The Inland Waterways Protection Society Ltd 

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Newsletter "174" May 2004


Bugsworth Basin Report Annual Report 2004 Hollinwood Branch Canal Hollinwood Canal Society
Manchester and Stockport Canal Society Canal Boats at Bugsworth Census 1891 Bicentenary of Marple Locks opening Historic Brunel Canal Bridge Saved
IWA News Airbus wings by barge Marple Locks & Tramway 30 Years Anniversary
Portobello Engineering CD-ROM Sales    

Entrance Basin undergoing stillage trial - May 2004.
 Photograph: Don Baines

Bugsworth Basin Report

by Ian Edgar MBE   -     Chairman and Hon Site Manager

I am delighted to report in this latest issue of '174' the most stupendous and satisfying progress in the restoration EVER. Progress has been so swift and impressive that it is hard for me and my colleagues who have been so close to the job for so many years that this has actually happened and that we will be open again in such a short time. This has been entirely due to the skills and commitment of British Waterways, the specialist contractors Dew Pitchmastic and Consultants Mott Macdonald. Progress has not been without its problems and we are not quite there yet but nevertheless we seem to be approaching the point where we can say 'a job well done'. 

One of the setbacks was to be found in the Middle Basin Arm which originally manifested itself in water entering the Lower Basin Arm through the wall right at the end. This could not have been noticed previously due to the fact that we had always had the water levels balanced between the two arms. Now there was serious leakage not only between the two arms but no doubt in to the ground and/or to the river as well. At first it was suggested that the wash walls should be sealed in the same manner as the rest of the work by digging a trench behind the wash walls and replacing the clay liner. The important archaeological features in this area (like the foundations to the original building) would not permit this. Following hastily convened on site discussions with the Inspector of Ancient Monuments it was agreed that sealing should be attempted by grouting alone but first the silt must be removed from the arm so that we could see what was actually happening. This revealed a feature which had to date not been appreciated in that the original building on this site appeared to have been much smaller than at first thought with a stone supporting pier in the centre of the arm much the same as the one for the building in the Lower Basin Arm. With the silt removed we had exposed the foundations of this wall as well as evidence of what appeared to be a water supply system. All this had to be faithfully recorded for future research. The finding of these features has meant that future research will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of the construction of the Basin. 

Also found during the excavations is another length of a very substantial battered revetment wall which, to my mind, suggests the line of the original construction of the channel before the Lower Basin Arm was added c1835. A portion of what is thought to be this wall was discovered when we dug the pit for the Millennium Milestone but the line is not as we would have supposed. More research has to be done to build up our knowledge of the construction of the Basin but this will have to wait until time permits and we have consulted English Heritage regarding consents. 

The repair methods seem to have been successful and at the time of writing leakage tests are still in progress but certainly the water loss has been considerably reduced. There are problem pockets in several areas of the site but one would expect this in a project of this magnitude. The Basins are full and BW fortunately have an adequate water supply for further testing. At the time of writing this is in hand. 

The Contractors are now starting to 'clear up' from the Entrance Basin and the Horse Transfer Bridges 58 & 59 back towards Silk Hill Bridge. It is hoped that at least some of the central area will be opened up for the public in a matter of weeks. However the replacement of the archaeological features like setts, sleeper blocks and paving, although now well under way, will take some time. This has to be done by very skilled craftsmen and is slow. If the job is to be done properly to the satisfaction of the Inspector then it cannot be rushed. Our Alan Findlow is in charge of this work and it is for him probably one of the most onerous of tasks of the whole project. We are very grateful for the expertise and commitment he brings to the task and for the co-operation he has so far received from the contractors.

 Many of the former volunteers amongst our readers will remember the huge pile of stone which is now on top of the crusher building yard. This stone is the remnants of former buildings the Society demolished on the line of the By-pass, from former stations and school toilet blocks and brought to the Basin for future construction work. We feel now that this is an eye-sore and there is very little chance of us using it on site. What remains is of such poor quality that it could not be used in modern construction. Efforts have been made to try to sell it or at least get it removed at no cost to the Society but to no avail. British Waterways have kindly agreed to pay for the removal to landfill but we will retain a selected 50 tonnes or so for future dry-stone wall repair work. We shall store this small amount in a less conspicuous place which will not detract from the appearance of the Central Basin Area. 

By the time you read this '174' the new seats funded by the Chinley Well Dressing Group will have been erected in the Upper Basin. These have been made by Mike Malzard free of charge to the Society and, after the cost of materials have been deducted, will leave a substantial donation for Society Funds. Our thanks to Keith Holford and Mike Malzard for this very worthwhile effort. 

Further to the report in the last '174' The Entrance Channel has been surveyed for dredging. This work will be done by another contractor engaged by British Waterways. Possible weak spots have been advised to the BW Engineer and we hope that this work will be done shortly. We understand this will be done by a conventional floating dredger with the material being removed via mud hoppers to a tip site further down the Peak Forest Canal. 

Because this method of disposal it was now no longer necessary for us to delay placing the footbridge at the foot of the run-off weir in what the old-timers know as the 'caravan field'. In this area Bessie Bunker brought in a caravan to be used as a mess room when she first started the restoration with her husband John Bunker. When the caravan was moved up the Middle Basin and as the work progressed the field was used as a dredging tip, latterly the dredgings coming from the major works outside Canalside Cottages. As part of these works the field was levelled and a good depth of very fertile material on top of the original lime ash tip enabled many trees to be planted as part of a scheme funded by the Civic Trust. This was done five years ago and only now have we been able to place the new hardwood bridge funded by the Mersey Basin Trust. We are indebted to the Etherow Goyt Partnership and Whaley Bridge Town Council for providing the additional funds to pay for the plant required for loading stone etc. and for the costs of transport of the new bridge from Callis Mill in knock-down form for re-assembly on site. Thanks are also due to our contractors Dew Pitchmastic for the ready mix concrete used in the piers and also for allowing us to use their on site plant on an hourly basis. This avoided the hefty transport costs of bringing in other hired machines. Repairs to the wing wall of the run-off still has to be done and will be funded by Mersey Basin via the Etherow Goyt Partnership. Pictures of the formal opening of this new bridge appear elsewhere in this issue of '174'.

The opportunity to clear up our tip site near the By-Pass footbridge has also been taken and this has now been levelled and seeded. This will much improve that area for the benefit of everybody. 

We continue to seek further funding which is becoming increasingly hard to come by. The new Steering Group has had a second meeting when the general way forward was discussed. Those present included representatives of various departments of High Peak Borough Council, British Waterways, and the English Heritage Inspector Jon Humble. Don Baines and I represented the IWPS. The consensus appears to be that the several projects in the area are inter-related and by each co-operating with the others on fund raising etc. we shall be able to progress. These schemes are the Whaley Bridge Regeneration Partnership and the Borough Council sponsored opening up of the Peak Forest Tramway as a walking/cycling route. These two projects, and the Bugsworth Basin Restoration are all working independently to secure funding and in management but the framework for co-operation has been established should new opportunities arise for joint ventures. All schemes are within the 'regeneration ' umbrella and all will have an impact on the tourist potential of the immediate area and the financial benefits that will be brought to local business etc. Nothing is going to happen overnight on these projects. The Society's Bugsworth Basin Project remains by far the most well advanced. 

I was delighted to be invited to attend, with British Waterways, a conference on Loch Lomond on an Interreg IIIB North Sea Programme called MOPARK (Mobility and National Parks). This is basically an EC Funded Programme to encourage access to the National Parks via sustainable tourist mobility - in other words without dependence on road transport. The Peak Forest Canal is an admirable route in to the Peak District National Park. British Waterways are working on this project for a route through Bugsworth Basin with proper interpretation facilities and even GPS mapping. One of the other projects being undertaken by the Partners located in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and the Loch Lomond National Park is the development of a solar powered boat. Although this may appear at first sight to be a scheme which offers little benefit to the Society's work at Bugsworth I believe that some good will come of it before the termination of the project in September 2006. 

