Many iconic rivers readily slip from the tongue. The Amazon, the Nile, the Thames, the Ganges and the Mekong are just a few. Each has its unique history and is lauded and sometimes worshipped for its role in the lives of those who dwell on its banks. For different reasons, we can also add to this list the River Mersey, which flows from Greater Manchester to Merseyside in northern England.
Its fame is mainly due to its association with Liverpool, the Beatles, and the 1960s Merseybeat musical movement. People of a certain age are very familiar with the refrain from the catchy Gerry and the Pacemakers song “Ferry Cross the Mersey.”
But few will know that the river originates in the post-industrial town of Stockport in south Manchester, some 40 miles inland. The Mersey rises from a confluence of two smaller rivers, the Goyt and the Tame, just outside Stockport town center.
One might think the town would celebrate its ownership of such a famous waterway, but no. Instead, the underpowered display that marks where the Mersey rises hides in an obscure corner of the town center. Here you can see where the two rivers meet and where the Mersey starts its 69-mile meandering flow to Liverpool Bay and into the Irish Sea.
But you can also see the hefty uprights supporting the motorway that noisily speeds above the new river and the entry to an ominous underpass allowing pedestrians to pass underneath the busy road above. Probably best not to visit at night. It’s hardly inspiring or apt.
Soon after it rises, the Mersey enters a stark culvert as it flows unappreciated under Stockport’s Mersey Square shopping center. Its name is a half-hearted nod, nay an afterthought, to the celebrated river that flows beneath that shoppers cannot see. A bit further on, the Mersey flows anonymously away westwards, to greater adoration in another place altogether.
Know Before You Go
Despite this faux pas, Stockport is a fascinating place. It played a significant role as one of the manufacturing powerhouses of the 19th Century Industrial Revolution. The town was renowned as a centre of excellence for the hatting industry. If you want to see how the modern industrial world was formed Stockport is a compact and historically rich way to find out more.