The Stockport Canal
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Canal History        

The canal was constructed between 1793 and 1797. Stockport canal map network connection04It left the Ashton Canal at Clayton, passing through Gorton and Reddish before reaching its terminus at the top of Lancashire Hill adjacent to the Nelstrop flour millNelstrp Flour Mill with a wharf area between Wharf Street and Gordon Street. The length of the canal from Clayton to Stockport was 4 miles 71 chains. See maps for the canal route passing through Stockport and Reddish, Gorton and Openshaw, Clayton. . In 1798 a bill was introduced to allow the abandonment of the Beat Bank branch and to offer compensation to landowners for damage done and raise another £30,000 to pay off existing debts. The company informed William Halton who owned the collieries at Denton that they could not afford to complete the branch. When Halton opposed the Bill the company offered to give him the unfinished branch because they had obtained enough coal transport business. He refused hoping to get the abandonment defeated but he failed and the Act was passed. At the time of its construction the local area looked completely different than it does today (see map of 1848) comprising generally of an agricultural landscape with little or no industry. Major changes occurred during the 19th century with the construction of new industries which used the canal to transport raw materials and finished goods. As well as goods the canal also transported people to their place of work. In 1849 a steam packet began to move people between  Openshaw Bridge and Lancashire Hill, Stockport at a fare of 4d. More locally, a bell rung  in a mill tower would ensure the dispatch of a boat to bring workers to work in the local mills. The main reason for building the canal was to move coal from the various coal mines around the district for consumption by local industry and local people. Most of this coal would have been offloaded at the Stockport coal wharfs at the Stockport canal basin.. In January 1805 it was clear that the Werneth Colliery had been sending coal by road, in spite of their agreement top transport it by canal. The Ashton in  July 1806 decided to end the agreement of 1795. The wharf area developed over the years accommodating different types of industry as can be seen by comparing the Stockport Basin maps of 1851 and 1893.

I am grateful to David Reid for passing on this extract from the Manchester directory of 1800

Ashton, Oldham & Stockport Canal



James Meadows, agent for the Company.


B. Brooke, Manchester.

R. Scott, Stockport.

J. Ronksby, Ashton-under-line.

This Canal joins the Rochdale, the Duke of Bridgewater's, the Huddersfield, and the Peake Forest canals, by which means goods are conveyed every day, (Sundays excepted) to and from the Canal warehouse near Piccadilly in Manchester; between Hull, Mellor, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Saddleworth, Stockport, Oldham, and all the intermediate places. Respectable connections are formed for the conveyance of goods, to places at a distance from the termination of the Canals.

An elegant Boat to convey Passengers and their luggage : leaves Piccadilly Manchester, on Sunday and Wednesday Mornings, at 8 o' Clock, for Ashton; returns at 4 o' Clock, and arrives in Manchester at 6 o' Clock the same evening. Leaves Manchester on Friday Mornings, at 8 o' Clock , for Stockport; returns at 4 o' Clock, and arrives in Manchester at 6 o' Clock the same evening. Passage Boats also leave Ashton and Stockport, for Manchester, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday Mornings, at 8 o' Clock, and returns from thence during Winter at 4 o' Clock, and in the Summer at 5 o' Clock in the Evening. The same Boats also leave Ashton and Stockport, for Manchester, on Sunday Mornings at 9 o' Clock, from whence they return at half past 4 o' Clock in the Evening, during Winter; and in the Summer at 5 o' Clock.



Front Room



Back Room






s  d






s  d



To Ashton -



1  0



-  -  -  -  -  -



0  8



To Return -



0  6



To Return



0  4



To Stockport -



1  0



-  -  -  -   -   -



0  8



To Return -



0  6



To Return



0  4


Business using the canal

William Nelstrop & Co Ltd


In 1820 there were two mills, the older Park Corn Mills in Warren Street, Stockport, and Albion Flour Mills on Lancashire Hill, Stockport. The latter was on the present site and was built in 1820 on the bank of the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal. In 1868 the Park Corn Mills were destroyed by fire, after which Albion Flour Mills on Lancashire Hill were enlarged to take the whole trade. In 1893 the Albion Flour Mills were themselves destroyed by fire and the present mill erected and fitted with the latest milling technology. One of the main cargos transported by the canal  was wheat from Liverpool Docks to the Nelstrop Albion Corn Mill at the top of Lancashire Hill. The flour produced was transported to Marple, Macclesfield , Stoke on Trent and many other places. The Albion Mill continues to produce flour today and is pushing on towards its 200 year anniversary.

Gregs Mill

Broadstone Mill

BH Building 00404

An artists impression of Broadstone and Houldsworth Mills circa 1907

courtesy of Richard Sym

Houldsworth Mill

Gorton Mill

In 1825 Messrs John Lees & Sons started spinning and weaving in a new mill on Abbey Hey Lane alongside the canal. This site was chosen because of the transport link by canal to the coal mines in Ashton and Oldham. The canal would also have provide a source of water until mains water became available in the 1850s.

Beyer - Peacock ( Gorton Tank)

Manufacturers of steam locomotives. This company used water from the canal and stored it in tanks on the Gorton Maintenance Yard site. A complete description can be found on a web site dedicated to this locomotive factory.



