Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal

Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal
The steam crane at Mount Sion, on the Bury arm
Original owner Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Company
Principal engineer Matthew Fletcher
Other engineer(s) Hugh Henshall, Charles Roberts, John Nightingale[1]
Date of act 1791
Date of first use 1797
Date completed 1808
Date closed 1924, 1941, 1961
Maximum boat length 68 ft 0 in (20.73 m)
Maximum boat beam 14 ft 2 in (4.32 m)

(originally 7 ft 0 in (2.134 m))
(Widened from 1794)

Start point River Irwell, Salford

(originally Oldfield Road, Salford)

End point Bury and Bolton
Branch(es) Fletcher's Canal
Locks 16

(originally 12 and later 17)
(5 added for Irwell extension making 17 total, as of 2008 a single deep lock has replaced locks 1&2)

Maximum height above sea level 247 ft (75 m)
Status Under restoration
Navigation authority British Waterways

The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal is a disused canal in Greater Manchester, England, built to link Bolton and Bury with Manchester. The canal, when fully opened, was 15 miles 1 furlong (24.3 km) long. It was accessed via a junction with the River Irwell in Salford. Seventeen locks were required to climb to the summit as it passed through Pendleton, heading northwest to Prestolee before it split northwest to Bolton and northeast to Bury. Between Bolton and Bury the canal was on the same level and required no locks. Six aqueducts were built to allow the canal to cross the rivers Irwell and Tonge, as well as various minor roads.

The canal was commissioned in 1791 by local landowners and businessmen and built between 1791 and 1808, during the Golden Age of canal building, at a cost of £127,700 (£7.87 million today).[2][3] Originally designed for narrow gauge boats, during its construction the canal was altered into a broad gauge canal to allow an ultimately unrealised connection with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The canal company later converted into a railway company and built a railway line close to the canal's path, which required modifications to the Salford arm of the canal.

Most of the freight carried was coal from local collieries but, as the mines reached the end of their working lives sections of the canal fell into disuse and disrepair and it was officially abandoned in 1961. In 1987 a society was formed with the aim of restoring the canal for leisure use and, in 2006, restoration began in the area around the junction with the River Irwell in Salford. The canal is currently navigable as far as East Ordsall Lane, in Salford.




The local geology of the Irwell Valley, which included steep sided valleys with fast flowing rivers subject to rapid flooding and dry seasons, meant that river transport in the area was confined to the Mersey and Irwell Navigation to the west of Manchester. A combination of factors, including financial unrest and British involvement in the American Revolutionary War, meant that transport investment in Manchester was restricted mainly to road improvements.[4]

With the arrival of more favourable conditions, including the end of the war, a proposal for a canal to link the towns of Manchester, Bolton and Bury was mooted. Matthew Fletcher had in 1789 been employed as a technical advisor and had surveyed the route of the proposed canal,[5] but the first public notice came from Manchester on 4 September 1790.[nb 1][6] The initial proposal probably came from a group in Bolton, with the support of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation Company.[7] A meeting was "intended to be holden at the House of Mr Shawe, the Bull's Head in Manchester aforesaid, on Monday, the twentieth day of this instant, September, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon", where "Surveys, Plans, Levels, Estimates and Proposals" would be presented.[6][8] A further meeting on 16 September, held in Bolton, appointed a committee of six Boltonians chaired by Lord Grey de Wilton to attend at Manchester. A series of resolutions at this meeting followed a discussion of the route, and authorised the necessary actions to bring the plan into fruition, which included the petitioning of Parliament for the required bill. Hugh Henshall was asked to survey the proposed route of the canal.[6]

For local industries along the route of the proposed canal, whose operations relied on water from local rivers and brooks which the canal might also use, its construction was a controversial idea. At a meeting in Bolton on 4 October 1790, it was resolved that "proper clauses be inserted in the bill to prevent injury to owners of mills".[6] A meeting in Bury at the Eagle & Child public house on 29 September 1790 secured an agreement that "the utility of this scheme nevertheless cannot with propriety be ascertained until such time as it has been certified, from whence and in what proportion the proprietors of the intended navigation expect to draw their resources of water".[9] At another meeting in Bury, on 13 October 1790, Hugh Henshall gave a written report on the canal, and stated that his plan would not require water from the river in times of drought, but that floods and rivulets would supply his reservoirs. He suggested that mill owners could be protected by a suitable clause in the bill, and such a clause was duly obtained by Robert Peel.[10] Businesses in Bolton were concerned with the location of the canal terminus, and proposed the construction of a tunnel to allow the terminus to be built closer to the town centre. Ralph Fletcher, spokesman for those concerned, reported on this proposal to the committee, although no tunnel was built.[11]

Subscribers and funding

Notable subscribers[12]
Name of subscriber Value of shares purchased in £
Earl of Derby 3,000
Lord Grey de Wilton 2,000
John Heathcote 3,000
Mr Bent 2,000
W Marsden 1,000
John Drinkwater 500
Thomas Hatfield and son 1,000
Matthew Fletcher 1,500
Nathaniel Heywood 300
Peter Drinkwater 1,000
John Trafford esq 300
Rev James Lyon 1,000
Thomas Lyon of Warrington 1,000
Robert Peel 300
John Fletcher 200
Hugh Henshall 1,000

In a document entitled "A list of subscribers to the intended Bolton Bury and Manchester Canal Navigation", now kept in the Greater Manchester County Record Office,[13] some of the more notable subscribers are listed,[14] along with the amounts invested by each. Many of the 95 investments on the list appear to have been made by proxy. The largest is £3,000, and the smallest £100. The total sum of investments is £47,700. £5 per £100 share was initially paid, with an additional £10 call made by 10 August 1791. Similar share calls were made at regular intervals over the following years.[15] The first dividend of 4% was paid in July 1812, with regular payments following thereafter.[16]

