The Inland Waterways Protection Society Ltd 

Campaigning    Restoration    Preservation    Development 

Newsletter "174" - October 2001


Bugsworth Basin Report Liverpool Link Book Review
Benjamin Outram
Buckingham Palace Investiture
Editorial Tractor Appeal Fund Diary Dates Links to IWPS Web Pages
Annual Party
Change of Date
News from the IWA Babblings by Pete Yearsley Quiz Wars
Horseboat on the Huddersfield Book Review
Portland Basin and the Archaeology of the Warehouse
Return to 174 Newsletter Archive Index  

Bugsworth Basin Report

by Ian Edgar MBE   -     Chairman and Hon Site Manager

I had hoped in this report to have given some news of substantial progress in the site investigations and possible remedial action to cure the water loss on which the whole future of Bugsworth Basin relies. This I regret to say is not the case and in this direction at least I can only report 'more of the same'. However there is at least one item of good news in this respect that although the site investigations below ground have now been completed British Waterways have given an order for a wide ranging topographical survey to be undertaken. This is entirely at the expense of British Waterways. Such reports do not come cheap and I am gratified that there is so much resolve, not only in IWPS Ltd., that the Bugsworth problem should be solved.

On 2nd October 2001 I was very pleased to be able to represent IWPS Ltd. at the Annual Meeting of The Waterways Trust at the Glaziers Hall in London, a magnificent venue right on the Thames and very appropriate for a meeting which was to be concerned with the multi-use of waterways, either natural or man-made. This turned out to be a very enjoyable event attended by almost everybody, it seems, prominent in waterways restoration. Chaired by Sir Neil Cossons OBE, the event was professional and re-assuring with an excellent presentation by Roger Hanbury (Chief Executive). The Annual Report is a lengthy document, atmospherically produced with many mono photos which give a seemingly added dimension to the waterways (mainly derelict) scenes throughout the report.

We have been in negotiation with The Waterways Trust for well over a year. I have been unable to report much as there has been little to say other than the IWPS Council, on my recommendation and on the recommendation of The Bugsworth Basin Sub-Committee fully supports going in to Partnership with The Waterways Trust, British Waterways, The County and Borough Authorities and English Heritage. We feel this is the best way forward, ensuring the long term future of the Basin via the obtaining of substantial grants as well as future management and suitable promotion and development. Whilst the detail of who-does-what and the future tenure of the site has still to be discussed and decided all potential partners are proceeding on an honourable and trusting basis and we are sure in the end we will all have an arrangement which will satisfy all our aspirations and (and this is the most important) protect this very important Ancient Monument site in perpetuity. Such a partnership is not ground-breaking. It has been done before elsewhere where all seems to be well received.

To return to the Annual Report. The projects in which The Waterways Trust (TWT) will direct their efforts will be threefold:

I quote from TWT Annual Report on Bugsworth Basin:

'A new partnership between The Waterways Trust, the Inland Waterways Protection Society (IWPS) and British Waterways was announced in May aimed at securing the long-term future of Bugsworth Basin in Buxworth, Derbyshire.

One hundred and fifty years ago, this historic terminus of the Peak Forest Canal was a bustling interchange with the Peak Forest Tramway. Here, limestone and limestone products were brought down from the Derbyshire quarries, while up to 80 narrow boats a day carried local gritstone out to the industries of Manchester and further afield. Kilns at the site also processed the stone into lime for industrial and agricultural use.

It was competition from the railways as well as the burning of lime at the quarries that led the Basin into decline, and by 1930 the site had closed completely and the tramway had been dismantled. For many years the facility was neglected and continued to deteriorate. More recently, however, IWPS volunteers have been working hard to make the Basin watertight again.

So the first task of the new partnership is to build on the work and investment of the IWPS and secure the physical integrity of the Canal basin. This will require an estimated £1 million (up to now we have estimated £700,000 - IE) of new funding. Meanwhile a 10-year vision is to be drawn up for the conservation and development of the site as a major attraction for the region. New sources of funding will have to be identified to deliver the vision, and new relationships and other partnerships forged - in particular with the local community - to help secure the long term future of the site.

Bugsworth Basin remains wonderfully atmospheric and a popular attraction for boaters, walkers, tourists, industrial archaeologists and nature lovers. The redevelopment will in many ways mirror the Basin's past - a place busy with boats and visitors, with the tramway and kilns brought back to life for a new generation, and lost buildings replaced for modern day use.

Under the terms of the partnership, The Waterways Trust is taking a long-term lease on the site from British Waterways (IWPS will surrender the present lease when we are satisfied with the role we are to take in the new arrangements - IE) and will become responsible for improving and developing it with its partners. IWPS members will continue to play an important role in shaping the future of the basin and supporting the day-to-day operation of the site.'

Despite their being historical inexactitudes that is good enough for me for the time being!

I cannot believe that we will agree with all the proposals put to us but we will be receptive, we will consider carefully and we will certainly not be disposed to judge anything hastily.

The Report of the Waterways Trust can be obtained from The Trust House, Church Road, Watford, WD17 4QA

Mention must be made of The Mersey Basin Campaign and their Mersey Basin Week. Over 160 activities took place during the week and we worked at Bugsworth Basin for two days on 10th & 11th October. The job was to cover the floor of the former Secure Goods Warehouse with a terram membrane and then rubble and top cover so it could be seeded. Over the years this site has been suffering from attrition by children and others picking out important archaeological features and throwing them in the channel. This is usually during the winter when breaking the ice with uprooted artifacts seemed an interesting pastime for some of our less intelligent visitors. The terram is to protect the floor and to separate the cover from the previously excavated remains. Removal of this cover in future years when we can safeguard the fabric will therefore be relatively easy.

Although the event was mentioned in the local press and we put up numerous posters locally response was poor due mainly to, we believe, the appalling weather conditions on the first day. These were truly Bugsworth’s worst with heavy rain, high winds and no encouragement for anybody to come out of their warm living rooms and brave Bugsworth Basin. Again, true to form, the following day might have been midsummer with bright sunshine and warm temperatures. However the damage had been done, volunteers discouraged, and six volunteers worked despite the discomfort for the two whole days and got the job done.

Mersey Basin Campaign, in it's various guises, has, over the years, supported IWPS in our efforts at Bugsworth admirably. We are again grateful to the Campaign for their support on this occasion by paying for the hire of a small excavator without which the satisfactory conclusion of this project would not have been possible.

Also under way now is the re-build of the boundary wall alongside the Entrance Canal from Canalside Cottages to the Entrance to the field alongside Canal House (the old Wharfinger’s House). This is being funded by a grant from The Mersey Basin Watersides for All Scheme which is in itself funded by The Hanson Environment Fund under the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. The work will be completed shortly, is a joint contractor/volunteer project and will secure the future of the boundary wall which was in a very poor state of repair and was suffering serious attrition from vandals throwing the stone in to the canal. We are extremely grateful to The Mersey Basin Campaign and The Hanson Environment Fund for this support.

On 13th October Martin Whalley and I had to work for our free lunch at the Mersey Basin AGM at The Pavilion Gardens Buxton with a 20 minute talk on the Bugsworth Restoration. With such a short time we could only touch on the various highlights and the Mersey Basin involvement over the years. I was careful also to advise those present, many of whom were starting projects of their own, to ensure sustainability of any project, future maintenance provision and the necessity to cultivate partners in the Local Authorities, Environment Agency etc. etc. This is now possible whereas it was virtually impossible when the Bugsworth Restoration started. Nobody wanted to know. The whole attitude has been turned around and Government and the Local Authorities are more prepared to work with the voluntary sector as long as the members of the voluntary sector can be seen to have done their preparation, thought out the project and planned for the future. Martin and I were thanked for our presentation which we think was well received. It was good to see there Bill Johnson who was at one time one of the Managers for the Community Programme Scheme and also Brian Holden of the Rochdale Canal Society who has been in canal restoration longer than I have (and that's a few years). The Mayor of High Peak told me, in graphic detail over lunch of how one of his stone wagons ended up in Whaley Bridge Basin many years ago! All in all a very enjoyable and rewarding meeting.