Those of you who have been on site and noticed the Interpretation Boards have been missing will be pleased to know that they have now been put back following refurbishment at the cost of High Peak Borough Council. This time we have added a layer of impact resistant acrylic sheet in an effort to limit damage of moderate vandal attack. Nothing will really protect these from a determined attack but we hope that this new measure will hopefully prevent the need for further expensive refurbishment. 

As always the Society volunteers continue with the maintenance of the Basin and we will soon have the site handed back to us with all the consequent obligations for grass mowing, painting, weed control etc. etc. We are still low in numbers and we still need more help. Please come along - you will be assured of a welcome. 

Finally for the most up-to-date information on Bugsworth Basin and the repair work please remember our web site is updated weekly with pictures of the work in hand. This work is undertaken by Don Baines who is on site virtually every day. Mike Malzard is also taking a video record of the work as it progresses. Thanks to Don and Mike for their efforts in recording this important period in the history of the restoration and indeed in the history of the Society.


Councillor Ron Bowden, Chair of Whaley Bridge Town Council, with Ian Edgar MBE and IWPS volunteers, Alan Findlow, Mike Malzard and Martin Whalley, officially opens the footbridge over the Seven Holes weir runoff.
Photo: Don Baines, 6th May 2004


This is the first Company Report I (as Chairman) have delivered and is a result of advice received. A concise summary of activity is useful when seeking funding for projects in which the IWPS Ltd. is engaged. The aim is not to list individuals but the performance and activity of the company (Society) as a whole.

I am able to report that the Society has had another successful year.

By forging informal partnerships we have been able to progress the Society’s aspirations for our main aim which is the restoration and development of Bugsworth Canal Basin as an open public recreational facility.

The Mission Statement of the Company (Society) remains unchanged.

Informal partnerships have been further developed with British Waterways, English Heritage, High Peak Borough Council, and Derbyshire County Council. Indirectly the Society has worked more closely with other organisations like English Nature via our main partners.

I as Chairman of the Society and as Hon. Site Manager at Bugsworth Basin represent the IWPS Ltd on other bodies such as the Whaley Bridge Regeneration Partnership and The High Peak Council for Voluntary Service. We remain affiliated to the Inland Waterways Association and are members of The Mersey Basin Trust.

Regular meetings have taken place with British Waterways and English Heritage and the relationship with these two bodies remain excellent. I am extremely grateful for the professional input the Society is able to make to restoration plans particularly in regard to archaeology. During the past twelve months a tremendous amount of time has had to be spent on site whilst the major leak repairs have been under way. Co-operation with the Contractors has been excellent which reflects the professional and knowledgeable input our volunteers have been able to contribute to what is the largest and most expensive project undertaken at Bugsworth and probably on the whole of the Upper Peak Forest Canal.

During the period covered by this report over £1 million has been raised, mostly by British Waterways. The value of the IWPS Ltd. voluntary input is £44,000, with British Waterways value in kind at £72000. The balance of funding has come from the European Regional Development Fund, English Heritage and Countryside Agency (from the Aggregates Levy Fund) and Derbyshire County Council. The financial contribution of British Waterways is around £111,000 with British Waterways managing the contract. Mott Macdonald are the Consulting Engineers and Dew Pitchmastic the Main Contractor.

The Society still holds a Lease on Bugsworth Basin but, with major changes in funding regimes and the need for long term sustainability the lease is no longer considered appropriate. The lease has outlived its usefulness. It has been agreed by the IWPS Ltd Council of Management and British Waterways, that this lease will be terminated and replaced with a non-contractural Memorandum of Agreement, a draft of which has already been agreed. Negotiations are in hand with the Charity Commission on this matter.

The status of the Buxworth land owned by the Society will not change.

Thanks to the support of the Members the Society remains financially satisfactory although there remain concerns about long term core funding which continues to be very difficult to obtain.

During the period covered by this Company (Society) Report the Society has published its Environmental Policy and Equal Opportunities Policy and has updated the Manuals for Health & Safety COSHH Regulations and Health & Safety Policy and Regulations Volunteers’ Handbook. A full Risk Assessment has also been undertaken for all IWPS activities at Bugsworth Basin.

Professional quality volunteer activity has also been undertaken in the fields of Archaeology and Information Technology. The Society has its own website, created in house together with a CD-Rom for sale in aid of funds. Numerous studies have been undertaken particularly ‘A Preliminary Plan for the Reinstatement of Former Buildings and Structures at Bugsworth Basin’ together with a 10-Year Vision Plan for the Development of Bugsworth Basin as an important visitor attraction.

The Society is an important member of a new Steering Group which will integrate the re-opening of Bugsworth Basin with the rejuvenation of Whaley Bridge and the opening up of the trackbed of the Peak Forest Tramway as a new walking and cycling route. Integration is expected to attract more co-ordinated funding but each individual element will continue to be managed (and seek funding) independently. The major participants in this Group are British Waterways, Borough of High Peak and the IWPS Ltd.

The Society is also working with British Waterways on an EC INTERREG MOPARK Scheme which seeks to develop (amongst other projects) links between the cities and the National Parks. Working in partnership with other similar projects in Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Scotland one of the objects is to provide sustainable fuel projects such as solar powered boats.

The Society continues to have a strong and very supportive Membership but along with other similar organisations we are failing to attract new and younger members of the population who seem to eschew from voluntary activity, especially where a high degree of commitment in the management of a Society such as ours is required. I, as Chairman, am particularly grateful to the Council of Management for their commitment and particularly to a limited number who are engaged many hours per week in actually running your Society.

The Society is supported by an independent sales company (The Peak Forest Canal Co. Ltd.). This company administered by just two members, and supported by the two Directors elects each year to Gift Aid all profits to the IWPS Ltd.

The Company (Society) continues with a Council of Management to whom the Bugsworth Basin Sub-Committee Reports. This latter committee consists mostly of members who regularly work at Bugsworth Basin.

Major funding will be required for the next stage in the realisation of the 10-Year Plan. There will be less European Community money available and less Lottery money so obtaining that major funding required is going to be more difficult. Your Council are looking and researching all possibilities for funds but have to add a caution that progress in the period subsequent to this Report may not be so impressive.

It is expected that the main aim of the Society (the Restoration and Re-opening to Navigation of Bugsworth Basin) for which the Society has toiled for many years will have been achieved with the re- opening towards the end of the Summer 2004 – September or even October.

Ian Edgar MBE

Chairman, IWPS Ltd.

Hon. Site Manager, Bugsworth Basin Restoration Scheme

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The closing stages of the Hollinwood Branch of the Ashton Canal but when will it be restored?

by Peter J Whitehead

Up until the early 1920s the Hollinwood Branch, which incorporated the Fairbottom Branch, was extensively used but mining subsidence had always been a problem and Waterhouses tunnel began causing trouble many years previously. The solution to the tunnel difficulties was to gradually remove the overlying ground over several years and it was not until the 1920s that this work was finally completed to leave the canal in a deep cutting where the tunnel had once been. The solution to mining subsidence proved to be intractable and the only way of coping with this problem was to keep raising the banks of the canal. The opening out of the tunnel and the raising of canal banks were both expensive operations that had to be contrasted with falling revenues.

By the mid-1920s it was apparent that the Hollinwood Branch was approaching the end of its industrial life. The canal maintenance team of the London and North Eastern Railway Company were based at the Gorton Canal Depot on the Stockport Branch, which was led by Inspector George Lucas. His team were divided into several gangs that were required to provide maintenance cover for the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals but to these experienced workmen the Hollinwood Branch was a permanent nuisance.

Most of the remaining traffic was concerned with the transportation of coal and because of this, tireless endeavours were made to keep its condition to a minimum standard. Nonetheless, the final blow to the coal traffic came in 1926 as a result of the General Strike. Although this strike only lasted from the 3 – 13 May, many collieries closed never to re-open. The little remaining non-coal traffic quickly fell away as well, due to improved short-haul road transport, and this was followed by yet more subsidence, which on this occasion was centred around Cinderland bridge, a mile below Waterhouses locks. This subsidence occurred in the early 1930s and it was decided that the only way to deal with it was to construct a concrete dam at Cinderland bridge, which severed the Hollinwood Branch above it from the rest of the Ashton Canal. However, it appears that there may still have been limited local traffic on this now isolated section of canal, which included the Fairbottom Branch.

