- Macclesfield Canal
name = Macclesfield Canal
caption = Near Congleton
company = Macclesfield Canal Company
date_act = 1826
date_const = 1826
date_use = 1831
date_comp = 1831
len = 72
beam = 7
end_note = The final section to
Hardings Wood Junctionwas built as part of the Trent and Mersey Canal
Peak Forest Canal Trent and Mersey Canal
locks = 13
status = Navigable
The Macclesfield Canal is a
canalin east Cheshire, England.
The canal runs convert|26|mi|km|0 from
Marple Junctionat Marple, where it joins the Upper Peak Forest Canal, convert|16|mi|km|0, southwards (through Bollingtonand Macclesfield), before arriving at Bosley.
Having descended the 12 Bosley Locks over the course of about a mile (1.6 km), the canal continues through
Congletonto a junction with the Hall Green Branchof the Trent & Mersey Canalat Hall Greenstop lock (the branch itself joins the main line a mile further on at Hardings Wood Junction, near Kidsgrove).
The canal was initially proposed at a public meeting held on 22 September 1824 at the Macclesfield Arms in Macclesfieldcite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/history/prop.htm|title=Macclesfield Canal proposals, 1765-1824|author=Graham Cousins|coauthors=the Railway & Canal Historical Society] . Unlike earlier canals, the spectre of the arrival of the railways was already in sight, and at least one present at the first meeting suggested that a railway might be built.
By the time the canal gained its
Act of Parliamentin 1826, the estimated cost of building the canal (to be funded by shareholders) was put at £295,000. The authorised share capital was £300,000, and the company had powers to borrow a further £100,000. cite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/history/cons.htm|title=Macclesfield Canal construction|author=Graham Cousins|coauthors=the Railway & Canal Historical Society]
The canal was completed in 1831 at a cost of £320,000 (the shareholders having authorised borrowings of up to £50,000 to expedite works. cite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/history/work1.htm|title=The Early Working Years|author=Graham Cousins|coauthors=the Railway & Canal Historical Society] )
The formal opening took place on 9th November 1831, with ceremonial processions of boats from Congleton and Marple proceeding towards Macclesfield, meticulously timed such that boats would arrive at Macclesfield from both directions at the same time, upon arrival, a salute was fired, and the Band of the Macclesfield Cavalry played
God Save the King, before the proprietors and dignitaries retired to the Town Hall for dinner.
The canal was a success, and in its first full year of operation (March 1832-March 1833) the income was over £6,000. cite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/history/work2.htm|title=Benefits|author=Graham Cousins|coauthors=the Railway & Canal Historical Society]
By 1838, the canal company was looking to expansion, and sought to build a branch from
Buglawtonto Biddulph, to serve the coal mines. Initially proposed as a canal, and later as a railway, the plan was eventually dropped after it met with a less than enthusiastic reception from shareholders who were seeking a more substantial dividend, rather than re-investment of profits, and from the mine owners. cite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/history/work3.htm|title=Branch to Biddulph?|author=Graham Cousins|coauthors=the Railway & Canal Historical Society]
In the same year, the company joined forces with the Trent and Mersey Canal Company in a successful move to oppose a move to open a new canal from
Middlewichto Altrincham. cite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/history/work4.htm|title=1838 - continued|author=Graham Cousins|coauthors=the Railway & Canal Historical Society]
The arrival of the railways
As with so many UK canals, the arrival of the railways led to the decline of the canal.
By 1845, the spectre of railway competition was looming large, and the proposals for the Trent and Mersey Company to merge with a railway company were causing concern. cite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/history/work.htm|title=1845 - 1846|author=Graham Cousins|coauthors=the Railway & Canal Historical Society]
At the same time, the canal had already begun its diversification into the leisure market, which would form such a large part of its future, with swift packet boats carrying leisure traffic from the (now closed)
Dukinfieldrailway station, close to Dukinfield Junctionon the Peak Forest Canalto Disley, Lyme Parkand Macclesfield at fares of 1-1½d per mile.
The company, seeing that engaging in head to head competition with the railways, was doomed to failure, opened negotiations with the
North Staffordshire Railwayin October 1845. The proposals from that company were rejected by the shareholders.
By June 1846, however, the company had negotiated an alternative arrangement with the
Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway. Under the terms of this agreement, the railway company took out a perpetual lease of the canal at an annual rate of £2 10s per share (broadly equivalent to the dividend hitherto paid by the canal company).
Changes in Ownership
At the time it took out its lease, the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway was itself at an advanced stage in negotiating a merger with other railway companies, and on 1 January 1847, ownership of the canal passed to the
Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway(later renamed Great Central Railway).
Finally, in 1922, under grouping, the canal passed into the ownership of the
London and North Eastern Railway.
Nationalisation and decline
World War II, in common with many other canals, the canal started to suffer from a lack of maintenance, although commercial carrying on the canal continued into the 1960s. cite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/index.htm|title=Macclesfield Canal Society Home, 1765-1824|author=Tim Boddington]
The threat of closure hung over it until the 1968 Transport Act came into force.
When it appeared that
Harecastle Tunnel, on the Trent and Mersey Canal, might have to close permanently because of mining subsidence, one of the solutions mooted was to make a connection between the Leek Branch of the Caldon canal and the Macclesfield canal at Bosley, via Leek and possibly Rudyard Lake; however Harecastle Tunnel remains open to navigation.
Organisations associated with the canal
The canal is home to Britain's oldest canal cruising club, the North Cheshire Cruising Club. It was formally founded in 1943 although it has pre-war origins. The cruising club played an important role in preventing the canal from closing.
Hall Green Branch, whilst originally built by the Trent & Mersey Canal Canal Company, is often considered as part of the Macclesfield Canal in modern maps and guidebooks. Hall Green Stop Lock survives, with its rise and fall of about a foot; this was to prevent the Trent & Mersey losing water to the Macclesfield in the event of a breach in the latter. There was also a Stop Lock at Marple, although both canals were built to the same level, and the lock was provided only for cases where water shortages might have resulted in a temporary difference. cite web|url=http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/history/water.htm|title=Macclesfield Canal water supply|author=Graham Cousins|coauthors=the Railway & Canal Historical Society] The lock has long been de-gated, having become unnecessary once the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals came into common ownership. The site of the lock remains as a narrows just in front of the junction bridge, as seen in the accompanying picture, overhung by a loading canopy.
The only flight of locks on the canal, at Bosley, are unusual for a narrow canal in having mitre gates at both ends, rather than the usual arrangement of a single top gate.
There are no tunnels on the Macclesfield Canal, but there are several impressive embankments, e.g. at Bollington and
High Laneon the upper section, and over the River Daneon the lower section, close to Bosley bottom lock.
The Macclesfield Canal is renowned for its elegant
roving bridges, locally known as "Snake Bridges".
* [http://www.macclesfieldcanal.org.uk/index.htm The Macclesfield Canal]
* [http://adkins-family.org.uk/macclesfieldcanal/mcmap1.htm Canal maps]
* [http://www.penninewaterways.co.uk/macclesfield/index.htm Macclesfield Canal Virtual Cruise]
* [http://www.nccc.uk.net/index.htm North Cheshire Cruising Club] (warning: may cause problems with some browsers)
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