Work begins

Following a parliamentary survey of the route by Charles McNiven,[17] the bill received Royal Assent on 13 May 1791[10] and became an Act of Parliament for the construction of the canal, by which "the proprietors were empowered to purchase land for a breadth of 26 yards on level ground, and wider where required for cuttings or embankments."[18][19] The Act allowed the company to raise £47,000, with shares of £100.[20] The intention was that at Prestolee the route would divide into two branches (arms), with one branch towards Bolton and the other to Bury, but it would not, however, join the River Irwell.[18] The proprietors were entitled to take water from any brooks within 1,000 yards (910 m) of the canal, or within 3 miles (4.8 km) of the canal summits at Bolton and Bury.[19]

At a meeting in Manchester on 30 June 1791, at the house of Alexander Patten, a committee was formed with the following members:[21]

  1. Lord Grey de Wilton, Heaton House, Lancashire
  2. Sir John Edenson Heathcote, Longton, Newcastle, Staffordshire
  3. Thomas Butterworth Bayley esq. — Hope, Salford[22]
  4. Robert Andrews esq — Rivington
  5. James Wareing, Gentleman, Knowsley
  6. Matthew Fletcher (Mine owner, Clifton)
  7. Peter Wright, Gentleman, Manchester
  8. William Marsden, Merchant, Manchester
  9. Charles McNiven, Gentleman, Manchester
  10. Hugh Henshall, Longpost, Staffordshire
  11. John Pilkington, Merchant, Manchester

The meeting secured a resolution that "Matthew Fletcher and Mr McNiven shall dispatch or procure 100 wheelbarrows and as many planks as they shall think necessary for the use and accommodation of the canal navigation". Further meetings took place from 26–29 July. Matthew Fletcher was ordered to meet with land owners to discuss the purchase of any land along the route of the canal, and with this in mind, on 30 July 1791 John Seddon of Sandy Lane was ordered to survey the line of the canal beginning within the estate of John Edenson Heathcote, and ending at the southern extremity of the Reverend Dauntesey's estate. Fletcher and Henshall were ordered to contact people and companies in the building trade to discuss construction.[21]

At a meeting on 16 August 1791, "several persons" attended, and made offers for the contract to build the canal. A Mr John Seddon of Little Hulton, a labourer, agreed to a contract on Matthew Fletcher's terms, for a "certain part of the canal". Five other persons were rejected, their proposals not receiving the "approbation" of the committee.[21]

With news of the planned Rochdale Canal link into Manchester,[23] the company proposed to extend the canal from Bury through Littleborough, and to connect with the Rochdale Canal at Sladen. The new route, known as the Bury and Sladen Canal, was intended as a rival scheme to the proposed Rochdale link into Manchester. A survey was also carried out on a proposed extension from Sladen to Sowerby Bridge.[24] The company also considered links to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the Mersey and Irwell Navigation. These plans would have substantially increased the trans-Pennine traffic using the company's canal, and caused a potential loss of traffic and revenue on the nearby Bridgewater Canal. With this in mind, the owner of the Bridgewater Canal, the Duke of Bridgewater, agreed to allow the Rochdale Canal Company to connect to his canal at Manchester.[25] Despite the persistence of the canal company, the Rochdale Canal plan won the day and in 1797 the company abandoned the Bury and Sladen Canal plan.[26]

Map of the canal showing features and sections with/without water.

After several years of construction, on 9 January 1794 an agreement was reached with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Company to create a link from the Bolton arm of the canal to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Red Moss, near Horwich. This agreement required significant design changes to allow the canal to carry the wider boats used on the broad gauge Leeds and Liverpool Canal,[20] which included a change to broad locks. Benjamin Outram was employed to inspect the works, and reported on the cost of this conversion as being £26,924.[27] Although the necessary changes were implemented, the route of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was altered and the link was not built. In the same year the Haslingden Canal link to the Leeds and Liverpool canal was proposed, from the Bury arm of the canal.[28][29] Although authorised by an Act of Parliament, it too was never built. The canal company remained hopeful of a link between the two canals, but all hope of this was lost when on 21 June 1819 an Act of Parliament was enacted to create a link between the Leigh extension of the Bridgewater Canal, and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.[30]

A report entitled "A Statement of the Situation of the Works of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal, on the Eighteenth of December, 1795." gives details of the progress of the works, including details of bridges, cuttings, raised bankings and aqueducts.[31] Much of the document details the work required to convert the canal to broad gauge. A 5.75-mile (9.25 km) length between Oldfield Lane in Salford and Giants Seat Locks in Outwood was navigable with 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m) of water. The remaining work included strengthening work to the banks, an increase of water depth to 5 feet (1.5 m), and the gravelling of half of the towpath. Between Giants Seat locks and Ringley Bridge two locks had been erected, with a small section of canal to be broadened before becoming navigable. From Ringley Bridge to Prestolee Aqueduct one lock had been erected. Nob End Locks were still under construction but mostly complete, although the basin at the bottom had not yet been dug. The stretch to Bolton had at this time been widened, with several bridges requiring further work, incomplete embankments, construction of a weir, and gravelling of the towpath. On the Bury arm, almost the entire length had been dug, and walls to support the canal along the bank of the Irwell had been built. Some widening of previously narrow sections had yet to be undertaken, none of the towpath had been gravelled, and no fences had been erected along the towpath.

Significant parts of the canal were completed by 1796, including the stretch up to Bury in October of that year.[18] With the completion of the Bolton arm in the following year,[32] much of the canal opened for business. The connection to Fletcher's Canal was completed in 1800, but with the failure of the scheme to connect the Bolton arm of the canal to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the canal remained isolated from any other navigable waterway. One proposed remedy involved the construction of an aqueduct over the River Irwell in Manchester, to connect directly to the Rochdale Canal between Castlefield and Piccadilly.[33] A bill was proposed in 1799 but after strong objections from the Mersey and Irwell Navigation Company[33] they eventually gave up and subsequently, over the following seven years, the canal company purchased enough land to build a canal link directly to the Irwell.