Needless to say the grass grows as fast as ever, the mindless still pick at our drystone walls, some dog walkers still foul our site and indeed some individuals steal the signs saying no dog fouling. All this continues to have the attention of the small band of regular volunteers. However some dog walkers do pick up the mess their dogs make and deposit it in the proper place but others gather it up in plastic bags, stuff it in to walls or even throw it in to trees so it hangs as a disgusting mess out of our reach for evermore. In some ways we feel we cannot win but we still try.

I always conclude my report with a request for more help. This one is no exception. We need you. Please come and help as little or as much as you can or as you are inclined.


In the last '174' I wrote about the Liverpool Link. As a Liverpudlian this is close to my heart.

At a recent British Waterways presentation to the Sankey Canal Restoration Society (SCARS) in Warrington I heard more about this and raised the matters dealt with in my last article. It appears Route 1a is the preferred option which to my ears is good news. My qualified comments to some extent have been addressed but I still think locks at each end would be the best. Route 4 is the second best with the others, in my opinion, 'also rans'.

This is an imaginative project put forward by British Waterways. It deserves support. With this issue of '174' you will find a leaflet which asks for your support and comments. Please find the time to complete and return it. If you do not know the site and cannot formulate your own views then please take my word for it that Route 1a is the best and go for that one.

For more information visit the web at 

BOOK REVIEW - by Ian Edgar MBE

BENJAMIN OUTRAM - By Professor R.B. Schofield (Merton Priory Press)

Long announced but late in coming this excellent book was well worth waiting for. The delays I can only assume were to correct errors and finalise the manuscript. It is disappointing to see that Bothomes Hall (where the Whaley Bridge Branch leaves the Main Line in to Bugsworth) has been referred to in the book as Bottoms Hall. A bad mistake which could have easily been corrected.

On the fly sheet Professor Schofield's book is mentioned the fact that this book represents many years of detailed research. I can well believe it for it covers not only The Peak Forest Canal but all the other canals in which Outram was connected either as Engineer or Consultant. Outram was ahead of his time and was already promoting railways, sometimes at the expense of canals. Had he not died so early (41) he would no doubt have been to the forefront of the railway age. All this is detailed in the book.

When starting to read this very readable book I hoped to learn something about the man himself and not only his engineering triumphs and history. In this I was disappointed. Not because of the author's writing but because little is known of Outram's roots or private life, due in part to a disastrous fire which destroyed much of the family records. Although a fine engineer he did not have the standing of, for instance, Telford or Jessop who attracted fame and publicity. No image of Outram has been found but in the final chapter of the book 'Appraisal' the author has tried to give us some idea of what he considers Outram to have been.

Professor Schofield has researched deeply in to Benjamin Outram's well known association with The Butterley Company and his unwise (to put it mildly) finance arrangements with that company. His big mistake, which was to have a profound effect on his widow following his death on a business trip to London on 15th May 1805, was to borrow money from the company to fund a lifestyle dictated by his wife Margaret at Butterley Hall and to which Outram himself was not really fitted. He was not the first, and will no doubt not be the last, young man who borrowed in expectation of future earnings and fortune to repay his debts. On his death the Company pursued his widow mercilessly to recover the funds Benjamin had withdrawn from the company. Benjamin Outram, we learn, was an excellent engineer but not that good a businessman. Over and over again in this book we hear of lack of attention to detail and lack of proper follow up for his projects.

Besides the obvious information on our own Peak Forest Canal, Tramway and Bugsworth Basin I was particularly interested to read of Outram's experiences with The Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Having had an excellent cruise on this canal from Leeds Lock to Burnley this past summer I was struck by the high number of swing bridges either highway or accommodation. Professor Schofield deals with the construction of the L&L in great detail and in particular writes much on his research in to the negotiations with small landowners and large estates to get the canal built. A picture emerges of the Canal Promoters riding rough shod over landowners to the extent of not building promised accommodation bridges and forcing detours of up to a mile where land and estates were to, or even had been, severed.

In his book the author maintains (with the experience of an engineer concerned with the building of the first stages of the M1) that what happened on the L&L towards the end of the 18th Century would not be replicated today but with my experience of opposition to the Whaley Bridge By Pass I do not share his confidence. On the L&L it was farmers and estate owners against the promoters of the canal. Neither had much money but the L&L could call on more if needed and have their canal from which they hoped to earn vast sums but the poor landowners had to protect their interest at their own cost and have virtually nothing to show for it afterwards. On the Whaley Bridge By Pass the Government called the tune with public money whilst the landowners, householders (and IWPS Ltd.) had to finance their own objections. It appears to me not much has changed.

This is a book you can go back to again and again and still find something interesting. I can recommend it. At £24.95 it may be considered expensive but is still worth the money. Copies can be obtained from The Peak Forest Canal Co. Ltd., Browside Farm, Mudhurst Lane, Lyme Handley, Whaley Bridge, High Peak SK23 7BT at the cover price with profit going to IWPS Ltd. for the restoration of Bugsworth Basin.


On the 15th October 2001 I went to London to receive my MBE from Prince Charles for what is described as 'Services to the Inland Waterways Protection Society'. This was a very great honour and when known to me early this year totally unexpected. Whilst I get the honour I feel it is for all those who have worked over the years to bring about the restoration of Bugsworth Basin which is the core activity of our Society. I had, and still have, the honour to lead the Society which has, over the past years given me great satisfaction (and not a few headaches and lack of sleep). In what had to be a short discussion with Prince Charles it was clear he was well briefed on volunteer work. I reminded him of our previous meeting in 1987 when he presented us (myself and Les Robinson on behalf of IWPS Ltd.) with a Royal Institute of British Architects Award for the Built Heritage. He also asked did I know that he was the Patron of the Waterways Trust which he felt was a great opportunity for us. I agreed and told him I felt it was an excellent organisation.

Of the 120 or so recipients of awards from Knighthoods to MBEs I was struck by the diversity of effort. Many were services personnel who had given way outside the course of duty, long standing Police Officers and those, like myself, who had given many years of voluntary work for a multitude of causes. Clearly if these people had not given so freely of their time our country would be much the loser. Government would not have the initiative to replace the voluntary sector and indeed, if it had, could never do it so well. Thank goodness the volunteers are at last receiving the recognition they deserve. I can recall at Bugsworth on the many occasions when the brickbats were flying and some of the public were being particular obnoxious I have commented that you never get thanks or a medal in this job! Well, how wrong I was! Somehow it has all been worthwhile but now even more so!

I am very honoured to receive this award on behalf of IWPS Ltd. I thank everybody who has worked over the past many years for their support for IWPS Ltd., encouragement, time, effort and in some cases severe physical discomfort. If we and the waterways restoration movement in particular had not done what we have done then think what we would have lost - Bugsworth Basin, The Peak Forest Canal, The Ashton Canal, The Huddersfield Narrow and the Rochdale Canal to name just those in our area. All would have gone and we would have ageing decrepit modern developments akin to modern day slums. A canal system being restored faster than it was built 200 years ago. That is what we have achieved. Let us not forget it nor devalue our own part in achieving it.

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Editorial by Don Baines 

The Waterways Trust - Annual Review 2000/2001

As reported by the Chairman, we have just received copies of the Waterways Trust Annual Review for 2000/2001. Superbly prepared and presented, the report makes several important references to Bugsworth Basin and its future.