As though this was not enough, two leakages developed on the Fairbottom Branch that made it necessary to lower the water level. This reduced level, coupled with negligible maintenance, made navigation a demanding matter and it is interesting to note that a number of special shallow-draught maintenance boats were provided to enable them to navigate in this area. One of these boats was abandoned on the Fairbottom Branch and its remains could still be seen in 1975.

The construction of the dam at Cinderland bridge brought about the unofficial closure of the Hollinwood Branch in 1932 but there was an abortive attempt to use it again during World War II. By this time the canal above Waterhouses locks and the small reservoir at Hollinwood were choked with weed and rubbish. At this time Hollinwood reservoir was being worked on a small commercial scale as a source of ochre.

After nationalisation, on the 1 January 1948, no attempts were made to repair and re-open the Hollinwood Branch, the steady decline being allowed to continue. By 1948 the Fairbottom Branch could no longer be navigated and the headroom at Bardsley bridge was reduced to 4 feet. In 1955 the section of the canal from Lumb Mill (Cinderland bridge) to Hollinwood and Bardsley was officially closed and in 1961 the remaining section from Lumb Mill to Fairfield Junction on the Ashton Canal was also officially closed. Subsequently, sections of the canal were filled in, particularly in Droylsden, Waterhouses locks were capped and the aqueduct over the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (Manchester and Stalybridge Branch) was demolished as it was leaking badly.

The Hollinwood Branch Canal looking towards Crime Lake and Bridge from Crime Aqueduct. This aqueduct is interesting for its cast-iron construction and it bears the date, 1859.
Photograph: the Author – 21 February 2004


Since those days, the line of the Hollinwood Branch has been severed twice by the construction of the M60 motorway. Once near Daisy Nook Country Park and again, a short distance away, near Crime Lake.

In September 1806, the Ashton Canal Company were reflecting on the Hollinwood Branch and had an idea about ‘---- making a communication between the Rochdale Canal and the Ashton Canal at or near Hollinwood’. It was decided to advertise their intention and to seek an Act to give them such powers ‘---- in case they see fit to do so ----’. This scheme came to nothing but Arthur Hornsby of the Peak Forest Canal Society resurrected this idea again in the 1970s. Arthur was an engineer working for Dew Construction Ltd of Oldham and he firmly believed that a link between the Rochdale Canal and the Hollinwood Branch was possible.

An examination of an old Ordnance Survey map suggests that such a link could be made from just before the site of Hollinwood locks (locks 23, 24 and 25) and the distance between the two canals at this point is about 875 yards. In 1791, when entrepreneurs were actively planning canal routes, a canal on a similar line was proposed but this idea came to nothing.

In spite of the many problems with the Hollinwood Branch it is still technically feasible to restore most of it, including the Fairbottom Branch and one way would be to actually make such a link with the Rochdale Canal at or near Hollinwood. It is interesting to speculate about the beneficial effect this would have on the area, especially as there would then be a canal link to Daisy Nook Country Park, the industrial hamlet of Park Bridge (with its own Visitor Centre), the Medlock valley and pleasant walking country around Hartshead Pike. It would also provide an alternative canal route from the Rochdale Canal to the Ashton, Peak Forest and Huddersfield Narrow Canals and potentially this could bring enormous benefits to the area.

Taylor’s Stop Place on the Fairbottom Branch of the Ashton Canal. The tower, just visible on the hilltop, is the famous Hartshead Pike built in 1863 to celebrate the wedding of the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The area surrounding the pike is steeped in legends, some of which go back to the days of the Druids.
Photograph: the Author – 31 March 1983

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The Hollinwood Canal Society

by Peter J Whitehead

The inaugural meeting of the Hollinwood Canal Society was held at the John Howarth Visitor Centre, Daisy Nook Country Park, Off Newmarket Road and Stannybrook Road, Failsworth, at 2:00pm on Saturday, 21 February 2004. About 50 people were present.

At the introduction it was stated that the aim of the new Society was to campaign for the restoration of as much as possible of the original Hollinwood and Fairbottom Branch Canals and to remake a connection with the Ashton Canal at Fairfield Junction. Furthermore, there was much interest in cutting a short length of new canal from near the site of lock 23 at Hollinwood to connect with the Rochdale Canal. It was thought that the latter was of significance in that this would become a catalyst for the regeneration of Hollinwood. Both Tameside and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Councils had expressed an interest in this project and had made donations to enable a feasibility study to be undertaken.

It was acknowledged that all the line of the original canal had been sold since the early 1960s and it was not known how many parcels of land this consisted of or whom the owners were, apart from the section running through the Daisy Nook Country Park. Some parts of the canal had been filled in, while other parts had been built on and this was especially so in Hollinwood and Droylsden. It was appreciated that in Droylsden it would more than likely be necessary to reroute the canal in order to make a connection with the Ashton Canal.

It was asserted that six areas of significance needed to be addressed:

Resistance to change

Ownership of land

Wildlife habitats




After some discussion about these topics there was a short slide presentation to show the present condition of the canal from Hollinwood to the point where the M60 motorway severed the canal close by the John Howarth Visitor Centre. This presentation demonstrated how the M60 also severed the canal near Woodhouse Green Farm, north west of Daisy Nook Country Park. It was also pointed out that the canal was cut off in the 1960s by the demolition of the aqueduct over the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (Manchester and Stalybridge Branch). Evidently this was demolished because it was leaking badly. Consequently, this aqueduct would require replacing and two new aqueducts would be required over the M60. Due to mining subsidence it was not known whether these aqueducts would be on the level of the original canal or not. It was thought that there would only be one or two feet in it either way. This exemplified the need for a survey to be undertaken to determine the correct levels and find out by how much the old bed of the canal needs to be raised where it is suffering from subsidence. It was understood that the particular coal seam responsible for much of the subsidence was only about 2 feet thick.

That part of the canal, which was still ‘in water’ was located in the Country Park itself and the Park Ranger said that she was agreeable for trees along the line of the canal to be felled in order to safeguard the integrity of the canal bed and towpath. Some of the canal bed was currently used as a bridle path and it was thought that this could easily be re-sited alongside the towpath.

It was then considered that the next logical step would be to make the canal through the Country Park navigable again so that a trip boat could use it. The example of the Huddersfield Canal Society was cited at this point. One of their first acts of restoration was to make a section of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Uppermill navigable again and have trip boat running on it. The part of the canal referred to as actually being ‘in water’ runs from the site of the former Crime Bridge, adjacent to Crime Lake, to as far as Valley Aqueduct on the Fairbottom Branch, a distance of some 1,320 yards. It would be a relatively easy matter to extend the latter from Valley Aqueduct to Bardsley Wharf/Bridge, where the Ashton – Oldham road crosses, to gain another 484 yards to give an overall length of 1,804 yards, or just over a mile.

In particular, the Fairbottom Branch is severely affected by Bulrush (Typha latifolia), which is a rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial plant that grows to about 9 feet tall. The rhizomatous nature of this aggressive plant enables it to first colonise open water, which it then rapidly converts to semi-aquatic, then swamp and finally land. Out of season dredging, to prevent wildlife habitat damage, would soon make this channel navigable again.

The next logical step in the restoration would be to reinstate the four Waterhouses locks (locks 19 to 22) and reopen the canal between the John Howarth Visitor Centre/site of the former Waterhouses Bridge and the junction of the Fairbottom Branch. This would increase the navigable length by another 770 yards and provide the added interest of the aqueduct over the river Medlock and four locks, the inner pair being staircase locks. Originally, a beam engine was installed here to pump water back to the upper level each time boats used these locks. However, in the early stages it was thought that there would be no need to fit modern electric pumps here as there would be an ample supply of water in Crime Lake to meet demands. In connection with this, it was pointed out that the Medlock Aqueduct, a Grade II listed structure, was in poor condition and that a considerable amount of money would be required to repair it.

At this point, the Officers of the new society were thanked for all the work they had done and the meeting closed at 4:00pm.

The ‘Manchester & Stockport Canal Society’

by Peter J Whitehead


The Stockport Branch Canal left the main line of the Ashton Canal at Clayton, Manchester, between locks 10 and 11 and its lock-free course was in a generally southerly direction for a distance of almost five miles to terminate above Stockport town centre just beyond Lancashire Hill.

