Francis had an unhappy childhood after the death of his father, the first duke, who was called Scroop. Virtually rejected by his mother, he spent Eton School holidays at Tatton Hall in Cheshire, the home of his cousin and guardian, Samuel Egerton.
While at Tatton, Francis made frequent visits to his own mining estate at Worsley just a few miles away across the River Mersey, and doubtless turned over in his mind his late father's unfulfilled dream of transporting coal from the mines via the River Irwell to Salford and Manchester.
But he was a sickly youngster and, partly for health reasons, his guardians despatched him on the Grand Tour of Europe - which was something of a must for any young aristocrat in those days.
The Tour was designed to broaden a young man's classical education, but it was an engineering feat, rather than art, which had most impact on the young duke.
At Lyons, he became fascinated by the Languedoc Canal and spent a lot of time touring the system's locks and docks. The Languedoc, now known as the Canal du Midi, links the Atlantic at Bordeaux with the Mediterranean at Sete, 320 miles away, avoiding the long haul around the Iberian peninsula, and it clearly made a big impression on the young man.On his return to England, Egerton plunged himself headlong into the London social scene, and soon fell in love with a
ELIZABETH GUNNING ... she specialised in dukes. Bridgewater was all set to marry the widowed Duchess of Hamilton when a scandal erupted involving her sister.
The wedding was called off - but she then married "Handsome" Jack Campbell, who would later become the Duke of Argyll.
She was the wife of two dukes and the mother of three.
He was set to marry her until a scandal erupted involving her sister. Elizabeth refused the Duke's ultimatum to disown her relative, and the duke stuck stubbornly to his guns and called off the marriage.
Soon afterwards, the Duke quit London society for Worsley and refused to have anything more to do with women until the day he died. He busied himself in the running of the estate - and quickly realised he had a problem. He had copious reserves of coal stretching northwards from Worsley. He had a ready market for that coal in Manchester and Salford, where the demand for fuel simply could not be met. But the cost of transport from one to the other was prohibitive.