This proposed partnership represents an exciting prospect for the long-term sustainability of Bugsworth Basin. We, the small band of volunteers, who regularly manage and maintain the affairs of the society, are getting no younger and we have no young blood keen to take on the task. To me, this looks to be the best way forward, to ensure that this wonderful place, steeped in heritage, as important a historical site as can be imagined, is preserved in perpetuity for our successors and descendants to enjoy, study, and marvel at for many more decades or even centuries to come. We must, however, ensure that the contribution of IWPS volunteers over the last 33 years is not forgotten, glossed over, or disdainfully closeted. We have achieved many successes in that time against much adversity, underfunding, disinterest and apathy; successes we should be very proud of, successes which must be remembered and for which due credit must be awarded and recorded.

Tractor Appeal Fund

Firstly, I must apologise to Pete Yearsley who I said had donated £25 to the Tractor Appeal Fund from the sales of old books. Not true! The £25 was a personal donation from Pete himself to start the fund off - it was his idea in the first place. In addition to that Pete raised a further £75 from the sale of books.

I have chipped in with £25 from the sale of an old Amstrad Word Processor (which originally belonged to Ian Edgar’s dad) that was about to be consigned the scrap heap. A friend of mine asked if I had anything to replace his broken word processor, identical to the one I had in the loft, and which he couldn’t get spares for. He didn’t want anything fancy and was happy to part with £25 so he would have something to do the odd letter on. If anybody else wants a simple system, I have an IBM PS2 386, complete with colour monitor and keyboard, going spare, still in working order but lacking a mouse and printer. Make a £50 donation to the tractor fund and its yours (lower offers considered if no takers).

Mike Malzard has contributed £60 through the disposal of a redundant power lawn mower donated by Ian Edgar. Ian himself has raised another £200 from the sale of materials, equipment and tools, previously donated by Les Robinson. Although sold, IWPS will still have call on this equipment etc. which can be used at Bugsworth at any time. We also thank Albert Peers of Brierley Green who has given us a new but unwanted Hotpoint Worktop Microwave Oven. This would cost around £200 in the shops now but this one is on offer at £100 delivered. Also offered for sale is a small box trailer which would be ideal for any small car to carry garden refuse to the tip etc. To purchase these items please contact Ian Edgar on 01663 732493.

These few donations have got the fund off to a good start with the total presently standing at £385. Still a long way to go before we can buy a new machine so, how about it folks, have you got anything you wouldn’t mind getting rid of in favour of the fund? Perhaps you have a loft full of "treasure" - why not have a clear out and take it to a car boot sale. If you would like to make a contribution please send your donation to Ian Edgar (cheques etc made to IWPS Equipment Account).

Diary Dates

Visit by Droitwich Canal Trust, Worcester Birmingham Canal Society, Lapal Canal Trust and possibly others.

In an e-mail, Jon Axe, the well-known reprobate who edits the magazines for the three societies, expressed a desire to arrange a bus trip for their members to visit Bugsworth in the spring. After several more e-mails, phone calls and much tearing around we have settled on Sunday May 19th 2002. We are expecting some fifty "Midlands Marauders" to arrive around 11am when we will split them into groups for a guided tour around the basins. This will be followed by lunch in the Navigation, much to the delight of Lynda and Alan, but greatly to the dismay of the chef who will have to extract more than one digit. After lunch we have arranged for a two and a half hour cruise on the "Judith Mary". All things being even, it should be a good day out given the vagaries of the Bugsworth climate which I once heard described by a local as being like Buxton: nine months winter and three months bad weather!

Annual Party - CHANGE OF DATE

Due to the inevitable unforeseen circumstances we have had to change the date for this year’s annual bash, once again to take place at the Navigation Inn, Bugsworth. The new date is Saturday the 8th December 2001, Andy Eadon will be sending out full details as soon as possible. Please put the new date in your diary now and mark the calendar with a large unambiguous legend so you don’t miss this enjoyable do.

IWPS Web Pages

We are continuing to develop and improve the web pages which you can find at:

not forgetting to look at David Kitching’s own pages on the way at:

You can also see the PFCC/IWPS Sales Brochure, offering the full range of books, clothing, souvenirs, etc on a new web site at:


Copy for Newsletters - Please note that the deadline for publishing the next newsletter is 1st February 2002 so please try to let me have your copy before that date. Please send any newsletter input to me, Don Baines, if possible on a 3½" disk (disks will be returned or provided if required). Typed input, photographs, sketches or drawings, can be scanned in. You can email any input, text or graphics, to me at

Don Baines - Editor 174 

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News from the IWA 


The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) announced today that it has awarded a grant of £3,000 to the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust. The grant will help fund a navigable culvert for the Derby Canal near Wilmorton College, Derby, which will pass the canal under a the new link road, which leads from London Road to Pride Park.

The new culvert will form part of the proposed diversion of the canal from Wilmorton to Spondon avoiding the original route into Derby, which has now been redeveloped. The Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust has funded much of the cost of the culvert with a bank loan, guaranteed by the Trust's directors, and which the Trust intends to repay by a public appeal. IWA's grant has helped reduce that bank loan and will kick start the Trust's appeal.

John Baylis, IWA Council Member and IWA's nominee to the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust, said: "Since the original line of the canal was blocked by the A52 bypass many years ago, there have often been occasions when we thought that the Derby Canal was never going to be restored. It is interesting to think that had the A52 been built today, the original line of the canal could still be intact, as government policy on the waterways has changed so much since the 1960s. Derby City Council accommodated the diversion route in its plans for the link road and with IWA's help, we have finally been able to build the culvert and continue with the restoration of the Derby Canal.

"IWA has supported the restoration of the Derby Canal since the outset of the project and we hope that the restoration works can be completed by 2010.

Historical Notes

The Derby Canal opened in 1796 and originally ran from the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre to the River Trent, the 4-lock section from the Trent and Mersey Canal to the River Trent being subsequently abandoned. The Derby Canal was formally closed in 1964, although largely disused since about 1930 and its use prevented by its then owners, the Derby Canal Company, since the Second World War.

The Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust was established in 1993 with the objective of restoring the whole Derby Canal after IWA's Honorary Consultant Engineers had undertaken an initial feasibility study. Most of the original line of the canal can be restored, but some parts, including the central section through Derby will need to be built as a diversion from the original line. A small section is to be diverted through Pride Park northward to the River Derwent. It is this section that passes Wilmorton College.

Lydney Canal

The Heritage Lottery Fund has indicated approval of a grant of £873,000 for restoration of the harbour, historic buildings and lock gates at Lydney Docks. The total project cost is £1.9 million and is planned for completion in 2004. Development funding is being provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund to allow the completion of detailed designs and to set up a project management structure. The £873,000 grant will be confirmed once the detailed designs are finalised and approved by the Fund.

The Lydney Canal was built between 1810 and 1813 as part of a through route, to carry Forest of Dean coal, between the River Severn and the River Wye. The short ship canal _ designed to take vessels up to 300 tons - connected the small town of Lydney to the River Severn, whilst a tramroad connected Lydney to Lydbrook on the River Wye and was completed two years earlier in 1811.

Steam locomotives were introduced on the tram road in 1864 and Lydney was kept busy as a rail port until the 1930s. Coal tips were removed at the top end of the canal in 1927 but following nationalisation only the seaward end of the canal was used. Coal shipments ceased in 1960 and rail access to the harbour ceased in 1965. In 1979 the canal and dock were sold to the Severn Trent Water Authority.

The Environment Agency now owns the docks and plans to lease the site to a management trust created within Lydney Docks Partnership, to ensure local ownership of the project.

Lydney Docks Partnership comprises the Environment Agency, Lydney Town Council, Forest of Dean District Council, Gloucestershire County Council, English Heritage (the docks are listed), British Waterways, The Waterways Trust, Gloucester Harbour Trustees and Gloucestershire Development Agency.

Eventual plans for the site include a marina development, with mooring facilities for around 50 boats; associated commercial operations such as a chandlery and workshop facilities; increased public access (foot and cycle paths) and facilities, including an observation tower to provide an educational facility.