The Manchester Mercury reported on the 7 February 1792 that there had been a general meeting of subscribers to the Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne and Oldham canal. The original Act, enabling construction of this canal, was passed on the 11 June 1792. This was an Act ‘for making a navigable canal from Manchester to or near Ashton-under-Lyne and Oldham in the County Palatine of Lancashire’. The canal does not appear to have opened on any specific date but a report in the Doncaster Journal and Yorkshire Advertiser on the 4 February 1797 stated that:

---- a canal conveyance was opened a few days ago between Stockport and Manchester, there has been one to Ashton some months. The spirit of canal cutting is so general in that quarter, that in a few years all the principle towns may be visited by water. As an improvement of the country, and facilitating the removal of various articles of every kind that it contains, the advantages to be derived will certainly be found of general utility.

Commercial carrying on the Stockport branch dwindled during the 1930s and the terminal basin at Stockport was closed and eventually filled in. Notwithstanding this, the canal remained navigable, although with increasing difficulty due to weed growth. It lingered on like this into the 1950s to be finally declared dead in 1962. The section of canal in Reddish from Sandfold bridge through Woolfenden’s bridge to Davenport’s swivel bridge was filled in during 1965 and the rest was filled in at later dates.

Inaugural Meeting of the Society

The inaugural meeting of the ‘Manchester & Stockport Canal Society’ was held on Tuesday, 3 February 2004 at 7:30pm in the Council Chamber of Stockport Town Hall. This historic meeting was attended by IWPS Council Members, Ian Edgar, Don Baines and Peter Whitehead and by Member, Sarah Edgar. A total of 53 persons attended, including the acting Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer as well as several Stockport Councillors and representatives from British Waterways.

The purpose of this new canal society is to promote the restoration of the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal. The following appointments were made for the inaugural year. Roland Dotchin to be Chairman, David Sumner, of the Huddersfield Canal Society, to be Vice Chairman, Councillor Peter G Scott, Councillor for North Reddish, to be Secretary, Tony Rotherham to be Treasurer and Bill Bates to be Public Relations Officer.

It was reported to the inaugural meeting that work on a feasibility study by Sheffield Hallam University had already commenced. Three students, studying for a Diploma in Planning, were conducting this study under the supervision of Professor Ted Kitchen.

For the moment, the name of the Society is only in draft form and further consideration will be given to this at the next meeting in April 2004. It was thought that this name reflected the fact that the canal commenced in Manchester and was more meaningful than the alternative, ‘Stockport Canal Society’.

Following the appointment of Officers and a resolution to set up a Bank Account, representatives from British Waterways made some comments in which they particularly stressed the importance of locating possible sources of funding and of the significance of the regeneration of nearby developments in housing and leisure facilities. Additionally, members made a number of useful suggestions for study and action. These included:

The idea of a Marina at the southern end to attract activity.

The study of the heritage of buildings along the line of the canal.

The possibility of a link to Debdale Reservoir at Gorton.

The opening up of the Beat Bank Branch Canal in Reddish to give access to more rural parts.

The excavation and possible restoration of two vessels buried in the vicinity of the former Gorton Canal Depot.

The use of private capital.

Finally, it was suggested that there should be a walk along the line of the canal in spring and that a newsletter should be set up for members and that the website should enable people to join the Society online. Councillor Kenneth Holt, the Mayor of Stockport, offered to help with publicity.

The next meeting of the Society was to be held in the Council Chamber of Stockport Town Hall on Tuesday, 6 April 2004 at 7:30pm.

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British Waterways - Visitor Moorings

Representatives from waterway user groups attended a meeting with British Waterways in February to review its draft Moorings Code and to consider arrangements for 2004. At the meeting, BW announced that the draft Mooring Code had not been a success and was being dropped. In its place, BW proposes to introduce Continuous Cruising Guidelines. These would set out what was expected of continuous cruisers and their limitations on mooring in the same stretch of canal regularly. A draft was tabled at the meeting, but those present were unhappy with its tone and some of the detail. Issues were discussed and BW agreed to review the document to reflect these concerns. A revision of the document has now been provided and user groups have been invited to submit further comments. Once any adjustments have been made in the light of these further comments, British Waterways then intends to start a full consultation on the topic. The meeting also discussed, but expressed concerns about, the concept of 'roving mooring permits' as a way around residential moorings planning permissions. BW has agreed to further consider how it might gain more residential moorings with proper planning permissions.

Environment Agency Navigation Funding

In January, John Fletcher, IWA national chairman, wrote to Alun Michael MP, Minister for Rural Affairs, who has responsibility for the inland waterways, to press the case for additional funding for the Environment Agency's navigation function. The Minister has replied:

"The Agency understands that the success of the (Agency's Navigation) Strategy will ultimately depend on the resources it can attract, not only to address the poor condition of the infrastructure of its waterways but also the support the plans for its development.

The Agency plans to raise funds from a mixture of increased charges, external funding and increased grant-in-aid. Much as I support the Strategy, pressure on the Department's resources is such that I cannot give assurances about increasing the Agency's future grant-in-aid levels. The Spending Review 2004 and the Agency's corporate planning process are currently underway and, once completed, will provide a more comprehensive picture of Agency resources. However, in the light of competing pressures which both DEFRA and the Environment Agency must address, and the limited scope which must exist for raising income from increased charges, it will be vital for the Agency to form partnerships with bodies such as RDAs, and to secure other external funding if the strategy is to be a success.

I am pleased to see that your Association will be lending its support to the Agency's initiatives especially the Fens Waterway Link. I appreciate that as a voluntary organisation the level of support you can provide is limited, but your example will serve as an example to other bodies with greater resources at their disposal whose help will be invaluable in taking forward major projects such as the Link."

At a meeting of navigation interests in Thames Region, the Agency advised that as a whole it will get £4 million less grant-in-aid from the government in the financial year 2004-5, but the Agency's board has agreed that the navigation function should receive £2 million more from the Agency's overall budget to pay for urgent capital works. The Agency is also making a significant bid for government funds for future navigation funding in the next round of financial commitments from the Treasury to cover the period 2005 to 2008. This is one of only four such bids that the Agency's Board is recommending; the result is likely to be known in June.

National Lottery Funding

IWA has responded to the Decision Document issued in July 2003 by the Department of Culture Media and Sport, regarding National Lottery funding. Of particular concern was Section 5 of the document, Being More Efficient, which proposed sanctions against distributors who held money on deposit pending the drawing down of grants by successful applicants. The proposed penalties included interest earned on such deposits being redistributed amongst all the lottery distributors, and at the more severe end, if the balances held on deposit were deemed excessive, then those balances themselves could be clawed back and redistributed amongst other lottery distributors.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, which continues to be the distributor most useful to the inland waterways sector, would be likely to be hard hit by these proposals, because:

It funds predominantly capital, rather than revenue, projects.

It requires matched funding on almost all schemes, which inevitably creates time lags.

It operates in areas where there are often ancient structures in delicate states of repair, and layers of statutory protection that need to be worked through before a project can be completed.

The Association has asked the Department to reconsider its proposals particularly in the light of the impact it would have on a distributor that has hitherto received virtually no public or governmental criticism of its work in the recent past.

Wild Over Waterways

The Wild over Waterways partnership was formed in August 2001 when senior officers of British Waterways, IWA and The Waterways Trust signed two-year partnership agreement that committed the three organisations to working together to deliver a raft of educational and practical activities for children and young people under the brand name Wild Over Waterways, or abbreviated to WOW.

A Steering Group comprising two representatives from each partner organisation was set up and they invited Sir Peter Soulsby and Audrey Smith to be chairman and vice chairman respectively.

In due course, three members of staff were appointed to develop and manage the following areas: electronic communication including the WOW website; education for Key Stages 1 & 2 including down-loadable resources for schools; events and community activities. All work under the day-to-day leadership of John Butterly, National Education Manager for British Waterways (and are, technically, employed by BW).

