He was born in Salford in 1819 but his family moved to Rose Hill Northenden in 1834. The house passed to him at his father’s death and he lived there for the rest of his life. He died at Rose Hill in 1901 and is buried in the family grave of St Wilfrid’s parish church.
In 1880, over a hundred years before Eurostar, he started to dig a tunnel under the English Channel. He was stopped by the British Government because they thought the French might invade England through it..
He collected two million pounds at today’s prices to fund the first public parks in Manchester and Salford.
He built the last mainline railway, the Great Central Line, into London from the north of England.
At the request of the British Colonial Secretary he helped to create Canada with a railway line linking the Pacific with the Atlantic. It became the Canadian Pacific Railway.
He tried to build an Eiffel Tower in London. The site he chose is now Wembley Stadium.
He bought a painting that hung forgotten for over a century in Rose Hill till it was discovered and sold at Sotheby’s in New York for over four million pounds.
He was an MP for thirty years and was knighted in 1869 (his formal title was Sir Edward Watkin of Rose Hill). He was made a baronet in 1880.