During construction the company, having spent all of the money allowed in the 1791 Act of Parliament, incurred a debt of £31,345. They therefore applied for a further Act[34] to raise more money. This act, granted in 1805,[35] allowed them to raise an additional £80,000. This allowed them to repay the debt, and continue work to finish the canal.[36] An inspection in June 1808 reported that by November 1808 the canal would be complete throughout.[37]

A connection to the Rochdale Canal was eventually built in 1839 via the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal, which was funded in part by the proprietors of the MB&B canal.[38]


Most of the traffic along the canal transported coal from the many collieries that existed along its length, including Outwood Colliery and Ladyshore Colliery. Some of these collieries were linked by road, and some were linked by short tramlines.[39][40] In the late 19th century as much as 650,000 metric tons (640,000 long tons) of coal and 43,000 metric tons (42,000 long tons) of other materials[41] including night soil[42] and fruit[43] were transported annually. The canal also allowed the transport of salt from Cheshire to the many bleach and dye works in the area – hence the name of Salt Wharf on the Bolton arm of the canal. Tolls were easily calculated as milestones were placed at ¼ mile (400 m) intervals along the towpath. This was important as journeys were often quite short, the collieries being so close to industry along the canal's length.[44]

The boats used to transport coal were short and narrow, and each contained a row of boxes used for carrying coal. Each box had a base of two halves, hinged and held closed with chains. These boxes would be lifted out of the boats, positioned by crane over a bunker or cart and emptied by releasing the chains on the base. This design helped keep the canal competitive, as it increased the speed with which loading and unloading of the boats could be performed.[45]

The canal would often freeze in winter, so an icebreaker was used to ensure the canal remained navigable during the cold weather. Named "Sarah Lansdale"[46] and owned by James Crompton Paperworks, it was towed by a team of horses while the crew stood astride the deck, secured to the handrails, rocking the boat from side to side and breaking the ice in the process. Often, ice would be encountered that was so thick the boat would rise up onto the surface of the ice.[47] This boat did once reside at the boat museum in Ellesmere Port Dock[46] but was later destroyed by fire.

Food and drink was made available to those using the canal in several places including Margaret Barlow's Tea Gardens, Kilcoby Cottage and Rhodes Lock. A camping ground was also available at Kilcoby Cottage.[48] The nearby Giant's Seat House was for some time the home of the canal manager.[49]

The canal also carried packet services, with passengers facing a three-hour journey between Bolton and Manchester.[50] The first passenger boat to Bolton was launched in 1796 from the Windsor Castle public house, and in 1798 a new packet boat was built for the use of the company.[8][51] Fares were initially fixed by the canal company (although from 1805 contracted-out) and based upon the service required; a passenger using the state cabin from Bolton to Manchester would be charged one shilling six pence, and a single shilling on the return journey.[51] Passengers would change boats at Prestolee to avoid delays at the lock flight and also to save water,[19] and a purpose-built covered walkway the length of the road was constructed for their benefit.[52][53][54] Another passenger service ran along the two arms from Bolton to Bury, and over 60,000 passengers per year travelled on the canal; between July 1833 and June 1834, 21,060 made the journey from Bolton to Manchester, 21,212 people travelled from Manchester to Bolton, and 20,818 intermediary passengers hopped on and off the boats en route.[55] In 1834 the Bolton to Manchester service earned £1,177 and the Bolton to Bury service earned £75.[55] The service was quite luxurious compared to some packet boat services: central heating was provided in winter and drinks were served on board. This caused a tragedy in 1818, however, when a party of twenty drunken passengers managed to capsize the boat and a number of passengers, including two children, were drowned.[50][55]

Several fatal incidents combined with general passenger concern caused the canal company to improve passenger safety; in 1802 a wall was built at the wharf at Oldfield Lane in Salford and in 1833 a gas lamp was installed at Ringley Wharf.[52]

A parcel service was also offered, although this proved unpopular as it was unreliable.[56]

Railway proposal

The seal of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Navigation & Railway Company

In March 1829 the idea of building a branch railway line from the Oldfield Road terminus in Salford to the new Liverpool and Manchester Railway was mooted, but nothing was built. In 1830 the canal company, led by chairman Sir John Tobin, began to promote a proposal to build a railway along the line of the canal, from Salford to Bolton. Alexander Nimmo was employed to report on the proposal and told that it was possible "so far as he expressed himself capable of judging from his present cursory view of the canal".[57] The shareholders then sought a bill for a railway from Bolton to Manchester and on 23 August 1831 obtained an Act of Parliament to become the "Company of Proprietors of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Navigation and Railway Company".[7][57] They were empowered to build a line from Manchester to Bolton and Bury, "upon or near the line of ... the Canal", and a branch from Clifton Aqueduct through to Great Lever. In 1832 this company obtained an Act that allowed it to build the railway.[58] Due mainly to the objections of local mine owners who would have lost access to the canal and supplies, and would not have had branch railways built for them, the company agreed to an amending bill which would keep the canal and allow the new railway to be constructed alongside it.[59][60] Due to technical and financial constraints the branch to Bury was never built.[61] The canal therefore survived, although locks 4 and 5 in Salford were moved and combined into a two-rise staircase, with a second tunnel built underneath the line[62][63] which became known as the Manchester and Bolton Railway.

The line opened on 28 May 1838,[64] and the company had purchased four locomotives from Bury, Curtis, and Kennedy, two from George Forrester and Company, and two from William Fairbairn & Sons.[65] Between the opening date and 9 January 1839 the railway carried 228,799 passengers – far more than had been carried on the canal.[66] Shortly thereafter passenger services on the canal ceased and the boats were sold off. In 1846 the company was taken over by the Manchester and Leeds Railway,[58] which itself became the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) the following year. In 1890 the L&YR widened the line through Salford. Locks 4, 5 and 6 were moved slightly to the north and the tunnel under the railway was replaced by a bridge (although it is still referred to as a tunnel).[67]

In 1922 the L&YR amalgamated into the London and North Western Railway, and in 1923 this company amalgamated into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. This company was nationalised in 1948 under the Transport Act 1947 and became part of British Railways.