The WOW website has received national commendation. It can be found at Educational resources have proved popular with schools and WOW events have taken place at IWA's national waterways festivals in 2001, 2002 and 2003; at Canalway Cavalcade in 2002 and 2003, as well as at Crick Boat Show and a variety of BW waterside festivals and events. Funding was obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a series of four Water Racket events during 2003 and 2004.

During recent months, all three organisations have committed to continuing to work together and a revised partnership agreement is currently under discussion. Meanwhile, the WOW team's work has continued. Plans are in hand for WOW events to be delivered at Canalway Cavalcade, Crick Boat Show and IWA's National Waterways Festival at Burton-on-Trent.

A Water Racket event is scheduled to take place in Wigan over the weekend of 10th and 11th July.

Izzy Gascoigne has recently been appointed WOW events co-ordinator, to cover for Kirsten Fussing who is now on maternity leave.

To strengthen the links with the voluntary sector, IWA's Council has appointed council member Gillian Smith to act as IWA's Co-ordinator with WoW.

Ashby Canal

Leicestershire County Council has formally applied for an Order under the Transport & Works Act to extend the navigable section of the Ashby Canal from its existing terminus at Snarestone back to Measham. The proposed Order also includes provision for operation and maintenance of the canal, and powers to transfer it to British Waterways.

Copies of the proposed Order and associated documents can be inspected at Leicestershire County Council's County Hall in Leicester, or at the Measham Community Office, 56 High Street, Measham.

Objections or representations concerning the Order need to be submitted to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by 29th March. IWA has been closely associated with drawing up the proposals and therefore strongly supports them, and will therefore be making a submission to support the proposals.

Ashton Canal - Hollinwood Branch

The Hollinwood Canal Society held its first public meeting on 21st February in the John Howarth Visitor Centre, Daisy Nook Country Park. About 50 people attended, many enrolling as members. Steve Connolly, chairman of IWA's Manchester Branch, and Stephen Pugmire, a senior British Waterways engineer, were in attendance to offer their support.

The society aims to see the restoration of the Hollinwood and Fairbottom branches of the Ashton Canal through Daisy Nook Country Park, the re-connection of the canals in Daisy Nook with the Ashton Canal in Droylsden and the opening of a new link through to the Rochdale Canal at Hollinwood, pursuing an idea first put forward in 1791. The society is referring to the entire project as The Hollinwood Canal.

Funding has been obtained from Tameside and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Councils to enable initial studies and investigations to be carried out. Roy Sutton, one of IWA honorary consulting engineers, has carried out a preliminary engineering feasibility study.

The society has been working closely with the staff of Oldham Countryside Service and Daisy Nook Country Park. Both a society working party weekend and a Waterway Recovery Group weekend have been arranged for later in the year. A programme of events for members has been arranged. The society has a new Internet site at

Ashton Canal - Stockport Branch

The inaugural meeting of the society to campaign for the restoration of the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal met at Stockport Town Hall on 3rd February. The numbers attending were such that those attending had to transfer from a meeting room into the main council chamber.

After an initial temporary chairman had brought the meeting to order, Roland Dotchin, also the chairman of Tudor Cruising Club volunteered to take on the chairmanship for the next stage. David Sumner MBE, formerly chairman of Huddersfield Canal Society, accepted vice-chairmanship. Local councillor Peter Scott agreed to continue as secretary and announced that Stockport Council had offered to provide £1,000 to enable Hallamshire University students to produce a pre-feasibility study of the restoration. The three students undertaking this task were in the body of the meeting.

The new society is to be named the Manchester and Stockport Canal Society to reflect that the canal is partly in Manchester City Council area and partly in Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council's area.

Martin Clarke, British Waterways' North West Restoration Manager gave an outline of other schemes now progressing in the North West, including the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal, indicated the sort of assistance that could be given to a project with a comparatively limited budget, citing progress on the Sankey Navigation restoration, and indicated that British Waterways would help in any way it reasonably could, whilst bearing in mind that BW has no funds to spend on schemes that are not currently part of its responsibilities.

The meeting concluded with those present invited to contribute £10 towards set up costs (and a potential initial newsletter) and the suggestion of meetings initially on a quarterly basis.

Cotswold Canals

At the end of January, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had deferred its decision on British Waterways' bid, on behalf of the Cotswold Canals Partnership, for a grant towards the first phase of the restoration of the Cotswold Canals. The bid was for just over half the funding for the £40 million restoration of the seven-mile Stroudwater Navigation, from Saul Junction to Stroud, and a further two and a half miles of the Thames & Severn Canal from Stroud to Brimscombe.

The Lottery Fund deferred its decision until its next major grant meeting, which is due to take place in July 2004. The Lottery Fund is understood to be favourably inclined towards the Cotswold Canals application, but simply had insufficient funds available to agree all the grants put forward at its January meeting that it wished to accommodate. There is known to be fierce competition for funds within this part of the Lottery Fund, and as a result BW has been asked to scale down its bid and to increase the involvement of other partners in the area.

The project is backed by a strong community partnership made up of:

British Waterways; The Waterways Trust; The Cotswold Canals Trust; IWA, Stroud District Council; Cotswold District Council; North Wiltshire District Council; Gloucester County Council; Wiltshire County Council; The Environment Agency; Cotswold Water Park Society; the South West Regional Development Agency; Learning & Skills Council; South West Tourism and the Company of Proprietors Stroudwater Navigation.

River Dee

McTay Marine Limited of Bromborough in the Wirral is a small shipbuilding yard, employing around 70 workers. The yard's latest vessel Afon Dyfrdwy (Welsh for River Dee) is a self-propelled barge for use on the Dee built specifically to carry a wing for the new Airbus A380. The boat is almost 58 metres long, with a beam of almost 15 metres, a loaded draught of 1.5 metres, and air draft of 4.3 metres, and weighs approximately 800 tonnes fully laden.

The wings for the Airbus A380 are being built at Broughton, near Chester. Airbus is an international project, parts being manufactured in a number of different countries and the final assembly being undertaken in Toulouse, France. Previously wings were flown to Toulouse in a specially built aircraft, but the latest wings are much larger and so transport by water is ideal.

The new factory for building the wings is situated adjacent to the Dee and a special under water grid has been built for the barge to ground on to provide a level access for the multipurpose vehicle used to transport wings from the factory to the barge.

Once each wing is loaded it is taken down river to Mostyn Dock. The passage down the Dee has to be carefully timed to ensure that transit of the low bridges will have sufficient air draft as well as the necessary depth of water. At Mostyn Dock the wings are transferred to a special roll on roll off ferry for shipment to Bordeaux and then onwards to Toulouse. The launch, or rather the float out of Afon Dyfrdwy took place in the second week of February. The boat was then towed to Birkenhead Docks for final fitting out. The builder's trials are due to be conducted on the Mersey during March, followed by hand over to the operating company, Holyhead Transportation Company Limited. The transportation of the first wings will probably be during April.

Editorial Note: See also the articles later in the magazine relating to the above article.

River Great Ouse

Cambridgeshire County Council has applied for an Order under the Transport & Works Act to construct, maintain and operate a guided busway, which includes a link to St Ives that crosses the Great Ouse. The crossing of the river would be on a new deck to the existing viaduct of the former Huntingdon to Cambridge railway.

As part of the Order, the Council is seeking powers to temporarily close the Great Ouse to navigation for unspecified periods and at an unspecified time. IWA is therefore likely to object to the order until assurances can be obtained that any stoppage will be for a reasonable period outside of busiest times of use.

Liverpool Canal Link

At the end of February, British Waterways submitted its planning application to Liverpool City Council to build its planned canal link across the Pier Head linking the city's Central and South Docks. The £15.5 million scheme would allow boats to cruise from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, past the world-famous Three Graces and into the Albert Dock.

The route was the most popular in a public survey carried out in 2001 - it was favoured by 77% of respondents. The Link project would support the continuing regeneration aims of partner organisations for the Liverpool Waterfront and the wider Merseyside area. Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Vision and the Mersey Dock & Harbour Company have all expressed support for the project. In particular, an economic study has identified the following benefits:

An estimated 200,000 extra visitors annually to the Liverpool Waterfront who will generate an additional £1.9 million tourism spend each year.

More than 4,500 visiting boats each year.

