War relics on the canal around Bollington and Kerridge
I was very interested in the recent display of wartime memorabilia at the Bollington Discovery Centre [late 2007]. There are still some items to be seen around the town along the canal relating to WW2 and many Bollingtonians will recall this period vividly. There were three tank traps, cubes of concrete about five feet high and several feet square, constructed on some local bridges on the Macclesfield Canal, and they were intended to halt the progress of enemy tanks through the country. There are still two to be seen to the north of Whiteley Green and appear to have been dragged off the tops of bridges 23 and 24, but remain covered by vegetation. They are a short walk along the towpath from the car park above the Windmill public house. Incidentally the canal bridges are numbered from 1 at Marple to 98 at Kidsgrove, at the junctions with the Peak Forest and Trent & Mersey canals respectively.
The Macclesfield Canal Society was formed in 1984 from the team that had resurrected the milestones along the canal; these had been buried beneath the towpath as a wartime security measure. The 26 stones quarried originally from Kerridge in the 1820s were raised by volunteers, although three required replacing. In 1989 the Society demolished the 3rd tank trap on bridge 30 on the track from Kerridge to Tytherington at the NE corner of AstraZeneca, to form the basis of a ramp to the towpath for disabled wheelchairs; we also rebuilt the parapets of the bridge over a two year period.
During our work we had an interesting discussion with a gentleman who was in the Home Guard in the war and who had often patrolled the canal towpath. He recalled there were Dutch sappers billeted in Bollington in about 1940 (presumably after the Dunkirk evacuation) and that they had constructed the tank trap. We found the trap was of a crude construction, centred on a concrete pipe filled with coarse sand and packed around with concrete reinforced with strips of metal including bedsteads. He also said the parapets were deliberately destroyed to weaken the bridge and that the various stones were taken to the Bollington Council’s depot. Although the parapets on bridge 23 were left, those on bridge 24 were also destroyed but rebuilt after the war.
I wonder if anyone in Bollington remembers these Dutch soldiers and any more on this episode. Shortly after we completed this work, the late Henry Wills published a book on pillboxes in 1985. He had found about 6000 pillboxes, tank traps etc. nationally and the Kennet & Avon and the Macclesfield canals were to be used as defence lines in case of an invasion. Besides the local tank traps, there are still pillboxes to be seen by the canal at Middlewood, Danes Moss and near to Bosley, and also beside road bridges at Poynton, perhaps to defend Woodford aerodrome. Was White Nancy camouflaged lest it be used as a marker for enemy bombers heading for Manchester and Liverpool?
Whilst I have pen to paper, or rather fingers to keypad, could I ask if anyone has photographs of the Rally Road, the tramway linking the quarries at Kerridge with the shipment dock on the canal, where the stone was loaded onto boats and which is now used as a dry dock for boat maintenance? There are two large scale OS maps of the area for 1875 and 1909 held in Macclesfield Library. The first shows a stone saw mill by the dock with a travelling crane and the rally leading down to the dock from above Windmill Lane, Kerridge. The later map shows the mill as disused and there are no rails marked, so the utility had finished between these dates. There is a photo in the Discovery Centre (c.1910) of a little girl with a hoop by Oak Fold Farm where the tramway crossed Oak Lane by the war memorial, but there are no signs of rails. Most tramways around the country of this vintage have a few photos left, but not one of the Rally Road has yet appeared. The route of the tramway can be walked from the canal and across Oak Lane, though the top section which consists of steps under Windmill Lane is very steep. There used to be cottages close to the canal by the dock and they can be seen in the photos at the Discovery Centre of the canal breach there in 1912. They are said to have been lived in until about WW2, but stone from this area and from the demolished windmill was removed by allied forces during the war to make the runway for the aerodrome at Burtonwood. Kerridge’s contribution to the war effort is bizarrely miles away and hidden beneath Lancashire!
Secretary, The Macclesfield Canal Society