By 1924 there had been a significant reduction in the use of the Bolton arm, though the coal trade remained brisk until the 1930s when the effects of colliery closures reduced traffic.[7] Fletcher's Canal had fallen into disuse by 1935, and bank bursts alongside the Irwell and Croal rivers (caused largely by subsidence from mining activities) were common. A major breach of the canal occurred in 1936, and this was never repaired. Cream's Paper Mill purchased 10.45 acres (42,300 m2) of disused canal and adjacent land from the British Transport Commission around the area of the 1936 breach and built over part of the canal.[68]

On Tuesday 2 March 1937 the London, Midland and Scottish Railway held a Special General Meeting and proposed an application to the Minister of Transport to abandon a section of the canal from Clifton Aqueduct to Bailey Bridge, from Bailey Bridge to Bury, and the entire Bolton arm from Nob End Locks to Bolton.[69] This proposal was not carried.[70] However, four years later under the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Act of 1941, 7 miles (11 km) of the canal were abandoned, including a section from Prestolee to Clifton, and all of the Bolton arm.[71] In 1939 during the Second World War, a half-mile long section in Agecroft was ordered piped by the Ministry of Transport to reduce the risk of German bomb damage to the canal affecting the adjacent Magnesium Elektron Company’s site.[7]

The canal continued to generate some revenue from the sale of water, while tolls produced only a small proportion of the canal's income. In 1946 the canal earned a total of £7,296 of which only £471 was from tolls, against expenses of £12,500[72] and in 1951 total income was £8,815 against a total expenditure of £9,574.[73] In the same year, the canal carried 3,933 long tons (3,996 t) of coal, and no other materials.[74]

A report commissioned in 1955 by the British Transport Commission included the canal in a list of "Waterways having insufficient commercial prospects to justify their retention for navigation".[75] The canal was abandoned in 1961 following an Act of Parliament,[7][76] although a single coal delivery service between Sion Street and Bury Moors continued until 1968, the last commercial traffic to use the canal.


Nob End Locks in operation

There are several notable features along the canal, including Prestolee Aqueduct and Clifton Aqueduct, both of which are Grade II listed structures.[77][78] Nob End Locks (sometimes referred to as Prestolee Locks) sit at the junction of the three arms of the canal at Nob End. They comprise two sets of three staircase locks, separated by a passing basin. These locks served to lower the level of the canal by 64 feet (20 m) over a distance of 600 feet (183 m). The upper staircase is still visible, but most of the lower staircase was filled in at some point in the 1950s, and much of the stonework was removed.[79]

A major breach of the canal along the Bury arm revealed the scale of the engineering used in the construction of the retaining wall. Railway rails, which were used to increase the strength of the walls, are still clearly visible at the site of the breach.[80]

The Mount Sion steam crane (a depiction of which is used as the logo of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society) sits rusting and unused at Mount Sion, on the Bury arm. The crane was built in 1884 for Mount Sion Bleach Works by J Smith & Sons of Rodley, West Yorkshire and was used to unload coal boxes from barges into the yard below the canal.[80]

Design and construction

Reinforcements along the Bury arm help keep the canal bank from sliding down the valley.

The original source of water for the canal was the River Irwell in Bury, at the Weddell Brook tributary. This was, however, insufficient for the needs of local industry and in 1842 Elton Reservoir at Bury[81] was constructed as the principal supply for the canal.[7] Although the Bury and Bolton arms are on one level, the Salford arm used seventeen broad locks, including some in staircases (Nob End, for example), to descend 190 feet (58 m) over 8 miles (13 km) from the summit level to the lowest point at Salford.[82] Robert Fulton had proposed an inclined plane at Nob End, but this design was rejected.[83][84] The connection with Fletcher's Canal near Clifton Aqueduct was made by a single lock[38] 90 feet (27 m) long by 21 feet (6 m) wide, with a drop of 18 inches (46 cm).[83]

Although the canal was originally designed to be a narrow canal with narrow locks for boats 7 feet (2 m) wide, in 1794 an agreement was reached with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal company to create a link near Red Moss near Horwich, so broad locks were built to accommodate the 14 feet (4 m) wide boats using that canal.[20] This meant removing some of the narrow locks that had already been built.[82] An extension to the original canal feeder was built at Weddell Brook in Bury, alongside the River Irwell. The route of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was changed, however, and the planned link never materialised. The design changes to the canal were not completely without merit, since they allowed two narrowboats to use each lock simultaneously, saving passage time and water.

Much of the Bury arm of the canal runs alongside the River Irwell through the Irwell Valley, and eventually required the construction of huge retaining walls to prevent the canal bank from sliding down the hill.[80] Similar strengthening, although on a smaller scale, was required on the Bolton arm where it ran alongside the River Croal.[85] Through these sections the towpath is normally on the side of the canal closest to the river.

Prestolee Aqueduct

Six aqueducts were required to allow the canal to cross the River Irwell, the River Tonge and four roads. On the Bolton arm these were Hall Lane Aqueduct, Fogg's Aqueduct and the larger Damside Aqueduct, all of which have since been demolished. Hall Lane Aqueduct was damaged by mining subsidence and replaced in 1884–1885. It was demolished in 1950.[86] The Salford arm flowed over Prestolee Aqueduct, then Clifton Aqueduct, and finally the smaller Lumn's Lane Aqueduct (since demolished).

Many bridges were also constructed, along the length of the canal. Most were of small design allowing access to farmland, although many are wide enough for a horse and cart. In places where the canal crossed important thoroughfares, such as Water Street in Radcliffe, Radcliffe Road in Darcy Lever and Agecroft Road in Pendlebury, larger bridges were constructed.

Cranes were used along the many wharfs on the canal to offload cargo. One of these, a steam crane at Mount Sion, still exists (albeit in poor condition). At Bury Wharf a traversing steam crane positioned between the two arms of the terminus would offload cargo to be loaded into waiting lorries[47] and a similar system was used at Radcliffe Wharf.


