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Macclesfield Canal

The Macclesfield Canal brought trade in Bollington to life, providing for the first time a means of getting raw materials into the town and finished products out in bulk and quickly – only a one day journey to/from Manchester. It also provided the incentive to build the two great mills on its banks, Clarence and Adelphi.

The first sod was cut at Bollington, though we don’t know where, but probably at Bollington Wharf on Grimshaw Lane, opposite Adelphi Mill, in 1825. The canal was finally opened on 9th November 1831 after the difficulties of its construction at Bollington, with the completion of the huge Palmerston Street embankment and aqueduct (left), the two largest, and most troublesome, engineering structures on the entire canal.

Bollington mill owner Philip Antrobus at the time owned the house known as Rookery. The schedule to an 1832 Act of Parliament relating to Antrobus’s Will shows that Rookery was leased to ‘Willm Crossley’. It is thought that this was probably the same William Crosley (he spelled it with one or two ss) who was the engineer to the Macclesfield Canal Company – the chap in charge of construction of the canal. This probability is confirmed by items in The New Monthly Magazine 1833 and the Gloucester Journal 27th October 1832 which refer to Crossley as residing at Bollington.

Crosley’s name is usually spelt with one s, as it is throughout the Macclesfield Canal Company’s minutes and other documents. However, the Macclesfield Canal Society historian and archivist, Graham Cousins, has discovered a document signed by Crossley with two ss. So you pay’s your money and take’s your choice!

Unique embankment

The embankment beside Palmerston Street aqueduct, pictured above is quite unique in its construction. It is built entirely of rock, the most readily available material around here. There is believed to be no other on the British waterway network like it. Most embankments were built mainly of earth, usually that which had been excavated from nearby cuttings. Earth embankments tend to have flatter profiles with a maximum slope of 2:1 (33%). Building with rock enables a steeper sided profile and ours is 1:1 (50% or 45deg). There is one small section – in the bottom left corner of the picture – that has additional material piled on. This is thought to have been required as a result of spreading during construction. More material was stacked here in 2009 when the pedestrian bridge was built adjacent to Clarence mill. The ground beneath was very soft and while one would expect that the soft material under the embankment was removed down to rock level the ground fell away towards the Gnathole (original name for the recreation ground) so leaving that side without adequate support.

River Dean Tunnel

And there is a further unusual feature associated with the canal at this point. The River Dean naturally flows through this valley. If you imagine the valley at this point without the canal embankment or aqueduct you will realise that it is a very narrow gap between the hills on either side. Originally the river passed across the war memorial garden, through the narrow gap, and spread out in the area that is now the recreation ground. All the surrounding ground was very boggy, not at all suitable for building such a huge structure across the valley.

The solution was to remove the river and drain and dry out the ground. The only way to do this was to move the river onto a new course and put it through a tunnel. This runs from behind the first few cottages in Water Street, under the canal, under Palmerston Street, and exiting in the recreation ground.

The ‘Bollington Burst’

On 29th February 1912 there was a very serious breach of the canal at Kerridge almost opposite the wharf and dry dock. This event is fully described on another page.

Kerridge Wharf

A beautiful model has been made by Keith Scammell of the wharf at Kerridge as it is believed to have been in about 1870. Have a look at this on another page.

More information on the canal

Full details of the canal today can be found at the Macclesfield Canal web site. That site includes extensive historical information.