Flood defences in the dock area are being upgraded at the same time, with a new combined flood and lock gate replacing the existing collapsed gate at the tidal lock entrance. The marina and associated commercial developments are designed to provide a sustainable income stream to fund maintenance for the heritage and public access aspects.

Boat Museum Acquisition

The Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port has acquired a West Country Keel, called Gwendoline, which has been delivered to the Museum by road and will be a major restoration project for the coming months. Gwendoline was built at Mirfield in West Yorkshire in about 1950 and was originally used to carry coal to Yorkshire power stations until being sold in 1973 for use as a houseboat, and subsequently falling into disrepair. In Yorkshire terms, 'West Country', as in the type of vessel, is West Yorkshire, rather than referring to the south west of England.

Grand Union Canal

On 25th July, Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, unveiled a newly designed £110,000 work boat that sucks up litter from the canal, at Little Venice, at the southern end of the Grand Union Canal. The boat, to be christened 'Taranchewer' has been paid for by British Waterways and London's Waterway Partnership, and will be operated by Thames 21. One of the boat's unusual features is that it has been designed to duck under low bridges.

At the launch, Mr Meacher also announced a British Waterways plan to recruit 40 volunteer wardens, who will be trained to provide a visual deterrent to those who leave litter or graffiti on the canalside. If the scheme is successful, BW intends to extend it to waterways elsewhere in the country.

(Editorial Comment: I wonder if they will actually be successful in recruiting 40 volunteers to carry out this apparently onerous, not to say potentially hazardous, unpaid job. Presently, there is a dearth of volunteers across all manner of organisations, especially from the younger age groups, and we in IWPS haven’t had any success recruiting anyone lately.)

Thames 21 is a partnership between the Port of London Authority, Tidy Britain Group, the Environment Agency, Thames Water and the Corporation of London to clean up and enhance all of London's rivers and canals and to manage the Thames Path national trail in London. British Waterways are to shortly join the partnership.

London's Waterway Partnership was formed in 1997 between British Waterways, the Environment Agency, Groundwork Foundation, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, London Tourist Board, Thames Water and 15 London boroughs. The Partnership is overseeing a £28 million regeneration programme over 7 years, of which £10 million is from the Government's Single Regeneration Budget.

Environment Agency's Functions

The Stage 1 Report of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' Environment Agency Financial, Management and Policy Review was published at the end of August. The most interesting aspect for navigation interests is the review of the Agency's navigation function. The Department also commissioned a separate report on this sole topic and the current issues relating to BW's and the Agency's performance as navigation authority. The Department's report summarises the issues raised in the separate study as:

* Issues of Navigation are complicated and river navigations in particular involve an interaction of other water management aspects, conservation, regeneration, freight and leisure functions, to name but a few. Navigation responsibilities cannot, therefore, be considered wholly in isolation.

* For the sole purposes of navigation, the simplest and neatest structure would be to have a single navigation authority. This would deliver focus, funding efficiency and easier implementation of network benefits. This narrow approach would imply the transfer of the Agency's navigation responsibilities to British Waterways.

* Furthermore, and all things being equal, British Waterways, because of its statutory powers and focus, is also likely to be somewhat better placed to deliver regeneration benefits than is the Agency.

* But, as indicated above, navigation functions are not stand-alone. They also interact with other water management functions, notably water resources and flood defence. The separate study suggests that, overall, the rivers for which the Agency is navigation authority tend to present more complicated water management issues than is the norm for BW waterways.

The report believes that the Agency appears to be currently doing a satisfactory job of discharging its navigation responsibilities, but notes a background of historic difficulties and a backlog of essential maintenance work associated with under funding from government, poor internal distribution of funding within the Agency and a lack of senior management attention to the Agency's navigation function. The report then notes recent steps towards remedying these deficiencies.

The report notes the Agency's arguments over the importance of an integrated approach to water management. It accepts that the Nene, Ouse and Medway, in particular, offer challenges in relation to conservation, flood defence and the volatility of the rivers when in flood, but also notes that BW has demonstrated the ability to handle such challenges, in partnership with the Agency, for example on the River Trent.

The report recognises the support from IWAAC and IWA for a transfer of navigation responsibility but notes that some local organisations and the House of Commons Select Environment and Transport Committee favoured the status quo.

The report concludes that solely from the perspective of an operational and management review of the Agency itself, there is no compelling reason to transfer navigation to BW, and that there are wider considerations that were outside the remit of the Department's review team. The review team's concluding recommendation is therefore that in relation to navigation, Ministers should meet with the Agency and BW jointly and proceed to quickly decide the policy priorities for the Agency managed waterways.

Following this recommendation, a meeting took place on 17th September, at which British Waterways and the Environment Agency presented their respective cases to Lord Whitty, the minister responsible for inland waterways, and to Michael Meacher, minister responsible for the Environment Agency. At the formal opening of the new lock creating a link to the Great Ouse Flood Relief Channel, two days later, Lord Whitty said that there had been a 'spirited exchange of views' at the meeting. The two ministers will now make a recommendation to Secretary of State Margaret Beckett, who will make a decision, in consultation with the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. An announcement is expected by the end of October.

Full copies of the Stage 1 Report (88 pages), the separate study on navigation issues (34 pages) and an analysis of consultation responses (51 pages) received by the review team can be downloaded from the Department's Internet site (see page 9).

Following the appointment of Eileen McKeever as Waterway Manager for the River Thames in July, the Agency has announced that it is to appoint three further Waterway Managers to cover the Rivers Medway, Nene and Great Ouse. The Medway post will also cover Rye Harbour.

Anderton Boat Lift

On 26th September, British Waterways held a topping out ceremony at which the last large piece of the lift was placed back on the structure - the nosepiece of the 1875 lift. The rest of the lift and the approach aqueduct remain tented for final work and still remain shrouded in scaffolding.

Apart from the press event to mark the completion of major works, there was an engineering exhibition open to the general public and over 600 visitors turned up on the first day. Technical lectures were also given by Project Manager and Engineers, which were well attended. There was considerable detailed interest in the technical aspects of the restoration.

In the main display was a list of the testing procedures that the engineers wish to undertake, and an indication that the lift would be open in the spring, "although the exact date will be dependent on the success of the safety testing". There was also confirmation that the new operations centre will not be available until towards the end of next year.

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

In a Landmark prosecution by the Environment Agency, the supermarket chain Tesco was fined £30,000 at the end of August for allowing its shopping trolleys to be dumped in the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation.

Abandoned shopping trolleys have been a hazard to boaters and other waterway users in the navigation at Chelmsford for many years. The problem was first brought to prominence in a series of clean-ups organised by IWA's Chelmsford Branch and others starting 10 years ago. Since then annual clean-ups have been held, most lately co-ordinated by Chelmsford Borough Council.

In the clean up held in April 2000, 146 trolleys were found in 1.5km stretch of the River Chelmer, including the non-navigable parts, of which 132 belonged to Tesco Stores, and resulting from this haul, the prosecution was launched. The prosecution is the first of its kind by the Agency and follows sustained pressure from IWA's Chelmsford Branch for the Agency to treat dumping rubbish in the navigation as a serious problem.

[Is this something we can expect when the new Tesco store is built at Whaley Bridge? - Ed]

Driffield Navigation

Snakeholme Lock is nearing completion and likely to be fully restored by the end of 2001. New top gates were fitted last year, but due to the recent outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease, the landowners objected to the fitting of the bottom gates. This situation has been resolved following agreement that the transport delivering the new gates is disinfected before going on site. Planning permission for a new Brigham bridge has been obtained and Driffield Navigation Amenity Association has raised part of the necessary funding.

Droitwich Junction Canal

This year's major work-site on the Droitwich Canals has also been Waterway Recovery Group's most important site for 2001. Supported by a £100,000 grant from the IWA's Neil Pitts legacy, work has accelerated on the flight of three locks at Hanbury - which had been under restoration for some years - bringing them close to completion by the end of summer.