In 1795 costs of construction were detailed as follows:[31]

Money Raised and Expended
Work done £. S. D.
Original Subscription Amounts 47,700 0 0
Four calls since of ten percent 19,080 0 0
Interest allowed by the treasurer 376 17 5
Sundry Articles sold 39 6 10
Total 67,196 4 3
For obtaining the Act of Parliament, and for subsequent Law Expenses inclusive of Expenses of Meetings 1,274 8 5
Purchase of Lands 2,586 7 8
Cutting and Banking 25,228 18 11
Bricks 5,825 3 11¾
Masonry, Lock-Building and Walls 8,611 19
Bridges and Aqueducts 8,069 19
Timber 4,123 3 8
Iron Work 548 0
Wages, &c. 1,506 15
Damage and Trespasses 144 13 9
Team Work 2,383 13 1
Carpenters 1,506 4 5
Annual Rents 419 18 2
Surveys 1,256 15 9
Expenses of a Meeting paid by the Treasurer 10 18 6
Calls in arrear 2,400 0 0
Balance in Treasurer's Hands 1,750 8 5
Total 67,647 9
Deduct for Cash advanced on the above Payments included in the outstanding Debts 451 5
Outstanding 67,196 4 3

The total cost of construction was £127,700.


Contemporary view of the 1936 breach at Nob End

Throughout its history the canal has suffered several major breaches. As early as 1799 a flood carried away large sections of the lower banks,[32] and another such incident occurred on 15 October 1853 when two boats were swept through a 93-yard (85 m) breach near the bottom of Nob End Locks, although nobody was injured.[87] Subsidence due to mining caused a breach near Agecroft in 1881.[72]

As a result of such incidents, from 1881 to 1888 the engineer Edwin Muir was employed to undertake work to reduce damage from subsidence caused by mining activity,[88] and more work was carried out for the same purpose throughout the 1920s. Maps from the 1880s show that the canal company had purchased areas of coal beneath the canal to safeguard against further subsidence.[89]

In 1884 the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, which at this time owned the canal, successfully pursued an action against the colliery owners Knowles & Sons to claim compensation for damage that subsidence caused by their mining had done to the canal. After the judgement the railway company settled out of court with other colliery owners.[72] Constant repairs were required to correct the subsidence, particularly through Pendleton where the embankment had to be raised periodically, with some bridges raised many feet above their original supports. Some bridges sank as low as 8 feet (2 m) above head height.[90]

The most serious breach occurred on 6 July 1936 at Nob End, close to Nob End Locks near the junction of the three arms of the canal. This breach was never repaired, and although the canal saw continued use between Ladyshore Colliery and Bury, it eventually closed in 1961. The Manchester Evening News reported the breach on 7 July 1936:[91]

CANAL BURSTS ITS BANKS - Barges Smashed and River Dammed "When the Bolton-Manchester Canal burst its banks at Little Lever yesterday millions of gallons of water cascaded 300 feet into the River Irwell, carrying down hundreds of tons of earth and stones. The river rapidly became blocked on the Bury side and the banked-up water flooded the surrounding land. "Like Niagara" was the description applied by one resident in the vicinity. Bricks and iron reinforcements of the side of the canal were torn away and carried into the river. Canal barges were smashed up as they too swept over the falls. Fortunately, there are no houses in the neighbourhood, and no one was hurt. It is feared that work at a paper mill and a chemical works which depend upon the canal for transport will be affected. Mr John W. Martin, of Loxham Street, Bolton, said: "I was cycling along the bank when I suddenly saw signs of a subsidence begin on a bend in the canal. I could not stop and my only chance was to ride furiously along the two feet of earth which remained. As I passed over the earth fell away behind the back wheel of my bicycle and I was thrown off. "The noise was deafening. A few yards from me tremendous quantities of water, rock, and earth were moving bodily from the canal. A gap about 100 yards long has been opened in the canal embankment. A few years ago there was a similar landslide near the spot."

Current status

The canal north of Agecroft Road, in water at this point. The towpath here was cleared of overgrowth in 2007.
The 1936 breach at Nob End, in 2008

Almost 60% of the original length of the canal is no longer in water. Bury Wharf is now an industrial estate and the section between this wharf and the first part of the canal still in water, south of Daisyfield Viaduct, is more accessible; a car park has been built near the viaduct but there has been no further building here.[92] A small section is infilled, and the canal is in water until Water Street in Radcliffe, although overgrown with weeds. Water Street now blocks the canal, which continues under the road through a small culvert built in the 1960s. The canal remains in water up to the point where it is dammed at Ladyshore, following which an empty paper mill building, built in 1956, is found on the line of the canal.[68]

The 1936 breach, never repaired, presents a large gap in the canal route, and there is no towpath at this point. On the Salford arm, the locks at Prestolee are completely derelict although the top three locks are still in good condition. The canal is in water from the bottom of the lock flight until it reaches Ringley Locks. Ringley Bridge is infilled, and the line of the canal is filled throughout Ringley Village, and through Giants Seat Locks. Kilcoby Bridge is missing and the line of the canal is inaccessible from this point up to the M60 motorway. Rhodes Lock is still in reasonable condition, although completely overgrown, and one or more electricity pylons straddle the infilled canal between Rhodes Lock and the motorway, which has been built over the line of the canal. A sludge lagoon built during the construction of the motorway also blocks a short section of canal between the motorway and Clifton Aqueduct. The canal does not take water again until beyond Clifton Aqueduct, where a short 900-foot (270 m) length exists between Pilkingtons and the Enersys factory.[93] Lumn's Lane aqueduct is missing but the canal is in water between Lumn's Lane and Holland Street. Beyond this point the canal has been filled in and some parts built over, especially through Pendleton. The canal at the junction with the River Irwell in Salford has recently been restored to operation and is navigable.

