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|
|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.|
|Looking up the flight. An old image, including the now demolished lock cottage is HERE.|
|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|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.