The main jobs carried out by WRG volunteers this year have been the rebuilding of the side-pond at lock 3 (the side-ponds are being reinstated as an operational water-saving measure, not just as an interesting historic feature), the cutting out and replacing of the decayed top 3ft of the brickwork of the chamber walls along the entire length of lock 3, the rebuilding of the tail walls at locks 2 and 3 and the replacement of a collapsed by _wash culvert at lock 3.

Meanwhile the Droitwich Canals Trust's own volunteers have installed 'lock furniture' including new ground paddles on all three locks. During September, the last of six Canal Camps held on the canal during 2001 put the finishing touches on rebuilding the lock tail walls, although a further Canal Camp will be held early in 2002 to finish landscaping and other works on the flight. Lock gate installation has been completed by British Water ways, under contract to Droitwich Canals Trust, and the intermediate pounds test filled.

Kennet & Avon Canal

British Waterways has issued a consultation document suggesting that mooring will not be permitted along certain lengths of the Kennet & Avon Canal towing path in order to give priority to anglers. Such 'angling only' lengths are likely to be next to boat moorings where anglers have previously had easy access to the canal, but where recent improvement works have encouraged boats to moor. The remaining lengths of canal would continue to be available to both boaters and anglers on a 'first come, first served' basis.

IWA's view is that there is a lack of suitable moorings along much of the Kennet & Avon Canal, and mooring along most of the canal's towing path is very difficult owing to lack of depth close to the bank. BW needs to imp rove towing path management and vegetation control. The proposed 'angling only' sections would be difficult to police and frustrating for boaters unable to moor elsewhere. Angling should be prohibited within 25 metres of each lock and boat moorings.

British Waterways has received £45,000 towards canal access improvements and environment protection projects on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire by WREN, the environmental body responsible for administering the Waste Recycling Group's landfill tax credits.

The funds will be used as part of the necessary matching funding for the £29 million Heritage Lottery Fund Grant and will cover towing path improvements between Hamstead and Newbury and provide hazel faggot bank protection and wildlife habitats at Kintbury.

Lapal Canal

Lapal Canal Trust held a public meeting on 7th September, which was attended by about a quarter of the 400 households stretching from Selly Oak to Weoley Castle whose properties back on to the line of the canal. The meeting was held to explain the benefits of restoration to local people and to help allay any fears about proposed work or opposition to the restoration. Over 90% of those attending appeared to favour the Trust's proposals.

Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal

Two potential major threats to restoration of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal have been resolved with £300,000 funding from Government.

A threat to build a new railway, which required a road height change, threatened to obstruct the canal near water level. After objections from Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society, British Waterways and IWA, Railtrack were persuaded to compromise. The relevant road authority also compromised and agreement was reached to reduce both road and waterway headroom marginally to allow restoration.

At the same time there was a threat from the Manchester and Salford Inner Relief Road. The final phase of construction has already commenced over and alongside the River Irwell so that it can be completed before the Commonwealth Games. The road was to be on an embankment across the entrance to the canal from the River Irwell.

With design work nearing completion, it appeared that the Government's recent promises about non-obstruction of canals "that stood a reasonable chance of restoration", had come too late. The canal society and IWA are therefore delighted with the recent announcement that a £300,000 Government funding package will finance a tunnel to allow the canal to be rebuilt under the new road without disturbing it.


The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) welcomed news that the Government had provided a £300,000 funding package for the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. The package will finance a tunnel to allow the canal to be rebuilt to navigable standards under the Manchester and Salford Inner Relief Road, currently under construction.

The road had been a major threat, as the final phase of construction had already commenced. This length runs over and alongside the River Irwell with a planned embankment across the entrance to the canal from the River Irwell. With design work nearing completion, in order to be finished before the Commonwealth Games, there were worries that the Government's recent promises about non-obstruction of canals "that stood a reasonable chance of restoration", had come too late. The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society and IWA are therefore delighted with the recent announcement.

IWA National Chairman, Richard Drake, said: "IWA and many other waterway interests had lobbied hard to find a solution to resolve the high profile potential obstruction to the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals, threatened by the construction of the Birmingham Northern Relief Road. We were delighted when the government announced a solution to that problem in July. This latest announcement for the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal confirms that we have truly entered a new era, where road builders need to have respect for viable waterway restoration schemes."

Richard Drake added, "I am aware that a great deal of lobbying and negotiation went on behind the scenes and I congratulate British Waterways, The Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society and IWA's North West Region on the success of their hard won achievement here."

Historical Notes

The Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal was opened in 1796 from Salford to Prestolee, with branches to Bury and Bolton. In 1806, the canal was connected to the River Irwell. The success of the canal was due to its position, enabling it to transport coal between the four nearest collieries. Its use declined with the advent of the railways, finally closing in 1961. The majority of the original line of the canal remains intact, though partly filled in.

The Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society was established in 1987 to restore the canal to full navigable standard. Most of their effort has concentrated on protecting the line of the canal from further encroachment and developing political support for their aspirations. The potential of the MB&B Canal is considerable in terms of increased recreational and leisure use of waterways in north west Manchester, but just as importantly it will prompt regeneration of many areas along its length. The heritage and education contributions it can make are self-evident.

Season’s Greetings

The Editor of 174 and the Management Council of the IWPS wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

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by Pete Yearsley 

Chester Stroll

Meeting at Egg Bridge, Waverton, a small, but select band (as appears to be customary on our August walk) car shuffled to Mollington, where we set off down the towpath for a short walk to Chester’s Tower Wharf. At the wharf there was plenty to see including the old Shropshire Union company’s boatyard and drydock and the newly re-excavated North basin with its new swing bridge. This basin revealed a number of Shroppie flats as it was being cleared, one being identified as the ‘Onward’ (now where have I heard that name before?).

Armed with excellent notes by Gerry Leach, we set off to explore the Dee branch noting the apartments built on the site of the Chester canal’s terminus basin by its junction with the River Dee. We also saw a fine architectural confection, a ship shaped building constructed for the local sea scouts.

Back on the main line, the three rise staircase indicated the junction of the Ellesmere and Chester canals. The Chester originally dropped through two more locks on the staircase going straight on in to the tidal basin. The later Ellesmere, cut at the level of the present bottom lock did away with the bottom two, access to the tidal basin and river being facilitated by cutting the Dee locks branch.

At the top of the staircase our route through the rock cutting (once a Roman defensive ditch) was blocked by a collapsed wall so we diverted onto the city walls for a short distance, viewing the Bridge of Sighs, which joined the city jail to the Chapel of St John, and the Bluecoat school on our way. Rejoining the towpath we started to leave the city centre behind as we passed through the industrial area with its lead works and mills before diverting at Tarvin Road lock to find an excellent lunch stop at the ‘Peacock’. This hostelry was about half a mile from the canal but it was worth passing the canalside ‘Crown’ for. Good food and a decent pint, speedily served (and cheap) saw us ready to do the last stretch to Egg Bridge.

This section, although never far from urban sprawl, still managed to retain its open aspect as we plodded through the odd shower to Waverton. A shorter walk than normal but packed with interest. Thanks to Sarah and Ian and Gerry and Julie for putting it together.

Editorial Note: For those of you who missed the walk and perhaps plan to do it another day, here are Gerald Leach’s excellent notes compiled to guide you on your way, together with some historical notes on the Port of Chester, the Shropshire Union Canal, Tower Wharf and North Basin, and Taylor’s Boat Yard.

THE WALK - by Gerald Leach

Approaching Chester the buildings on our right hand side are what was once, part of the workshops of the Shropshire Union Company (see separate note "Taylor's Yard"). Some of the buildings are still used by the boat building and repair firm of David Jones.