The Bolton arm of the canal is interrupted by the absence of Hall Lane Aqueduct at Little Lever, which was demolished in 1950 to make way for the widening of Hall Lane.[94] In Darcy Lever, Damside Aqueduct, which crossed Radcliffe Road and the Tonge River, is also missing, having been demolished in June 1965. The route of St Peter's Way has almost entirely destroyed a significant section of the canal as it heads into the centre of Bolton[95] and Church Wharf no longer exists. The last section of the Bolton arm of the canal still in water is currently used for fishing.[96]

The entire route of the canal is protected from any adverse development that would prevent the restoration of the canal, having been included in the unitary development plans of Salford City Council,[97] Bolton Council[98] and Bury Council.[92]


John Fletcher on the Prince William, the first boat into the newly restored section of canal.
Recent cleanup work at Nob End Locks by volunteers

The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society was formed in 1987 to protect the line of the canal. Despite the problems mentioned above, on 21 October 2005 British Waterways announced funding from European Objective Two Funding, the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and Salford City Council for the restoration at the newly named Middlewood Locks in Salford,[99] which began in September 2006. Completion of this section was scheduled for the end of July 2008,[100] and was marked with an opening ceremony on 19 September 2008.[101] It is hoped that the full length of the canal will eventually be restored to operation by 2020. The restoration of the canal could create up to 6,000 jobs and add £6M to the local economy each year.[102] The locks and all of the canal at Middlewood have already been dug out and are visible for the first time in many years, with new wash walls replacing the missing stonework.[103] Asbestos was found in the infill, and there were delays to the work whilst an application was made to HM Revenue and Customs for an exemption licence to the landfill tax: "The licence has been applied for because small quantities of asbestos (less than 1%) within the material remaining mean that a separate registered disposal tip has to be used."[103] Restoration was also halted briefly by the discovery of what was initially thought to be a Second World War bomb,[104] but which proved to be a wartime American mortar with no explosive contents.

The new Margaret Fletcher tunnel under the Manchester Inner Ring Road was formally named on 19 September 2008.[105][106][107] Pilings for the tunnel under the Manchester to Preston Line have also been completed, allowing tunnelling to continue further along the route.[108] The missing Irwell towpath bridge across the canal entrance, formerly known as Bloody Bridge, has been replaced with an arched timber structure, incorporating elements of the old Lock 3.[109] Much of the existing masonry from the canal has been re-used, including coping stones around Lock 3, and the original washwalls have been grouted and pointed where possible.[100] The original river locks 1 and 2 have now been replaced by a single deep lock.

The total cost of restoration of the canal is estimated at £60M,[110] with the next stage of the work planned for the section through Salford Crescent.[111][112]

Local volunteers have for many years worked along sections of the canal, removing overgrowth and tidying up the general appearance,[110] and the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society routinely organises working parties. One of these was held from 29–30 March 2008, and worked to clear overgrowth from Nob End Locks.[113] The Waterway Recovery Group also assists with this voluntary work.[114]

