Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal - Update.

Today continued to be warm and sunny, with Margaret at work and me home alone, I decided to make the short trip by car to the playground of my youth - the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal - together with my camera, to record the progress of restoration of this once proud canal. What more or less closed it was a serious breach in 1936, close to Nob End - yes you heard me! The embankment had given trouble before, and had been strengthened using railway line in the 1880's, but on this occasion, the damage proved fatal. The stretch between Ladyshore Colliery at Leadbeater Fold, (Lebbety Fowt to us locals), and Bury continued to be used to transport coal for a while afterwards, but by the time I became interested in it in the late 1950's/60's, it was derelict. The area around the breach had been de-watered, and the line terminated at Hall Lane, Little Lever, en-route to Bolton, when the aqueduct was demolished for road widening in the early 1950's, although this stretch to Bolton had been disused since 1924, and had been officially abandoned by 1941. The aqueduct over Radcliffe Road, Darcy Lever, close to its Bolton terminus, was also demolished in the 1960's. To put the final cap on it, the road bridge at Water Street, a main road through Radcliffe, was renewed and widened, and the canal beneath culverted, on the Bury line, making full restoration difficult. If that wasn't enough, the final run into Bolton is now occupied by a dual carriageway called St. Peters Way. The canal surveyors, as always, got it right first time as roads and railways follow the route of this canal throughout. In fact, as the canal was in decline, before the adjacent railway was built, the company even considered running the rail line along the canal bed. Luckily the idea was dropped and it remained in use. It was intended to link the original Lancaster Canal, now the Leeds and Liverpool Canal section at Aspull, via Westhoughton, to take trade from the numerous coal pits in the area, but this plan also never took off due to cost and the onset of the railways. However, the abandoned spur, where this would have happened, is still visible to the right of the top lock of the Wigan flight. This is the link to the MBBC Society website: http://www.mbbcs.org.uk/ with their photo gallery here, where many interesting old images can be found. There are also several interesting images to be found on Bolton Museum's Flickr site here: Bolton Museum photostream.

The 1936 breach into the River Irwell below.
The breach site today, showing railway line used in previous repairs.
The breach site from the canal bed
The middle of the breach to the Irwell from the canal bed
The left side of the breach, where the coal boat was overhanging above.
The remains of the lock flight at Nob End
The site of the uppermost gates
The recently built 'Meccano' bridge at the top of the locks. When I was a lad the bridge here had just its girders left, with gaps between, which of course tempted us to dare each other to walk across.
Looking down the lock flight. A little disappointing to see them overgrown once again, after much recent work by volunteers to clear the undergrowth.
Site of one of the middle gates
Well worn steps
Looking up the flight
From the bottom, looking towards Prestolee on the Manchester branch is Seddon's, or Silver Hill Bridge, crossed by James Mason in the film 'Spring and Port Wine', which used many locations in this area. The film crew based themselves in a bungalow on Boscow Road nearby while shooting footage around here.
The aqueduct over the Irwell at Nob End
Lower entrance to the locks. Rising 64 feet over 200 yards, the locks were arranged in two staircases of three, with a passing basin between.
Lower lock basin. On the left ahead, you can see the remains of the spur to what was once a dry dock, still visible when undergrowth is low, and then Rawson's Prestolee Chemical Works, established by Benjamin Rawson in 1805 to make chemicals for bleaching and printing. The site was taken over by Edward Wilson in 1844, but the works was closed by 1875. The area has been cleared, but during production, much alkaline waste was tipped, and due to this some very interesting flora now thrives, including rare orchids. It is now a site of special scientific interest.
Looking up the flight. An old image, including the now demolished lock cottage is HERE.
All that is now left of the old lock cottage on Prestolee Road, between the canal workshops on the main line, and the lock flight. This road pre-dates rail transport to Manchester, and was covered, to allow passengers from packet boats to walk from the main line, down the locks, to pick up the boat to Manchester, thus saving water.
An old image of the cottage can be seen on the MBBCS website
Access to the flight is now restricted. We played here in the 1960's
Prestolee Road from the main line towards the Manchester branch. There was a cast iron road sign attached to the wall in my youth - now gone, as are all the diamond trespass warning signs on the canal bridges, that bore the logo and initials of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway company, who once owned the canal. I wish I had taken one myself now, when they were unwanted.
The main Bolton-Bury line at Nob End. As a child I remember a sunken boat here.. It had a cabin, and was Jo Lansdale's workboat. Jo of Wellfield House was the last surviving MBBC boatman. He can be seen on the right of this 1950 image HERE.  There was another sunken, but visible, coal boat in the basin at Hall Lane. All now gone forever, back to nature.
Wellfield House by the canal. Trivia: On 29/06/1929 John Barret Lansdale, 29, boatman,  of Wellfield House, married Margaret Alice Hargreaves, 29, of 76 High Street, married at St. Mathews church, Little Lever. Father of the groom was a farmer.
Canal Cottages at Nob End. In the gap at the end of the cottages here stood a now demolished shed, which was a boat repair yard, can be seen HERE. Also disappointing is that the workshops are now demolished. The restoration plans had these earmarked as a visitor centre.
Although boats were also built at a wharf closer to Bolton at Top O'th Lodge, which is located at the bottom of Melrose Road now, now a road to a modern housing estate using the line of what was Top O'th Lodge Road, see a historic boat launch at the site of this image HERE. It is taking place where the gap is at the left of the cottages.
Main line looking towards Bolton
Main line towards to Bolton from cobbled towpath
At the junction to lock down to the Manchester Branch looking towards the Canal Cottages and Bolton. Lock mooring bollards and rings still present and in good condition.
Wellfield House. This became derelict in the 1980's after the death of its occupant, a Lansdale. It was boarded up and had suffered vandalism when it came to market. We considered buying it, but even in the state it was then, it was still out of our budget range at that time.
A bridge requiring assistance, from the canal bed near to the breach

From the canal bed at the breach site towards the Meccano Bridge at Nob End
The top of lock junction. Main Bolton-Bury line to the right, lock flight to the Manchester branch to the left. 
Complementary picnic furniture at Nob End. This location was used historically to rest groups of horses after bringing boats up or down the locks.
The new 'Meccano' Bridge

From the Meccano Bridge towards Bolton. To the left of the cottages was the boat building yard at Nob End
Now a private house and cattery, this - believe it or not, was the Nob Inn. Located at the top of the locks, was still in use as a pub in my childhood. See it as it was HERE. There used to be a row of terraced cottages immediately to the left of the building facing Wellfield, known as West View.
Meccano Bridge
From Meccano Bridge, now a picnic site. There is an old photo of horses tied  here to rest, which can be seen HERE along with other old images. The lock entrance is to the right, the main line to Bury goes off to the left.
The now dry canal bed, due to the 1936 breach
Behind the modern pipe bridge is an ancient stone packhorse bridge over the River Irwell. Taken from the canal aqueduct
Pack horse bridge over the Irwell. In mediaeval times the predecessor of this bridge formed part of the main route from Bolton to Manchester, when pack horses were the only form of transport available to the up and coming industry of the area.  

Although work to restore this canal is very much still in the early stages, part of it at Salford is once again navigable, with new locks, constructed during the re-generation of the area.

An interesting photo slide-show of MBBC memorabilia can be seen HERE. 

An interesting walk of this area is described HERE by Paul Hindle of the Manchester Geographical Society in conjunction with members of the MBBC Society.


That was a nostalgic day out.

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