Between 1858 and 1882 a boating lake was developed at Bellvue and once boasted two paddle steamers the  Little Britain and the  Little Eastern .

Bellvue Lake

What may not be generally known is that the water that supplied the lake came from the Manchester & Stockport canal being extracted at Gorton Bridge. My thanks to John Bradshaw for this information.

Carriers using the canal would have included :

These boats would have used the local Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canal s as part of their route to London. Since Pickfords had a base in Manchester it is not to difficult to imagine some of their boats using the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal to deliver goods into the industrial heartland of Stockport Town.

Gorton Aquaduct

Photograph courtesy of Mr Dave Gosling from B Longbone collection

The above picture shows a typical industrial canal scene circa 1906 looking across the newly built Gorton Aqueduct onto wards Ogden Lane bridge. On the right in the foreground is Varna Street school with High Bank Mill behind. On the left hand side is  the Gorton Boat Maintenance Yard. See layout of the yard on  maps  page.

1928 view stockport canal Lancashire hill03

            Photograph courtesy of the staff at Brian S. Pope Ltd  - Origin unknown

The above photograph shows the canal winding from its terminus at the top of Lancashire Hill out towards what is now the Whitehill Industrial estate. Note how quickly the canal passes through industrial sites and out into farm land. At the top right of the photograph it is possible to see a typical canal hump back bridge. The photograph I believe was taken in 1928 presumably during the local wakes week holiday. Note the lack of smoke from the factory and domestic chimneys also the lack of traffic. It would be nice to identify the local industry. Can anybody help (Mike Kiernan has kindly given me some information that I have used to identify some of the locations ).

Commercial carrying ceased in the 1930s

Following cessation of commercial traffic, the canal was abandoned and left to its fate. This is a picture taken circa 1962 of a length just north of the Broadstone Road bridge (The Houldsworth Mill is just out of shot on the right) and shows that it does not take long for nature to take over if regular maintenance of these assets is stopped. An abundant growth of plants has literally filled in the canal with the exception of a narrow water channel. The towpath and water wall though look in reasonably good condition

 Photograph courtesy of Mr Ken Lowe

After it’ s closure the line of the canal was subject to various works into the 1970s, all designed to remove the canal from the landscape and recover the ground.

Time Line along the Stockport Canal:


March 1793



Act of Parliament passed authorising the construction of a canal from Clayton to Heaton Norris.



1793 - 1797



Construction of the Stockport Canal.






Stockport Canal opened






A Bill was introduced to allow the abandonment of the Beat Bank branch.



July 1798



The Ashton Canal Co. ordered warehouses to be built at the Stockport end of the canal.






Construction of the Albion Flour Mill.






Construction of Gorton Mill






Construction of the Albert Mill, Greg Street.






Steam Packet started between Openshaw Bridge and Lancashire Hill, Stockport. (1.)



1863 - 1864



Construction of the Houldsworth  Mill.






Albion Flour Mill destroyed by fire and rebuilt. This structure exists today.



July 1806



Agreement to carry coal for the Werneth Colliery terminated. (5.)



1903 - 1907



Construction of the Broadstone Mills.



1905 - 1906



New aqueduct constructed over Gorton Station replacing original double arched structure.






Grey Horse public House built at Broadstone Road bridge.






New Broadstone Road bridge open to traffic.



1962 - Mid 1970s



Stockport Canal filled in.



3rd February 2004



Manchester & Stockport Canal Society formed

to promote the restoration of the canal.


The canal today     

The canal today, well to be blunt it doesn’t exist except for about 6 Metres at its  junction with the Ashton CanalJunction with the Ashton Canal but the original route is still visible except for sections at the Stockport end which have been built over. Its possible to walk with ease the route from Gorton to Clayton since the filled in canal has been turned into a foot path. Parking is available at Debdale Park Debdale Parkat the junction of Hyde road and Gorton Road on the Debdale Park side of the junction. As far as I am aware the original cut for the canal was not destroyed but simply filled in. Parts of the original waterwall can still be seen in places although I am sure that some of it has been lost due to building works. All of the bridges between Stockport and North Reddish have been lost but from Gorton to Clayton the original bridges are largely intact. Go to page As it is to see the route of the canal as it is today. Its much harder to find evidence for the existence of the canal at the Stockport end since with the exception of the Albion Flour Mill the area has been largely redeveloped. There are however, a few features which may have some relevance to the waterway. At the corner of Gordon Street and Lancashire Hill  in Stockport is a building which I now know is the modified remains of Harry Slack s slaughterhouse that once would have run parallel to the canal. Notice the arched doorway on the left of the picture which would have given access to the wharf area. I will try to confirm the original use of this building. On the left hand side of Wharf Street are the remains of an old wall the origins of which are unknown but are assumed to be associated with wharf buildings. Where are Time Team when you need them?

The canal in the future  Back

Well it’ s hard to see one. Although from Reddish to Clayton I estimate that two men with a shovel apiece could most probably recover the canal in ten years. From Reddish to Stockport is another story since the line of the canal has been broken with buildings and bridges lost. But you never know. See the Inland Waterway Association web site at .