Locations of features

See also

Moore Bridge.jpg UK Waterways portal


  1. ^ The sponsors were not indicated
Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal
Unknown BSicon "uENDEa"
Woodhill Road – Bury Arm terminates
Unwatered canal under major road
A58 Bolton Street
Unknown BSicon "ugddSTRl"
Bury Wharf
Unknown BSicon "ugmKRZu"
Daisyfield Viaduct
Unknown BSicon "ugTRANSf"
Daisyfield Dam
Unknown BSicon "uFEEDERr" Unknown BSicon "uRESRr"
Elton reservoir
Waterway under track or footbridge
Bank Top Bridge
Waterway under track or footbridge
Rothwell Bridge
Waterway under track or footbridge
Withins Bridge
Waterway under track or footbridge
Whittaker's Bridge
Waterway under track or footbridge
Water Lane
Waterway with marina/wharf on right
Radcliffe Wharf
Unwatered canal under major road
Water Street Bridge (culvert)
Waterway under track or footbridge
Victoria St Footbridge
Waterway under track or footbridge
Scotson Fold Bridge (School St)
Waterway under track or footbridge
Nickerhole Bridge (Cams Ln)
Waterway under track or footbridge
Sion Bridge
Unknown BSicon "uSTRfr"
Steam Crane
Waterway under track or footbridge
Ladyshore Bridge (Hayward Av)
Unknown BSicon "uWHARF"
Ladyshore Colliery
Unknown BSicon "ugTRANSg"
Ladyshore Dam
Unknown BSicon "BUILDING"
Creams Paper Mill
Unknown BSicon "ugKRZun"
Bailey Bridge (Mytham Rd)
Canal breached
Unknown BSicon "ugKRZun"
Waterway with unused branch to left Unwatered canal turning from right
Junction of three arms of canal
Waterway with pumping station or building on left Unwatered canal
Nob End Cottages – Bolton Arm
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "ugSTAIRu"
Prestolee Locks (12 – 17)
Urban straight track Urban stop on track
Basin – Salford Arm
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uxgJUNCld" Unknown BSicon "ugDRYl"
Dry dock
Waterway T-junction to right Urban straight track
Salt Wharf
Unknown BSicon "ugTRANSg" Urban bridge over water
Prestolee Aqueduct
Unknown BSicon "ugBRÜCKE" Waterway under track or footbridge
Hall Lane Aqueduct (demolished)
Unwatered canal Waterway under track or footbridge
Prestolee Bridge
Unwatered canal Unknown BSicon "ugLock5"
Ringley Locks (10 & 11)
Unwatered canal Unknown BSicon "ugKRZuy"
Ringley Canal Bridge/Ringley Road
Unknown BSicon "ugBRÜCKE" Unwatered canal
Fogg's Aqueduct (demolished)
Unwatered canal Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSu"
Giants Seat Locks (8 & 9)
Unwatered canal Unknown BSicon "ugLock5"
Rhodes Lock (7)
Unknown BSicon "uexWBRÜCKE" Unwatered canal
Damside Aqueduct (demolished)
Unknown BSicon "uxgmKRZu" Unwatered canal
Burnden Viaduct
Unwatered canal Unknown BSicon "ugAKRZu2"
M60 motorway
Unknown BSicon "gwhfKBFg" Unwatered canal
Church Wharf – Bolton Arm terminates
Unknown BSicon "ugWHARF"
Unknown BSicon "ugWBRÜCKE"
Clifton Aqueduct
Unknown BSicon "ugSTRq" Unknown BSicon "ugJUNCrd"
Junction with Fletcher's Canal
Unknown BSicon "ugWHARF"
Unknown BSicon "uemKRZu"
Clifton Viaduct
Unknown BSicon "uexBRÜCKE"
Lumn's Lane Aqueduct (demolished)
Waterway under minor road
Agecroft Road
Unknown BSicon "uWHARF"
Agecroft Dock
Unknown BSicon "ugKRZuy"
Park House Bridge Road
Waterway under track or footbridge
Cock Robin bridge
Unknown BSicon "ugKRZuy"
Broughton Road
Unknown BSicon "ugKRZuy"
Frederick Road
Unknown BSicon "uWHARF"
Windsor Bridge Wharf
Waterway under major road
A6 Salford Crescent/Windsor Bridge
Unknown BSicon "ugKRZuy"
Oldfield Road
Unknown BSicon "ugLock5"
Lock 6
Unknown BSicon "ugddSTRr"
Oldfield Road Terminus
Unknown BSicon "ugTUNNEL1"
Salford tunnel no.2
Unknown BSicon "uexHST"
Turning basin
Unknown BSicon "ugLOCKSu"
Locks 4 and 5
Unknown BSicon "uexTUNNEL1"
Salford tunnel no.1
Unknown BSicon "uLock5"
Lock 3
Waterway under minor road
Oldfield Road
Urban stop on track
New basins
Unknown BSicon "uLock5"
Deep Lock 1 (replaces river locks 1&2)
Unknown BSicon "uTUNNEL1"
Margaret Fletcher Tunnel
Waterway under track or footbridge
Bloody Bridge
Urban transverse track Unknown BSicon "uJUNCe" Urban transverse track
River Irwell – entrance to canal
  1. ^ Tomlinson 1991, pp. 47–48.
  2. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Lawrence H. Officer (2010) "What Were the UK Earnings and Prices Then?" MeasuringWorth.
  3. ^ Two Acts of Parliament allowed the company to raise £47,000, and £80,000 respectively
  4. ^ Tomlinson, pp. 26–28.
  5. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 31.
  6. ^ a b c d Tomlinson 1991, p. 28.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Paget-Tomlinson 2006, pp. 148–149.
  8. ^ a b "Proceedings in the Business of the Intended Canal Navigation from Manchester to Bury and Bolton (1790–1831)", Manchester Mercury, 1790-09-07 
  9. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 29.
  10. ^ a b Tomlinson 1991, p. 32.
  11. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 30.
  12. ^ The names listed in this table are in the order they appear on the original document. Many other names are also on the same document, some in-between the names on the table, but are too many to show here.
  13. ^ A list of the subscribers to the intended Bolton Bury and Manchester Canal Navigation, Greater Manchester County Records Office, ref. E4/78/419: Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Company, 1791 
  14. ^ Of this list, the Earl of Derby, John Heathcote, Lord Grey de Wilson, and Matthew Fletcher were the main owners of land northeast of Clifton.
  15. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 51.
  16. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 62.
  17. ^ Hadfield 1970, p. 246.
  18. ^ a b c Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal,,, retrieved 2008-06-27 
  19. ^ a b c Corbett 1974, p. 79.
  20. ^ a b c Priestley 1831, p. 435.
  21. ^ a b c Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal. Copy of resolutions, Greater Manchester County Records Office, ref. E4/4/18b/2: Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Company, 30 June 1791 
  22. ^ Farrer, William (1911), British History Online, Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust, pp. 392–396,, retrieved 2008-08-14 [dead link]
  23. ^ The construction of the Rochdale Canal did not reach Manchester until 1804.
  24. ^ Skempton 2002, p. 51.
  25. ^ Pickering 1807, p. 663.
  26. ^ Tomlinson 1991, pp. 34–35.
  27. ^ Hadfield 1970, p. 250.
  28. ^ Hadfield 1970, pp. 259–261.
  29. ^ Clarke, Mike, The Leeds-Liverpool Canal,,, retrieved 2008-08-18 
  30. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 44.