An estimated £2.2 million in expenditure annually from boating-related activity.

Nearly 200 additional local jobs.

An increase in property prices in the immediate link area and the wider canal corridor.

Currently the Leeds & Liverpool Canal ends adjacent to the Tobacco Warehouse at Stanley Dock. The plans submitted would open up another 3.5 miles of dock water space to inland waterways craft - a route that is presently only accessible via the Mersey tideway, which can be hazardous.

Major work would include the excavation of the Trafalgar Dock, creating 470 metres of new channel from Salisbury Dock to West Waterloo Dock. A new lock and road bridge will be built at the northern end at Princes Dock. The channel would then reach the plaza at Pier Head before passing by the proposed Fourth Grace into Canning Dock.

Subject to planning permission and necessary finance package, preparatory works could commence later this year when construction of a cruise liner facility begins at Pier Head. The Canal Link would then be planned to open in spring 2007 in time for the city's 800th anniversary and the World Canals Conference, assuming that IWA's bid to host it is successful, and a year in advance of Liverpool being the Capital of Culture in 2008.

Nottingham Canal

IWA's Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Branch has secured additional funding of £22,560 from the Department for Transport's Cycle Projects Fund for the replacement of the old narrow towing path bridge adjacent to Castle Lock in Nottingham. The bridge has been completed by British Waterways and Nottingham City Council and includes new paving and handrails.

IWA worked with BW and the City Council to release funding that was not obtainable by either body to replace the former bridge. The new bridge allows wider access to a greater range of users in a safe manner and, according to Nottingham City Council, is used by 300 cyclists per day. The new bridge should also encourage additional leisure use of the towing path in the City.

Rochdale Canal

A substantial landslip on 5th February has closed the Rochdale Canal, just above lock 13, near Callis Mill at Hebden Bridge.

A seventy-yard wide section of field slipped into the canal and early investigations concluded that the landslide was the result of prolonged heavy rainfall through January, which created high ground water and destabilised the hillside. The canal remains closed until further notice, but is likely to reopen well before Easter.

Calderdale Council has expressed concern that many waterway interests are under the misapprehension that the Rochdale Canal Workshop disappeared when British Waterways took over management of the canal. The Callis Mill workshop and staff have survived unchanged, and although more local authority work is now carried out, the workshops have continued to produce equipment and structures for a wide range of purposes associated with the inland waterways around the country.

River Thames

The Court of Appeal challenge to the existence of the right of navigation through Hedsor Water has been lost by the landowner, the widow of city tycoon 'Tiny' Rowlands, who declared this stretch of water as private. Mrs Rowlands has now asked for leave to appeal to the House of Lords, and the outcome of this is likely to be known in March. The Environment Agency has been defending the right of navigation on Hedsor Water in the courts; however, until there is a final legal decision, the Agency does not intend to exacerbate the situation by encouraging freedom to navigate.

Hedsor Wharf, just north of the well-known Cliveden reach on the Thames, between Maidenhead and Bourne End, was an important loading point for cargo for over 500 years, until the Cookham Lock cut bypassed it in 1830. There was once a lock at the lower end of Hedsor Water, the original cottage for which, a single room cut from the chalk and faced with brick, still stands.

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The Canal Boats at Bugsworth Basin 1891

Here are the people who spent the night of 5th April, 1891 moored at Bugsworth Canal Basin. This shows that the community who lived on the canal boats came from far and wide. Their children were born wherever the boat happened to be. Note that both the local boats had only crew on board. Presumably the boat captains would have been enjoying a rare night on dry land with friends or family.

Found on the Internet—Don Baines

“Charlotte” from Bugsworth

James Taylor






“Canada” from Tunstall

Charles New






Harriett New





Cheleson, Nr Derby

Thomas New




“Beatrice” from Malkins Bank

Samuel Hodgkinson





Elton Nr Sandbach

Sarah Hodgkinson





Tetton Nr Sandbach

Joseph Hodgkinson




Boat Boy

Tetton Nr Sandbach

“Mabel” from Red Bull

John Barnett





Scotland, Kilmarnock

George Henry Barnett





Cheshire, Congleton

“James” from Malkins Bank

John Wakefield





Staffordshire, Leek

Martha Wakefield





Staffordshire, Stoke

Henry Wakefield





Staffordshire, Etruria

David Wakefield




Staffordshire, Etruria

“Kate” from Runcorn

John Haughton





Stratford on Avon

Ann Haughton






Lucy Haughton



Monmouth, Newport

“Annie” from Bugsworth

Joseph Willshaw





Staffordshire, Bradley Green

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Bicentenary of the opening of Marple Locks on the Peak Forest Canal

The bicentenary celebrations of the opening of Marple locks are due to be held on Saturday, 3 July 2004. Maria, the only surviving working boat from the Peak Forest Canal is expected to be there, resplendent in her original Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company livery. Maria was built at the Top Lock boatyard of James ‘Jimmy’ Jinks in July 1854, so she will be celebrating her 150th birthday at the same time. Maria was named after a daughter of James Jinks and his wife, Alice Robinson, who was born on the 7 May 1839 at Well Cottage, Marple.

Marple Locks were completed on Saturday, 13 October 1804 and Samuel Oldknow’s boat, Perseverance, was the first to lock down to the Grand Aqueduct. Samuel offered the workmen posset (a drink made of hot milk curdled with ale) to complete the locks on time and the canal bridge that carries the New Mills – Stockport road over the canal became known as Posset Bridge. Marple Tramway, built to bypass the locks during construction, remained open for another three years before it was closed in 1807.

It is understood that that the great man himself, Samuel Oldknow, will be making an appearance at the celebrations.

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Historic Brunel canal bridge is saved

An historic cast-iron canal bridge, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, has been saved after being found inside a modern brick bridge that was about to be demolished. The bridge, said to be the earliest of only eight surviving Brunel bridges, is to be dismantled and removed from harm’s way. Its existence was only discovered when Dr Steven Brindle, an English Heritage inspector of ancient monuments, discovered designs for its cast-iron beams among Brunel’s surviving documents in the National Archives.

The bridge crosses the Grand Union Canal close to Paddington station and by good fortune it was found just before contracts were due to be let to demolish it. It survived at the previously inaccessible northern end of the Bishop’s Road Bridge, due to be replaced as part of a road improvement scheme.

It lost its railings long ago but otherwise it was perfectly preserved below brick parapets. It was only recognisable from below where its construction exactly matched Brunel’s sketches and notes. Westminster Council then had to halt their demolition plans, decide on a new location for it, and secure funding for its full restoration.

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The following article first appeared in the February 2004 edition of RE:PORT, magazine of The Boat Museum Society, edited by Chris Griffiths. The article is reproduced by kind permission of its author, Norman Stainthorp

It elaborates on the previous article in News from the IWA and is followed by and Editorial comment and an observation from Peter Whitehead.


Barge Traffic to Return to the Wirral (and this time I’m not joking!)

The wings for the new “Super” Airbus, A380, are being manufactured at Sandycroft, near Chester. The only problem so far is that the wings are too big to fit into the giant “Beluga” aircraft that daily grace the skies over Chester.

This huge aircraft collects the regular size Airbus wings for delivery to Toulouse in France where the disparate bits of European Airbus are gathered together and assembled.

As the new “Super” Airbus wings are too large even for the “Beluga” (which can carry a Boeing 747 fuselage), the wings are, incredibly, to commence their journey from Chester by barge.

This odyssey will commence on the banks of the tidal River Dee, two miles below Chester, but upstream of three of the Queensferry road and rail bridges, none of which have particularly generous headroom for river traffic.

This means there is a very tight tidal window between the barge carrying the wings being on the bottom and being jammed under any one of the three bridges.

Having successfully negotiated the bridges, the new barge will then carry the wings one at a time along the Welsh side of the River Dee estuary as far as Mostyn Dock where the wings will be transferred to a seagoing ship.

(Since writing the above paragraph it is now believed that the entire barge and its cargo of wings will be lifted onto the ship).

The ship will then take the cargo south to Bordeaux where the plan is to continue the voyage by barge up the River Garonne, again negotiating another low bridge with a tight tidal window.

