Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal

Are you interested in history? I am, and always have been. I grew up in Bolton, Lancashire, close to The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. It has been disused as long as I have known it, but I have played on it, taken photographs of it and generally wondered how it might have been when it was working, since my childhood. It remains today in relatively good condition, and one day could join the growing number of restored canals.....

This canal was opened in 1796 as a broad canal, having been intended to link to the yet unfinished Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Wigan, but the L & L changed direction to the original plans, and the link was never made. However, it was still built and operated as a broad canal, carrying mainly coal from the many canal side collieries. The boats that were used were day boats, with no living accommodation, as journeys were usually completed within the day. Coal was loaded into specially made containers, that were held in the hull of the boat and could be craned out individually. There were boat builders and repair yards along its length, and coal mines, that although had long been disused, I remember the sites from my childhood. The canal started to suffer loss of trade as early as the beginning of the 19th century, and in 1830 there was a proposal to convert it to a railway, but the idea was dropped, although the railway was still built along a different line, adjacent to that of the canal. The end effectively came in 1936, when a section in Little Lever, (where I was born), which had been troublesome previously, finally gave up and breached into the river below. This stopped through traffic, but Ladyshore Colliery, nearby, continued for a short time to ship coal between Little Lever, Radcliffe and Bury.

Today, although sections have been filled in and sold off, what remains is in very good condition, with fantastic workmanship shown in the stone faced banks through it's whole length. The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Society are a working group who have the sole intention of restoring the canal back to full use, and have been involved in recent years in clearing the areas around the locks at Nob End, (yes really, not a joke, they are close to a lock side pub, which is now a private house, called, The Nob Inn)! They have also worked in conjunction with the regeneration of the Salford area, and have been successful in digging out, building locks and re-opening a short section of canal to navigation from The River Irwell.

Here are some photographs of a steam crane that is located on the canal bank at Mount Sion, Radcliffe, Manchester. I took these in the early 70's, using an Olympus OM-1 film camera, and processed them myself. The crane was used to unload coal from canal boats, to the storage staiths of a factory below.

You can read about the work of the MB&B Canal Society here: <Click> Their website is full of interesting information and photographs.

There are also the remains of some pretty interesting industrial machinery around and about the area as can be seen here:

A water powered beam pump at Mount Sion, Radcliffe, near Little Lever

The contributor of this photograph is Chris Allen and is copyright, but also licensed for further use under a creative commons license. See: Chris Allen profile

Further reading about this fantastic canal can be found here: <Click> and here: <Click> and the newly reopened  Salford section here: <Click>

I hope you found that as interesting as I do.


  1. Fascinating, Peter. I have fond memories of a derelict MB&B having attended Salford Unversity in the 1970s. A few years ago I bought a slide scanner for the computer and uploaded the four photos I took of the canal in 1978. Have a look here:

    1. Halfie, this canal was the playground of my youth in the 1960's and was probably responsible for my interest in canals. My mother remembered the breach that closed the canal in the 1930's and described the event in detail to me. It made the national BBC news on the wireless! Your own images from the 70's also bring back memories, having walked towards Manchester on the towpath many times.


I appreciate your comment, but anonymous ones or those containing promotional links will not be published.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.