  31. ^ a b A statement of the situation of the works of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal, Greater Manchester County Records Office, ref. E4/4/18b/21: Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Company, 18 December 1795 
  32. ^ a b Britton 1807, p. 35.
  33. ^ a b Hadfield 1970, pp. 251–252.
  34. ^ An Act to enable the Company of Proprietors of the Canal Navigation from Manchester to Bolton and to Bury, to raise money to complete the same
  35. ^ (PDF) E4 Wilton Family of Heaton Hall, Greater Manchester County Record Office, p. 255,, retrieved 2008-08-29 
  36. ^ Priestley 1831, pp. 435–436.
  37. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 64.
  38. ^ a b Tomlinson 1991, p. 45.
  39. ^ Hindle 2005, p. 8.
  40. ^ Waterson 1985, p. 23.
  41. ^ The Times newspaper: Canal rates and tolls, The Times, October 18, 1893,  Retrieved on 2008-06-29
  42. ^ Waterson 1985, p. 21.
  43. ^ Waterson 1985, p. 33.
  44. ^ Owen 1988, p. 60.
  45. ^ Owen 1988, p. 53.
  46. ^ a b (PDF) Boat Museum Society Report, The Boat Museum Society,, retrieved 2008-07-29 
  47. ^ a b Owen 1988, p. 61.
  48. ^ Owen 1988, p. 55.
  49. ^ Corbett 1974, p. 80.
  50. ^ a b Tomlinson 1991, p. 101.
  51. ^ a b Tomlinson 1991, p. 98.
  52. ^ a b Tomlinson 1991, pp. 98–99.
  53. ^ Britton 1807, p. 36.
  54. ^ Waterson 1985, p. 18.
  55. ^ a b c Waterson 1985, p. 7.
  56. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 102.
  57. ^ a b Hadfield 1970, pp. 256–257.
  58. ^ a b Backtrack Volume 17,,, retrieved 2008-06-30 
  59. ^ Hadfield 1970, p. 257.
  60. ^ Canal at Pendleton in 19 November 1966, Manchester Libraries,, retrieved 2008-06-30 
  61. ^ Wells 1995, p. 3.
  62. ^ Tomlinson 1991, p. 65.
  63. ^ Chester-Browne 1995, p. 12.
  64. ^ Bardsley 1960, p. 7.
  65. ^ Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway locomotives,,, retrieved 2008-08-30 
  66. ^ N/A 1851, p. 222.
  67. ^ Chester-Browne 1995, p. 13.
  68. ^ a b Lyddon 1975, p. 127.
  69. ^ The Times newspaper: Notice of a Special General Meeting of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, The Times, February 11, 1937,  Retrieved on 2008-06-29
  70. ^ Transport (Bury and Bolton Canal), HANSARD 1803–2005,, retrieved 2008-08-12 
  71. ^ Shipping Turn-around, HANSARD 1803–2005,, retrieved 2008-08-12 
  72. ^ a b c Hadfield 1970, pp. 439–441.
  73. ^ Palmer (chairman) 1955, pp. 100–101.
  74. ^ Palmer (chairman) 1955, p. 124.
  75. ^ Palmer (chairman) 1955, p. 70.
  76. ^ The Times newspaper: Parliamentary Notices in Parliament, Session 1960–1961, The Times, 2 December 1960,  Retrieved on 2008-07-01
  77. ^ Prestolee Aqueduct, Images of England, . Retrieved on 27 June 2008.
  78. ^ Clifton Aqueduct, Images of England, . Retrieved on 27 June 2008.
  79. ^ Hindle 1998, p. 3.
  80. ^ a b c Hindle 1998, p. 4.
  81. ^ Waterways, Issue 214, The Inland Waterways Association, p. 14, [dead link]
  82. ^ a b Priestley 1831, p. 437.
  83. ^ a b Owen 1988, p. 54.
  84. ^ Corbett 1974, pp. 79–80.
  85. ^ Waterson 1985, p. 15.
  86. ^ Hindle 1998, p. 5.
  87. ^ The Times newspaper:Alarming accident on a canal, The Times, 18 October 1853,  Retrieved on 2008-06-29
  88. ^ Hadfield 1970, p. 439.
  89. ^ Hindle 2005, p. 14.
  90. ^ Corbett 1974, p. 83.
  91. ^ N/A (7 July 1936), "Canal Bursts its Banks", The Manchester Evening News (M.E.N. Media): 7 
  92. ^ a b (DOC) Restoring the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal – Initial Policy and Land Acquisition Issues, Bury Council, 12 February 2003,, retrieved 2008-06-27 
  93. ^ Edwards 2007, p. 161.
  94. ^ Farnworth/Moses Gate — ben200525671.jpg, The Bolton News,, retrieved 2008-06-30 [dead link]
  95. ^ The Bolton Arm, Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society,, retrieved 2008-07-01 
  96. ^ Bolton Canal,,, retrieved 2008-08-10 [dead link]
  97. ^ City of Salford Unitary Development Plan 2004–2016, Salford City Council,, retrieved 2008-06-27 
  98. ^ (PDF) Unitary Development plan for Bolton, Bolton Council, April 2005, archived from the original on February 27, 2007,, retrieved 2008-06-27 
  99. ^ Full Steam Ahead For Canal Restoration In Salford, British Waterways,, retrieved 2008-06-27 
  100. ^ a b Littlewood 2008, p. 5.
  101. ^ Boats return to 'hidden canal', M.E.N. media 2008, 2008-09-24,, retrieved 2008-10-01 
  102. ^ Canal may be re-born, BBC Online, 2002-05-28,, retrieved 2008-06-27 
  103. ^ a b Jackson 2007, p. 6.
  104. ^ Littlewood 2007, p. 5.
  105. ^ Restoration Report, Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society,, retrieved 2008-06-28 
  106. ^ Middlewood Locks Project,, retrieved 2008-06-28 [dead link]
  107. ^ Fletcher 2008, p. 3.
  108. ^ Littlewood, Fran, Middlewood Progress, Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society,, retrieved 2008-06-27 
  109. ^ Littlewood 2008, pp. 5–8.
  110. ^ a b Qureshi, Yakub (2007-08-02), Army gives canal clean-cut look, M.E.N. media 2008,, retrieved 2008-06-27 
  111. ^ Puttnam, Nik (March 2008), Memorandum submitted by Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company, HANSARD,, retrieved 2008-10-07 
  112. ^ Parry 2007, p. 6.
  113. ^ Working Parties: 29–30 March 2008, Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society,, retrieved 2008-06-28 
  114. ^ WRGNW — Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal — Prestolee, Michael Chase, 2008, 

External links

The September 2008 opening ceremony in Salford
Images of canal, external sites

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Civil parishes in Greater Manchester — A map of Greater Manchester, with its 15 parished areas highlighted in red. A civil parish is a subnational entity, forming the lowest unit of local government in England. There are 15 civil parishes in the ceremonial county of Greater Manchester …   Wikipedia

  • Wigan — For the larger local government district, see Metropolitan Borough of Wigan. For other uses, see Wigan (disambiguation). Coordinates: 53°32′41″N 2°37′54″W /  …   Wikipedia

  • Sheffield — For other uses, see Sheffield (disambiguation). City of Sheffield   City Metropolitan borough   Top left …   Wikipedia

  • B of the Bang — City of Manchester DEC …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • GB-MAN — City of Manchester DEC …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mancunian — City of Manchester DEC …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • McConnel & Kennedy mills — McConnel and Kennedy Mills Location Ancoats [1] …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.