A short arm is crossed on a new swing bridge that was erected earlier this year. The arm provides access to the former North Basin. This was once a busy location for the storage and transhipment of goods. As can seen the site of the basin and warehouses covered a large area. During the 1950s, the site was filled in and the surrounding warehouses were all demolished. At the time ten sunken boats were buried there during the process. The area now forms part of a new housing development promoted by British Waterways. The first phase of the development entailed clearing out the infill from the basin. However, before this commenced an archaeological survey carried out at the end of 1998, exposed the remains of five wide beamed Shroppie Flats, which from available records have been identified as being the bows of Coronet and Onward and the sterns of John, Linnet and Herbert. The North Basin has now been cleared and landscaped and is now back in water. The remains of the boats were left in-situ.

The towpath immediately changes over to the west side of the canal by means of a slender iron roving bridge (No 126). Note the dry dock situated between the Dee branch and the main line. The dock can be filled by drawing water from the Shropshire Union and discharging it direct into the River Dee below.

At this point we divert to follow the Dee Branch. The branch descends by three wide locks. Note the new Sea Scout building designed to look like the shape of a ship. To our left we will see the City Walls. The sandstone tower on the end of the spur wall at the north west corner of the City walls is the Water Tower. Built in 1323, it originally stood in the River Dee. Its purpose was to protect the quays, which at that time, were by the City Walls in this area. When the new channel was cut and the old course of the river silted up, the tower became land locked and is now about 200 yards from the river bank.

New houses and apartments have recently been built on the site of what was the site of the former Dee Basin. The canal basin was filled in a number of years ago but the navigation channel was retained. A new lift bridge was installed over the navigation in 1998. The junction of the branch canal with the River Dee is just beyond the busy Sealand Road crossing. The road crossing here was originally on a single-track swing bridge that was replaced in the late 1960s. The building that can be seen upriver formed part of the Crane Wharf.

Retracing our route we regain the main line at Tower Wharf (see Separate Note "Tower Wharf and North Basin") where British Waterways has a canal maintenance yard. The buildings at the head of the wharf are the former offices of the Shropshire Union Canal Company. Part of the building has been converted to a pub/restaurant and it is currently being refurbished following a fire last year.

On regaining the main line of the Shropshire Union we turn right and after passing beneath the Raymond Street Bridge the Canal takes a sharp turn to the left.

The canal is now crossed by the former Chester and Holyhead Railway which opened in 1848. At this point, the railway was widened on the northwest side at the beginning of the 19th Century.

Ahead is the Northgate Staircase comprised of three locks having a total rise/fall of 33 feet. The lock staircase was partially cut through solid rock. When originally built in 1779, it had a five-lock rise and gave direct access to the tidal basin of the river Dee. In 1797, the Chester Canal was realigned to connect with the newly constructed, Wirral Line of the Ellesmere Canal. Following the re-alignment, access to the tidal basin was reached from the level of the Wirral line via the Dee branch. The new route avoided the two bottom locks of the original staircase and made a direct junction with the Chester Canal below the third lock of the staircase. The two bottom locks were filled in and the staircase was reduced to a three-lock rise. This arrangement was successful for through traffic between the two canals but traffic from the Chester Canal to the river now had to go the additional quarter mile to reach the Dee Basin. The basin also began to fill with silt from the river and it became difficult to enter. In 1801 then additional lock (River Lock) was built to improve the access between the basin and the river.

At the top of the Northgate locks is the lock keeper's house built to the Telford style and just beyond there was a wharf adjoining Canal Street. Next is a narrow stone footbridge, high above the Canal. This bridge has an unusual origin and is named the Bridge of Sighs. When built, the Canal separated the old Northgate Jail from the nearby Chapel of St John, which was located outside the city walls. It was the practice at the time for condemned felons to be taken from the jail to the chapel across the Northgate Street Bridge. The authorities became concerned over the number of escapes and attempts to rescue condemned prisoners during this short walk. In the1790s, it was decided to build a separate bridge with restricted access, located adjacent to the Northgate jail. Apparently even this was not enough, as some prisoners attempted to escape by jumping off the bridge into the Canal. To prevent this, high railings were fixed on top of the parapets.

The next bridge (No 123G) carries Northgate Street over the canal.

The Canal is now in a deep cutting through the rock. The top of which is surmounted by the city walls and the Phoenix Tower or King Charles Tower as it is now more popularly known. It was originally intended to bore a tunnel at this point but the ground proved easy to excavate as it was on the line of the ditch that the Romans had dug round their fortress at Deva. The excavation simply entailed the removal of centuries of rubbish and it is said that the contractor for this section made a handsome profit as the contract price included an amount for the excavation of solid.

Cow Lane Bridge (No 123E) carries the present day Frodsham Street over the Canal. Cow Lane was the original name of the road which was renamed Frodsham Street when the highway was changed some 180 years ago. Just before the bridge on the towpath side, there was once a short arm, which ran to a warehouse and offices, situated in Victoria Place. This area has been filled in and the towing path's bridge over the arm demolished.

The next bridge has a neat cast iron arch and was erected in 1814 at the instigation of a Thomas Lunt who owned premises on each side of the canal in Seller Street. The bridge soon became known locally as Union Bridge (No 123C).

City Road Bridge (No 123B). The bridge is supported by iron beams, cast locally by J Mowle in 1863 at their Roodee foundry.

The tall tower over to the left is on the site of the lead works, built at the beginning of the eighteenth century by Messrs Walker, Parker and Company. This company was one of the few to own and operate it's own boats on the Canal. The factory smelted lead, manufactured water pipes and other lead based products. The 168 feet high tower was used for the production of lead shot by a process, which involves tipping molten lead from the top of the tower To fall into a tank of water at the base. During the drop, the molten lead is transformed into small metal spheres.

On the towpath side the building, now known as the Steam Mill (built in 1817 by F A Frost & Sons who prior to that had a flour mill on the River Dee) was a grain warehouse and flour mill and used the canal for the transport of supplies of grain and coal. It is an impressive structure and its facade has some ornate brickwork. Nearly one hundred years later, Frosts moved to Ellesmere Port where they became one of three major companies who helped to regenerate the docks and canal trade in Ellesmere Port prior to the First World War.

As we leave the commercial and former industrial area of Chester, the Victorian terraced housing is replaced by larger properties. Hoole Lane Lock is on the edge of residential Chester. The next lock is Chemistry Lock where any water bypassing the lock flows beneath the lock keeper's cottage. Tarvin Road Lock follows and then Greenfield and Christleton Locks. Just before Bridge 22 the canalside building is the former Christleton Mill. The village of Christleton is nearby and it was from here in 1935 that G F Wain started to hire out motor cruisers for canal use and thus pioneered the canal hire craft industry. The canal now begins to reach the open countryside of Cheshire. As it approaches Waverton there are fairly recent housing developments with attractive canal side gardens. We reach Egg Bridge where there was another waterside corn mill.


For the Romans, Chester was an important port and remains of the quay and harbour, which they built, are still evident between the racecourse (the Roodee) and the city walls. To the west of the city the Watergate leads out to what was once the Roman harbour. During the Middle Ages, the city prospered and Chester was the most important port in the north of England. Trade in iron, tar, oil, wax, hides, linen and wine ensured its prosperity

In 1731 the Corporation agreed to proposal for the improvement of navigation on the River Dee. An Act of Parliament was obtained in 1732 for the cutting of a tidal channel with dimensions that would permit ships of 200 tons to reach Chester from the sea.

The channel was dug to achieve a depth of 16 feet of water and it opened in 1737. At the same time a new riverside quay was built at Crane Wharf. In addition, the cutting of the tidal channel enabled some 4000 acres of salt marsh to be recovered for the purpose of agriculture. After a few years, the re-occurrence of silting and shifting sands in the Dee estuary and the growth of the port at Liverpool resulted in the decline of Chester's maritime trade and it lost its importance as the major port for the traffic between England and Ireland.