Some press comments suggest however that the journey from Bordeaux to Toulouse may now be by road, but at the moment the situation is unclear. If they had intended to go all the way by river and canal to Toulouse it would have been very interesting to see how they would manage to get the wings up the water slope at Montech!

The barge has been manufactured by McTay Marine Ltd of Bromborough on the Wirral, and is at present moored in Vittoria Dock, Birkenhead. The vessel, named, “Afon Dyfrdwy”, is of low draught and has a very low profile to provide maximum clearance at the aforementioned river bridges en route to Mostyn.

The launch took place in February 2004, and is at present undergoing trials on the Mersey before delivery to its new owners, Holyhead Transportation Co. Ltd. There are, as yet, no details of the engines or of the “special propulsion system” which is designed to minimise wake and wash. Engine, emissions and speed are also to be strictly limited and controlled in order to minimise disturbance to the wildlife in the Dee Estuary.

The barge loaded with several million pounds worth of wing is going to be an awesome sight to be behold and could well become a “must see” wonder of the waterways.

Further information – Airbus UK Communication Dept,
tel: 01244 524423
McTay Marine Ltd:
Tel: 0151 346 1319
“Airbus News” press release, 12 December 2003

Norman Stainthorp, Boat Museum Society, 18.03.04

Enter the Environment Agency

Quickly following the story of the Airbus Wings it was announced that the environmental impact on the Dee Estuary was considered to be excessive and permission to dredge the river was refused by the Environment Agency.

Surely this all important factor was considered at an early stage of planning the project but, with what has transpired, it apparently wasn’t—Incredible!

Does this spell the end for a Commercial Waterway?

The Prime Minister was recently asked to safeguard hundreds of jobs following the Environment Agency’s refusal to grant permission for dredging work to be carried out on the river Dee. Airbus said that it could not transport wings for the A380 Airbus from its factory at Broughton, near Chester, to France unless the river was dredged to allow special barges to pass along it.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister was unable to give a clear answer to a question about the future of the Broughton factory. He said he hoped the industry and jobs would be safeguarded.

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The Construction of Marple Locks and Tramway (1794—1807)

by Anthony J Whitehead


This article was researched and written for the Peak Forest Canal Society and it was first published in that Society’s journal in January 1982, issue No. 80. As 2004 marks the bicentenary of the opening of Marple locks it seemed befitting to mark this event by re-publishing Anthony’s article in ‘174’. It is reproduced below with only slight alterations to Anthony’s original text.

Marple Locks and Tramway

The Act for the Peak Forest Canal was passed on the 28 March 1794 and work on cutting began in May of the same year. The Surveyor was Thomas Brown and the Consulting and Resident Engineers were Benjamin Outram and Thomas Brown respectively. The initial contractor for cutting the canal was Messrs Fulton and McNiven, the former partner being Robert Fulton, an American Civil Engineer. At Marple, the canal had to rise 209 feet and Brown's deposited plan of 1793 shows two possible routes for the locks, one to the west of the town and the other to the east, and the Committee chose the latter.

In early 1795 Robert Fulton suggested to the Committee that inclined planes, combined with special ‘small boats’ might be cheaper and more beneficial than locks. This suggestion was predictable from Fulton for he was a leading advocate of tub-boat canals and inclined planes (in June 1794 he had patented an inclined plane of his own design). In April 1795 the Committee sent Outram to Coalbrookdale to observe the working of tub-boat canals and inclined planes. In May he reported back to the Committee and recommended the adoption of an inclined plane at Marple in place of the proposed locks. He advised that this was practicable and would cost £7,000 less. Nevertheless, the Committee decided that locks were to be built but their reasons for this decision are unclear. It is known that in private Outram was not impressed with what he saw at Coalbrookdale, even though he reported that inclined planes were practicable. As the consulting Engineer, his advice to the Committee would have carried far more weight that that of Fulton.

In October 1795 the Committee asked Outram to stake out the line of locks at Marple. By mid-1796 it was clear to them that they had insufficient funds to start their construction. With the upper level of the canal complete and the lower level nearing completion the Committee was faced with the problem of how to temporarily join the two levels together, while funds could be raised to build the locks. In October 1797 they requested Outram to cost the construction of a tramway to join the two levels together. He reported back to them that his own company, Outram & Company (later to become the Butterley Company), could build the complete tramway for £2,720. They agreed to this and work on the locks was suspended.

The tramway was completed by the end of May 1798 and in October a Mr Dixon was put in charge of it. Its exact route from the upper level to the lower level at Marple Aqueduct is unknown, as research has not revealed any plans for it. It is likely that it started just before Brick Change Bridge on the offside of the upper level and then proceeded on a downward gradient over the present Strines Road and Oldknow Road and then onto St Martin’s Road, which it followed for a short distance, before turning to go across the line of the canal at the site of lock 10. After crossing Brabyn's Brow it is most likely that the present narrow road on the offside of the canal marks the route of the tramway down to its terminus at Marple Aqueduct.

Details of the tramway construction are available from Outram’s specification. The L-section cast-iron rails were one yard long weighing from 40 to 56 pounds each (the latter weight being the most likely). These were fastened directly onto stone sleeper blocks by wrought iron spikes driven into the octagonal oak plugs, 5 inches in length, set into the blocks. The bed of the tramway for a single track was 4 yards wide and 6 yards wide for a double track, formed of small broken stone to a depth of 6 inches. Between the rails was a layer of gravel also 6 inches thick. Initially, Marple Tramway was single track with a number of passing places.

Temporary wharfs or basins were constructed at either end of the tramway, each being provided with two cranes of 30-cwt SWL and 3-ton SWL, respectively. Initially, Marple Aqueduct was unfinished, so just exactly where was the temporary wharf at the lower level of the canal? The most likely explanation is that a temporary trestle bridge was constructed across the river Goyt (then called the river Mersey) and that the tramway was laid across this. It is even possible that this bridge was part of the scaffolding used to construct the aqueduct.

Initially, Outram & Company supplied 20 wagons, these being fitted with detachable wrought-iron bodies or boxes, each capable of carrying 45 cwt of limestone. This meant that 20 wagons were provided specifically for Marple Tramway. The bodies were made detachable to facilitate the movement of limestone. Wagons were loaded with limestone at the quarries near Dove Holes, which then conveyed it to Bugsworth Basin on the Peak Forest Tramway. Here the limestone was transferred to boats and taken to Marple. The whole process involved three transfers, that is to say, at Bugsworth, upper Marple and lower Marple. These transfers were achieved by lifting the detachable wagon bodies from wagon to boat and vice versa.

Right away, the steep gradient of the tramway caused problems, as loaded wagons travelling down it were gaining too much momentum to be safe. The Committee ordered that no wagons were to be allowed down the tramway ‘---- without having a proper slipper or slippers under one or more of the wheels.’

By 1800 the canal was carrying huge quantities of limestone as well as other goods and the Committee saw that the tramway linking the two levels was very hard pressed. In May 1800 another 20 wagons and 10 containers were ordered from Outram & Company as well as a number of wagons for carrying general merchandise. In October of the same year the Committee ordered that the tramway track at Marple should be doubled. In the same month they also decided that with increasing demand for stone the locks at Marple must be built as soon as possible.

The Committee asked Outram to produce plans and a model of a lock that would be suitable for use at Marple. By mid-1800 the Committee had raised sufficient funds to start building the locks and by July the requested plans and model had been produced by Outram. He advised that 16 locks should be built between the upper and lower levels, each with an average rise of 13 feet 0¾ inch. This was approved and in August the Committee instructed Brown to let the construction of twelve locks (in four lots of three locks each) to contractors, to be completed by autumn 1802. Why the remaining four locks were omitted from these contracts is unknown.

In early 1801 a Mr Lloyd was appointed Superintendent of the tramway. He was asked to provide another 50 wagons and to take on more workers to run the tramway, in order to allow as much limestone and general goods to pass down it as possible. He was also asked to ensure that a stock of limestone was always kept at the aqueduct. In May 1801 the Committee offered Brown £100 if he could move 800 tons of stone down the tramway in 18 hours (this represents 356 wagon movements or one wagon every three minutes). Surprisingly Brown, or more correctly his workers, managed to move 1,170 tons in the set time (this represents 520 wagon movements or one wagon every two minutes) and he was duly presented with a £100 bank note.

