Dock, on the Liverpool side of the river. The dock in the 1960s building began as the Royal Seaforth Dock, now known locally as Bootle Docks or the Freeport. The dock deals with around 500,000 containers, 1,236,000 tonnes of oil, over 2.5 million tonnes of grain and animal feed, 452,000 tonnes of wood per year and with 25% of all container traffic between UK and USA making the port one of the most successful in the world. It is known world over as the "Atlantic Gateway". It was also the first UK port with radar assisted operations.

The estuary then narrows to flow between Liverpool and Birkenheadmarker, where it is constricted to a width of , between Albert Dockmarker and the Woodsidemarker ferry terminal. It then flows into Liverpool Baymarker on the Irish Seamarker, after a total course of 68 miles .

The conurbation on both sides of the river in this area is known as Merseyside.

At 8.4m (27' 6") the River Mersey has the second highest tidal range in Britain - second only to the River Severn. This has led to proposals for the future construction of a tidal barrage to generate electricity. Very high spring tides often generate a tidal bore which can penetrate as far upstream as Warrington.

River crossings

Two road tunnels run under the Mersey at Liverpool: the older Queensway Tunnelmarker (opened 1934) connecting with Birkenhead, and the Kingsway Tunnelmarker (opened 1971) connecting with Wallaseymarker. There is also a railway tunnel dating back to the 1880s, which carries passenger services on the Wirral Line of the Merseyrail franchise.

The Mersey Ferrymarker runs between the Pier Headmarker at Liverpool, and the Wirral terminals at Seacombemarker, Wallasey and Woodside, Birkenhead.


Anglo-Saxon Mǽres-ēa =border river, possibly the border between Merciamarker and Northumbriamarker.


Water quality in the River Mersey has been severely affected by industrialisation in the region, and in 1985, the Mersey Basin Campaign was established to improve water quality and encourage waterside regeneration. In 2002, oxygen levels that could support fish along the entire length were witnessed for the first time since industry began on the Mersey. Salmon are now found in the river. They can be viewed on the Salmon Steps at Woolston between the months of September and November. Since 2006 Atlantic Grey Seals have also ventured as far inland as Woolston.

In 2009 it was announced that the river is "cleaner than at any time since the industrial revolution" and is "now considered one of the cleanest [rivers] in the UK".


Since the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal, large commercial vessels do not normally navigate the estuary further upstream than Garstonmarker on the North Bank, or the locks into the Ship Canal at Easthammarker. Deep-water channels are maintained to both. Until the early 20th century, commercial traffic bound for further upstream was mainly carried in large flat-bottomed sailing barges known as Mersey Flats. These could carry cargo as far inland as Howley Wharf in Warrington and (via the Sankey Canal) to St Helensmarker. Motor barges continued to deliver to riverside factories at Warrington until at least the 1970s, but nowadays only pleasure craft and yachts use the upper estuary and the tidal river, with a number of sailing clubs based there. On most high tides, seagoing yachts with their masts raised can navigate as far upstream as Fiddlers Ferrymarker - about 5 km (3 miles) downstream of Warrington - where there is a small marina accessed via a sea lock. Although river craft can continue as far upstream as Howley Weir, there are no landing or mooring facilities. Portable craft can penetrate as far as Woolston. The barrier to further navigation here is a legal one in that the Mersey then shares its course with the Manchester Ship Canal for some miles upstream.

In popular culture

The river is now internationally famous thanks to the music of the 1960s known as Merseybeat from the Mersey Sound and its strong association with Liverpool. The Mersey itself was popularized in the Merseybeat song Ferry Cross the Mersey by Gerry & The Pacemakers. The group later recorded a follow-up, Mersey Lullaby, that is part of the 2007 children's CD/book Blue Moo: Jukebox Hits from Way Back Never, by Sandra Boynton. The band Frankie Goes to Hollywood also recorded "Ferry Cross the Mersey."

Paul McCartney's 2007 song That Was Me, from his album Memory Almost Full mentions merseybeating with the band. Mersey Paradise by The Stone Roses has the river in its title.

Religious significance

The Mersey is considered sacred by British Hindus, and is even worshipped as equivalent to the River Gangesmarker. After a ceremony on the river in September 2007, plans are underway for a large-scale event in 2008 (the year Liverpool will hold the title of European Capital of Culture).


Tributaries of the Mersey include:

See also


External links

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