Under the bridge

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To mark the completion of the restoration of Carver's Warehouse in Manchester's Piccadilly Basin, developer Town Centre Securities has produced a book charting the revival of the historic building. Here, in an extract from his foreword to the book, Edward Ziff, chairman of TCS, describes his family's involvement with the site. Pictures by Len Grant, also taken from the book.

When the Rochdale Canal finally opened on 21 December 1804 it was the end of a long journey, not just the 33 miles across the Pennines, but for those involved from its original conception in 1766, the end of nearly 40 years of endeavour. It had taken four Acts of Parliament and a substantial amount of money, over £600,000, which was twice the original estimate. The company set up to undertake this major task did, however, manage to pay its first dividend of £1 in 1811, which must have been a great relief to all those who had invested in its shares, which had a nominal value of £85 each. The journey had been not only costly but controversial. Petitions against the canal were presented by the owners and occupiers of mills who combined in opposition, circulating pamphlets and pressing their case before Parliament. Their concern was that the creation of the canal would lead to a diminution of water which led initially to the House of Commons rejecting the first Bill of 1792 promoting the canal.

The original construction of the canal was owed to a member of a notable Lancashire family, Mr Richard Townley JP, who died two years before the canal opened. Carver's Warehouse itself was built as a direct response to the success of the new canal network. Commissioned by Thomas Carver of Halifax – a Yorkshireman – it was built using weather-shot millstone grit rather than the bricks common to Manchester. The canal had certainly played an important part in the development of industry in Lancashire and Yorkshire and Carver's Warehouse stands as testament.

Some 160 years later my father, Arnold Ziff JP – a Yorkshireman – embarked on a journey of his own, buying his first stake in the Rochdale Canal Company in 1964 and finally taking control in 1974, but only after creating a good deal of controversy of his own.

Although he was summoned by the London Stock Exchange to answer a case of criminal offence for making an offer for shares without being a licensed dealer, it was the very fact that the Rochdale Canal Company had been incorporated by an Act of Parliament that allowed him legitimately to canvass the shareholders.

It is strange how history has a habit of repeating itself – December 2007 saw the re-opening of Carver's Warehouse, this time as an office building, a response to the success of the revival of the Canal as a catalyst for commercial activity. Its careful restoration should ensure the continued use of the building for a century to come. In its own way it continues to play a part in the development of business in Lancashire and Yorkshire, adding to the investment stock of the company founded by my father in Yorkshire, Town Centre Securities PLC.

Like the original founder, Richard Townley, my father unfortunately didn't survive to celebrate its opening for business. I hope its re-birth will be as successful…

Click on images above to launch gallery

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