SHROPSHIRE UNION CANAL (The Chester Canal and The Ellesmere and Chester Canal)

In 1771 a prospectus was drawn up for a barge canal from the River Dee at Chester to join the Trent & Mersey Canal near Runcorn, later changed to Middlewich. The Duke of Bridgewater objected and the Chester Canal promoters were forced to accept an amendment that their canal would not encroach nearer than 100 yards to the T&M. On this basis the Act for the Chester Canal received Parliamentary Assent in March 1772. The first sod was cut at Chester in May 1772 "in a field in the quarry near the Water Tower."

The survey of the Chester Canal was performed in 1770 by Samuel Weston. He had worked as a surveyor's assistant under Brindley and had done some cutting work as a contractor on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Weston was appointed as the Engineer for the Chester Canal in 1772 but was subsequently dismissed in 1774 after evidence of bad workmanship had come to light.

The canal ran from the Dee tidal basin via a five-lock staircase rise near to the City's Northgate. By 1775 the Canal had reached Beeston. Due to the problems with the T&M proprietors and a lack of capital the Chester Canal Company was forced to abandon its line to Middlewich and opted for an alternative line, 16 miles long, to Nantwich which was opened in 1779. Without an end-on connection with any other canal and no developing industrial hinterland the Chester Canal became a complete failure and by 1790 it was derelict.

Its fortunes revived in 1793, with the passing of the Act for the Ellesmere Canal, which authorized the building of a waterway to link the Rivers Severn, Dee and Mersey. The Chester Canal proprietors saw the advantage of a connection with this new canal and this was achieved in part in 1797 with the building of the Wirral line from Netherpool (later named Ellesmere Port) on the Mersey to a junction with the Chester Canal at Chester. Later the Chester received a second connection with the Ellesmere Canal when the Whitchurch Branch was extended and opened to Hurleston near Nantwich in 1805. As the Ellesmere was dependent on the Chester for access to the Mersey, the two companies eventually amalgamated in 1813 to form the Ellesmere and Chester Canal Company. The new company finally obtained powers to make the connection to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Middlewich and this was eventually opened in 1833.

In 1826, with support from Thomas Telford, the Act for the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal received Royal Assent and this major waterway from Wolverhampton to Nantwich was eventually opened throughout in 1835. In 1845 the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Company and the Ellesmere and Chester Companies merged under the title of the latter.

This marriage was short lived and in 1846 in an attempt to counter the threat from the railways, three Acts were approved whereby the name was changed to the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company and powers obtained to convert most of the Company's canal systems into railways.

The new railway and canal combine was quickly identified by the London & North Western Railway as a threat to its own ambitions in the West Midlands. In a strategy aimed at buying out the competition and impeding its railway rivals, the LNWR made an offer in 1846 to lease in perpetuity, the Shropshire Union's canals and railways. The canal company's directors were attracted by the offer and in particular the guarantee of profits from the LNWR. Agreement was reached between the two parties and by an Act of 1847 the LNWR assumed overall control of the Shropshire Union's affairs.


In 1849 the Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Company transferred its head office from Wolverhampton to Chester and established its offices on this site.

The Georgian buildings comprising offices and warehouse are still there and display evidence of the architectural influence of Thomas Telford. An adjoining public house named, the Canal Hotel

catered for passengers who used the two horse drawn packet boats that travelled daily between Chester and Ellesmere Port. This service commenced at the opening of the Wirral line in 1795 and ceased at some time around 1840.

At the west end of the wharf is the site of the former North basin built in 1802.


Ship and boat building is likely to have started on the banks of the River Dee in medieval times. With the arrival of the Canal and the subsequent establishment of the Shropshire Union's headquarters at Tower Wharf, Chester became a centre for boat building and repair. The boatyards, which had once served the river, were replaced by those which served the canals. Activity moved from the Dee Basin up to the Cambrian Road side of the Tower Wharf site. At its peak, over 200 people were employed there and the boat yard was fully equipped with saw mills, blacksmith's forge, carpenter's and painter's shops, boat building sheds with slipways, dry dock, graving dock and a travelling crane.

Just prior to the First World War, a family firm of Black Country boat builders and carriers named Taylor, moved from their yard at Walsall to set up a boat building and repair business in the Dee Basin at Chester.

In 1921, the Shropshire Union ceased to operate as a canal carrier and disposed of its fleet of boats. The ensuing loss of jobs was a blow to the area but this was lessened in 1926 when part of the yard was leased to Taylors. By 1936, J H Taylor and Sons had vacated their site in the Dee Basin and expanded their business into the rest of the Cambrian Road boatyard, taking up occupancy of all of the Shropshire Union boat building sheds and associated facilities, including the dry dock and graving dock.

The firm took the opportunity to repair and refurbish many of the Shroppies' former boats, which were then sold to other carriers. Taylors also built many new canal boats. In addition estuary and river boats for work and pleasure purposes were built to the order of individual clients.

The Taylors continued to operate their business from the yard until 1972 when the lease was sold to Bithells Boats. In 1974, "Taylor's Yard" as it is still known, was taken over by David Jones who has continued to provide the traditional skills of wooded boat building and repair.

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The first boat passage along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. 2001

This article was written by Sue Day, intrepid horseboat operator, at the request of the Editor of Pennine Link, the magazine of the Huddersfield Canal Society (HCS.)

The last boat to travel the full length of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal was the motorboat Ailsa Craig in 1948. The first boat to travel the full length of the Huddersfield Narrow since restoration was the horseboat Maria in 2001.

Two horses, Bonny and Queenie shared Maria's journey to Huddersfield and return, from Guide Bridge on the Ashton Canal. They were unfit after a winter of little harness work. The west side only of the canal was opened unexpectedly early in April.

Maria took three days to get to Uppermill, to ease the horses' workload. One day the crew were drenched in icy April rain and hail.

May 1st, the opening day df the canal dawned bright and sunny, Maria had a passage booked to go through Standedge Tunnel on the special day. This is Britain's longest canal tunnel.

The boat 'Wandering Star' woke up Maria's crew at 5:30 am as it set off to put its bow into the padlocked bottom lock gates to ensure first position up the Diggle flight and through Standedge Tunnel Little Gypsy's crew moved up at.6 am. We joined the queue at 10 am and so came fourth.

I was horrified to be told by a BW member of staff as we progressed up the flight that only two boats would go through the tunnel and it would be first come, first served. I expressed my displeasure, explaining also that I had a change of horse waiting at Tunnel End. The flight was spoilt by the competitive spirit of the boaters, and BW trying to cancel my tunnel passage.

The paddles were horrific, stiff with lack of greasing and oiling. One of our crew members fell into the lock, banging his head on the lock wall when he overbalanced struggling with a paddle.

Thankfully Maria was allowed her passage. She was in from 12.45 until 7 pm (6¼ hours) due to Little Gypsy's stowaway and the infiltrators of the parallel adjacent railway tunnel.

I was amazed at the lack of celebration laid on as the first boats went through the "centrepiece" of our canal, one of the Seven Wonders of The Waterways. The crowds were there but the ribbon and balloons and brass band were kept back for VIPs on May 25th.

When the boats emerged at 7 pm I had to start the cheers and clapping - the stowaway issue was taken far too downheartedly, I thought. Sadly however I had missed the "world premiere" of Mikron's play about The Huddersfield Narrow Canal, by waiting to receive Maria.

Now at last we had the first fun of the day. We had an excellent evening's boating to Booth at West Slaithwaite where I had arranged horse grazing, Many spectators at the tunnel followed us, some lock wheeling too.

That night it suddenly occurred to me that as we were the only boat to have travelled on from Tunnel End we were in a leading position. Wandering Star had achieved her goal - first boat in the tow through the tunnel. Little Gypsy had tried for the first person through the tunnel. Now it should be our turn. I consulted my other full time crew member, John Lackley from Cumbria, and we agreed to try for it - the title of the first boat passage since Ailsa Craig in 1948.