Unfortunately, the Canal Company ran into further financial difficulties and by October 1801 it was decided that they should apply for an Act of Parliament to allow them to raise £50,000 to complete the works. Because of opposition from local mill owners the Bill was postponed and in November Brown was told to stop all works and pay off the contractors until the money could be raised.

Another year passed by and the Committee still had not managed to raise enough money and in November 1802 an approach was made to Samuel Oldknow and Richard Arkwright Junior for financial assistance. As it was in their own interest, they agreed to help. The agreement reached was that Oldknow and Arkwright Junior would totally finance the construction of the locks in return for the Canal Company paying them £24,000 (presumably this means £24,000 each) in instalments over four years and giving them rebates on tonnages of their goods passing on the Peak Forest Canal. This agreement required another Act of Parliament, which was granted in 1805. With financial matters finally sorted out work could recommence on the locks. Meanwhile, Outram was asked to confer with William Jessop over the final plans.

Work on the locks proceeded quickly and by the end of 1803 the earthworks were complete. In November of that year an advertisement appeared in the Manchester Mercury for Stone Masons to build locks and all particulars would be given by Mr Brown. By this time the Committee had appointed Thomas Brown to be their Consulting Engineer for the construction of Marple locks, as Benjamin Outram was often away attending to other projects. For their construction around 1,000,000 bricks were purchased and Samuel Oldknow had put at the Contractor’s disposal his wharfs, a lime kiln and a boiler for making mortar. As originally constructed, the lock chambers had sidewalls and inverted arches built of brick, while the remainder, including quoins and tail bridges were built of Ashlar stone. By August 1804 the locks were in an advanced state of completion and the Company was eager to have them completed as soon as possible. So eager, in fact, they asked Oldknow to encourage the work force by ‘---- liquor or otherwise.’ Oldknow offered the workmen posset (a drink of hot milk curdled with ale) to complete the locks on time and the Stockport – New Mills turnpike bridge over the canal became known as Posset Bridge.

The locks were completed by early October 1804 and the official opening ceremony took place on Saturday, 13 October 1804 when Samuel Oldknow's boat ‘Perseverance’ became the first one to pass down the whole flight of locks. Thus it had taken ten years to open the whole length of the canal, five years of which had been spent on the 16 locks at Marple. As for the tramway, this remained open for a while before it was closed in February 1807.

However, this was not quite the end of the Marple Tramway. Samuel Oldknow applied for and was granted permission to use the redundant rails and sleeper blocks in order to lay a tramway on his estate at Hyde Bank for the purpose of carrying sand and gravel down to the canal. It is a matter of speculation as to whether anything remains today of this tramway at Hyde Bank.


Many ambiguities remain concerning the construction of Marple locks and in particular the construction and operation of Marple Tramway. The exact route of the tramway is unknown and it is probably inappropriate to refer to it as an inclined plane because its route was not straight even though it is known that hemp rope was used for wagon haulage. The latter is without doubt as in 1801 a £50 reward was offered to anyone who could give information about a rope being cut.

Initially this tramway was single-track operation and it may be that loaded wagons travelled down it under the action of gravity to be hauled back by horses in exactly the same manner as the operation of the Peak Forest Tramway between Bugsworth and the limestone quarries near Dove Holes. The fact that the Committee ordered ‘slippers’ (brakes) to be fitted to the wagons indicates that this is how it was done. Passing places are mentioned and it may be that these were situated at steeper parts of the track and that horse capstans were used at these places to haul up returning wagons. Horses would also have been required at the upper and lower levels of the tramway where the track would have been level albeit only for short distances. The doubling of the track after October 1800 would not necessarily have altered this mode of operation, it would have simply speeded it up.

To summarise, it appears that Marple Tramway may have been a composite of the different methods of operation available at that time.

 Part gravity operated.

 Part horse hauled.

 Part windlass-operated short inclined plane or planes, rather than descending full wagons hauling up empty wagons.

This article cannot be concluded without reference to Robert Fulton who was a clever but eccentric engineer whose ideas extended far beyond the technology of the day. It is possible that some of his ideas influenced Outram and Brown, especially in the design of Marple Tramway and in the operation of the lock paddles. It is known that the paddle gear of Marple locks was operated by compressed air when they were first opened in October 1804 and this technology implies that Fulton was behind the use of this innovative method. In the event, this paddle gear was immediately found to be inadequate and Brown was obliged to revert to the long-established rack and pinion method. This may go a long way towards explaining why it was that the Manchester Mercury did not announce the opening of Marple locks until the 12 November 1805. Additionally, there may have been other teething problems, which were not recorded.

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The 30th Anniversary of the re-opening of Marple locks and the Lower Peak Forest and Ashton Canals

On Good Friday, 9 April 2004, a gathering of boats at Marple Junction celebrated the 30th anniversary of the re-opening of Marple locks and the Lower Peak Forest and Ashton Canals, which took place, without ceremony, on the 1 April 1974.

To avoid any confusion about dates, the official re-opening ceremony was held at Ancoats bottom lock in Manchester on the 13 May 1974 when a ribbon across the head of the lock was cut by Mr Dennis Howell MP, Minister of State at the Department of Environment, accompanied by Sir Frank Price DL, Chairman of British Waterways Board, and the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Manchester.

At noon on Good Friday 2004 there was a ceremony to unveil a plaque in memory of Ted Keaveney who played a prominent role in the restoration of the locks and the two canals. The plaque is attached to a new cast-iron finger post situated adjacent to the junction side bridge over the Macclesfield Canal.

A search of the Jack Brady archive papers yielded Ted Keaveney’s original report of this event 30 years ago, published in June 1974, and in memory of Ted and for the indefatigable work he did we have reproduced it in full below.

Secretary’s Report (for the Peak Forest Canal Society)

Ted Keaveney

During the last two years Council meetings (of the Peak Forest Canal Society) have had an air of unreality; each month the various working party organisers reported progress towards restoration. The word itself seemed untrue; the progress was recounted with an air of disbelief. The date finally chosen for the opening to navigation, April 1st (1974), seemed most appropriate, we were certain it was bound to be an April fool’s joke.

But it was and is true, April 1st saw the first boat down (Marple locks) for 13 years, the trip was successfully completed and the BBC Look North camera crew and Radio Manchester reported it! Since then over 70 boats have made the return trip, the first 100 will soon be chalked up. North Cheshire Cruising Club had a very successful turnout for their Easter cruise into Manchester, a good omen for the future.

The Society recently received a cheque for £15 from the NCCC, their gift to the Restoration Fund. This was part of the proceeds from their fashion show held in Hazel Grove. We are very grateful for this donation and we welcome the action of the Club.

The attention of members is drawn to the notice of the Annual General Meeting. Council decided that the maximum notice should be given to members, so that as many as possible could attend. This year it will be necessary to elect a new General Secretary. After five years in office I feel that it is time that someone else should have the opportunity of serving the Society in this capacity.

The Society hopes to publish a new History of the Ashton Canal by the end of June. This has been written especially to mark the restoration and is almost ready for publication. When ready it may be obtained from Mike Matthews and at the AGM and it is hoped to have it on sale at the various rallies. It is expected that the cost will be in the region of 50p to 75p. This will be our first major publication since the Cheshire Ring appeared in 1966.

The battle cry in 1964 was ‘Restore the Cheshire Ring. Council is still deeply concerned about the Rochdale Canal. Members will recall the stalemate earlier in the year with regard to the payment of plant hire costs. After protracted negotiations work was resumed and now the volunteers have completed their task. When the (Rochdale) Canal Company completes its works the 1964 slogan will have been achieved. It is to be hoped that the fee charged for using this vital but short section of the (Cheshire) Ring will not be so high that it acts as a very powerful disincentive. This would truly be a tragic state of affairs.

Andrew Stunell MP unveils the plaque in memory of Ted Keaveney. Looking on, left to right are, John Fletcher, IWA National Chairman, Bob Keaveney, Ted’s son, Tim Dawson, Chairman of the Macclesfield Canal Society, and Adrian Sains, North West Waterways General Manager.

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