In 1821 there was evidence of growing industrial activity. In addition to the soap works of Hazlehurst's and Johnson's, within the town were a windmill, a brewery, a skinyard and quarries at Mill Brow and on Runcorn Hill. There was some ship building and repairing but this was still on a small scale. In 1828 an additional line of locks from the Bridgewater canal to the Mersey was completed to accommodate greatly increased traffic1 .
Somewhat ironically during these years, between 1820 and 1830 the town's reputation as a watering-place was at its peak. Public salt water baths were constructed in 1822 on the bank of the river and boarding houses were built to accommodate summer visitors. In 1824 Runcorn was described as being "the Montpelier of Manchester" where invalids came to restore their health2 . In 1831, a terrace of boarding houses, Belvedere Terrace, was built. Also around this time, Runcorn was a favoured place for education, with half a dozen boarding schools in the town together with a similar number of private schools3 . A public salt-water bath-house on the river was opened in 1831 4.
The decade of the 1820s was a time of considerable industrial expansion. By 1830 the Johnsons, in addition to being soap and chemical manufacturers, were getting involved in other industries: by this date they had opened a ropery. Also by this time Rooke & Hunter had established an acid works in Halton Road and there were two businesses involved in tanning, two steam mills, a slate works, a maltster, a timber yard and a smithy. Francis Salkeld was a partner in Messrs. Crowley & Co, who had a wharf and warehouse on the canal side. Dennis Brundrit's company was involved in shipbuilding and quarrying5 .
In 1833, on the north bank of the river Mersey, the Sankey canal was extended further downstream to a place which was then called Woodend. In the same year the St. Helens & Runcorn Gap Railway was opened which also linked the coal fields of the St. Helens area with the Mersey. Like the canal, the railway terminated at Woodend and here the first railway dock in the world was established 6. This was then a rural area but later it would develop into the industrial West Bank area of Widnes. It was only a short distance, a mere quarter of a mile, from the end of the canal and railway over the Mersey across Runcorn Gap to the port of Runcorn. There were a number of plans for bridging Runcorn Gap, by aqueduct or by bridge, but these came to nothing until much later, when the railway bridge was completed in 18687 and the transporter bridge in the early 20th century.
During this period the decade of the 1830s saw possibly the most significant changes in the town. Hazlehurst's and Johnson's were growing; Hazlehurst's enormous chimney had been erected and Johnson's was soon to follow. Between 1820 and 1840 Runcorn was transformed from a pleasant rather sleepy health resort into a busy, evil-smelling, smoky industrial town.
By 1840 there had been further considerable industrial growth in other areas as well as in soap and chemicals. John Tomkinson owned large quarries at Mill Brow and at Weston. Dennis Brundrit had joined forces with Philip Whiteway to form a large shipyard8 .