Hollinwood Canal – History

The Manchester & Ashton Under Lyne Canal, now know simply as the Ashton Canal, ran east from Manchester to Ashton Under Lyne.  The Stockport Branch Canal linked the canal to Stockport.

The Hollinwood Branch Canal, usually known today as the Hollinwood Canal, was opened in 1797, running generally northwards from Fairfield Junction in Droylsden to Hollinwood and was built to serve the Lancashire Coalfields along the route.  The Fairbottom Branch was constructed to serve further collieries, leaving the main line at Waterhouses, or Fairbottom, Junction.

Waterhouses Staircase Locks 20/21

Waterhouses Staircase Locks 20/21

There were proposals to provide a link to the Rochdale Canal near Hollinwood but these were never progressed.

By 1948 the Fairbottom Branch was un-navigable, and the main line closed in stages from the northern end between 1955 and 1961.  The aqueduct over the Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge railway line was removed, and later replaced by a footbridge for towpath walkers.  The M60 Motorway severed the route in three places.

The route has now been built over in several places, particularly the northernmost end in Hollinwood.  In other places the canal has been filled in, with the towpath still walkable.  The central section, particularly around Waterhouses (Fairbottom) Junction, is still in water and it doesn’t take much effort to imagine it re-opened.

Waterhouses (Fairbottom) Junction

Waterhouses (Fairbottom) Junction

The Hollinwood Canal Society was formed in 2003 to support restoration of the route as far as practicable, possibly including the link, proposed many years ago, at the northern end to the Rochdale Canal.

Like most restoration projects there are problems to solve, but nothing is impossible.

4 Responses

  1. Peter Wakefield says:

    This canal should be brought under the jurisdiction of the canal and rivers trust and they would be able to finance this canal’s reinstatement possibly as part of the Cheshire Ring cruises itineraries.

    • Paul says:

      The Canal and River Trust (CRT) have no source of funding to pay for canal restorations, and arguably not enough funding to maintain the existing canal network. Even if somebody else paid for the restoration, CRT still wouldn’t have any source of funding to take on the ongoing maintenance as the restoration would not generate enough new income to pay for that.

      Most of the benefit for canal restorations accrues to the local communities so please encourage them to take the lead in restoring the canal and welcoming visiting boaters.

      Successful canal restorations elsewhere in the country are led by the local community. Those who simply expect someone else to do it without any funding don’t make any progress.

  2. Gerry Fanning says:

    “Whitehouses Junction” should be Waterhouses Junction – Gerry Fanning

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. I already said “Waterhouses” near the start of the post and I’ve now changed the later typo from Whitehouses to Waterhouses

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