We played Wandering Star at her own game putting our bow into the lock to assert our first position - but we need not have worried - whenever we stopped it was due to a problem at some lock - no boat could continue.

We were held up many times. We had to wait 36 hours at Booth (above Lock 31E). Then again about 4 hours at locks 22E and 20E below Slaithwaite. Lock 12E and Lock 1E each held us up overnight. Reasons drained/leaking pounds, faulty paddles, debris in the locks preventing the gates being opened. BW maintenance staff worked tirelessly, very long hours, trying to sort out the "chaos" as one of them described it. I am proud to say, we never called BW out. but obviously accepted all assistance offered.

In Huddersfield Maria was legged through Sellers Tunnel and poled through Bates Tunnel. Sellers Engineering kindly had given permission for me to take Bonny the Boathorse through their car park on top of their tunnel. However we arrived with minutes to spare as they were fencing it off from public access on May 4th. Bonny then had to take to the busy streets of Huddersfield as there is no pedestrian/boathorse route.

We expected to arrive in Aspley Basin on May 4th but Lock 1E was blocked by a BW dredger.

That night Maria and the other boats which caught us up began to ground on the draining pound. A diver cleared the blockage early on May 5th, 2001 and Maria descended the lock becoming the first boat across the finishing line between the Huddersfield Narrow and the Huddersfield Broad There was no-one to cheer us in, but I suggested that we boaters should gather that night. Where better than at The Flyboat Inn, with its pub sign of a horseboat? We were all shattered by our physical labours but celebrated our arrival.

Sue summarises the experience below:

Excellent pioneering boating. Much harder to go to Huddersfield and return than the 310 miles I did from Manchester to London last year!

I am sure the teething problems will be sorted out in due course. However, greasing and oiling the paddle gear would seem rather basic! Still, one month later, little had been done about this.

The missing elements - I was bitterly disappointed to have my application to leg Maria through Standedge Tunnel accepted then postponed. Boat Lane was closed due to foot and mouth restrictions. I look forward to making these a part of another journey.

There was another stowaway. Dave, my late husband still travels with me. His ashes passed through Standedge Tunnel. When I have legged the Tunnel with him there too, I shall spread his ashes on the summit pound as I promised him.

On out return journey, we carried many members of the public, who gave donations to our collection for cancer charities. These included the hospices at each end of the canal - Willow Wood in Ashton and Kirkwood in Huddersfield. Maria has lost two members of crew to cancer - Dave Brown, my husband, Chairman of the Ashton Packet Boat Co. in 1998, and recently: in 2001, John Hall, Maria's Father Christmas on Santa Cruises. We also carried red and white roses throughout our journey to represent Ashton and Huddersfield i.e. Lancashire/Yorkshire.

Thank you to all the crew members who helped make this wonderful journey possible.

Quiz Wars 

Here, as threatened in July’s "174", the latest episode in the "Quiz Wars" anthology, the dreaded:

"Return of the Bugii"

All the answers are places in or close to Bugsworth Basin and the village

Meeting place for small flyers                                 ___________________ 4, 4

Nip in the Old Groaner’s leafy glade                        ___________________ 8, 5

On top of the pile of washing up                              ___________________ 5, 5

Where Pinsent and Redgrave went for a cuppa       ___________________ 6, 3

Measured security                                                 ___________________ 6, 4

A street of washer women                                      ___________________ 5, 4

Crossing structure for howling hikers                      ___________________ 6, 6

Big catch for a goonish character                           ___________________ 6, 4

Nag for Harry Wheatcroft                                       ___________________ 5, 5

Oriental annelidous spinners struggle up here          ___________________ 4, 4

Barclays, Nat West etc, in ruins                             ___________________ 6, 5

Bird, risen from the ashes, once dwelled here         ___________________ 8, 3

No eastern promise at the end of this road              ___________________ 7, 4

Bring eery reel (anag)                                           ___________________ 8, 5

Young girl’s favourite did some digging down here   ___________________ 5,3

Wave’s Ruler took a spin round here                       ___________________ 9,4

Bleak place for former Derby manager                    ___________________ 6,6

Value of a mite at this historic residence                  ___________________ 9,4

Milk container atop a hill                                          ___________________ 7,5

Burrow here for the second in the world                   ___________________ 8,6

"Pick the bones out of that lot, Jennifer!"

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Book Review
by Derek Brumhead

Portland basin and the archaeology of the canal warehouse.

By Michael Nevell and John Walker. (Volume 1 in the Archaeology of Tameside series). Published by Tameside MBC, 2001, 86 pp, illus, ISBN 1 871 324 254. ú7.50.

This volume is the first in a series of such books designed to describe and analyse in an authoritative style some of the most important archaeological and historical monuments in the Borough of Tameside. It is also a guide to the canal warehouses in north west England, placing the Portland Basin and its warehouse in their regional context. It is of excellent value, based on meticulous fieldwork and archival research and includes a useful list for further reading.

There are at least 59 surviving canal warehouses in north west England, and as the study of other warehouses in the Manchester region illustrates, their design influenced the building of the later railway and cotton warehouses. Among the 59 is the Ashton Canal Warehouse on the Portland Basin, sited at the junction of the Ashton, Huddersfield and Peak Forest canals. Designed and constructed by the famous Manchester firm of David Bellhouse and Co, (who also built the 1830 railway warehouse at Liverpool Road, itself based on the layout of a canal warehouse), it opened in 1834 being one of the largest of its type. It handled thousands of tonnes of goods each year, including cotton, coal, limestone, corn, carrots and candles. Lying derelict in the 1960s it was left in ruins by a fire in 1972, but was rebuilt and reopened in 1999 by Tameside MBC as a Social and Industrial History Museum. A wider scheme of restoration around encompassed the towpaths, bridges, and interpretation boards. The 24 feet diameter suspension waterwheel of cast and wrought iron was later restored by Dorothea Restorations Ltd of Whaley Bridge.

A chapter, supported by photographs from the 1960s, describes the plan and elevations of the warehouse, as well as the details and arrangements of its water power and wheel. This description is a valuable case study in itself. But it is enhanced by being placed in the context of a survey of the origin and development of industrial warehouses in general (going back to Roman and medieval origins), and in particular canal warehouses in north west England. The description of some antecedents to the canal warehouse is very useful. This section ends with the formulation of a fourfold typology of canal warehouses, supported by plans, elevations and photographs. The authors thus establish a crucial methodology, which it is hoped can be followed in the succeeding volumes, by placing their study in the widest possible context.

However satisfying this analysis of the canal warehouse is, the buildings need to be placed in the context of their wider functions for they were, of course, an integral part of one of the great transport innovations of the industrial age. This book includes a study of the three canals which, while focussing on the Portland Basin, were part of a 550 mile network in north west England which encompassed a total of 18 canals and 12 branches.

The opening of a museum and the reconstruction of the warehouse from the ashes of a fire 27 years earlier, was obviously an achievement of some magnitude; it is, however, unlikely to have happened without the successful campaign to restore the Ashton and Peak Forest canals in the early 1970s. The fall and rise of the Portland Basin is carefully explained. The book ends with a gazetteer of the surviving canal warehouses in North West England, 59 of them, supported by site descriptions and photographs. The fieldwork required to complete this list is impressive. The gazetteer follows a pattern common to all who know the various regional guides in industrial archaeology produced for the annual AIA conferences. I am sure many also will not forget that this format was adopted by Owen Ashmore in his industrial archaeology of north west England, a revision of his ground-breaking edition for Lancashire of 1969. Owen was one of the earliest to record the industrial heritage of the north west and one of the unattributed photographs - of the disused waterwheel in the Portland warehouse - is almost certainly one of Owen's from the late 1960s.

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