Manchester, given its importance to British industrialisation, offers a useful platform to refine our understanding of inland navigation in the 18th and 19th centuries. Drawing on the archives of the Rochdale Canal Company, this article provides a new historical study of Manchester's canal-transport infrastructure in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, complementing industrial archaeologists' recent research. The Rochdale Canal, completed in 1804, was one of four major canals that served Manchester in the early 19th century, affording the town greatly improved access to eastern England and its commercial ports. This article analyses the establishment of the Rochdale Canal Company's Piccadilly basin from 1792–1856, a period when the company built eight multi-storeyed warehouses and laid out 25 wharves to facilitate its trade. The article assesses the basin's economic functions, drawing comparisons with Manchester's other canal basins.