The north end of the Macclesfield Canal begins at its junction with the Upper Peak Forest Canal at Marple and the canal proceeds 26¼ miles to the stop lock at Hall Green near Kidsgrove, passing through High Lane, Higher Poynton, Bollington, Macclesfield and Congleton districts as well as a lot of stunning countryside in between.
Nowadays we normally regard the last 1½ miles of canal from Hall Green to Harding's Wood Junction as a part of the Macclesfield Canal rather than the Hall Green Branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal, which it was called when built.
The Macclesfield Canal is maintained at two levels divided by twelve substantial stone locks in 1¼ miles at Bosley as well as the (originally double) stop lock at Hall Green. The top level is, at 518 feet above sea level, one of the highest navigable levels in the country.
The canal is noted for its fine stone bridges - particularly the six change bridges (alternatively known as roving or snake bridges) where the towing path changes sides of the canal. These were designed to allow the towing horse to cross over without having to untie it from the boat.
There are several most impressive aqueducts, particularly at Bollington and across the River Dane below Bosley locks (see the maps for all points of note).
From Marple to Macclesfield the Middlewood
Way is never far from the canal. This was the course of the Macclesfield, Bollington & Marple Railway which has been converted into recreational space for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Marple to High Lane (2¼ miles)
Forest Canal was already well established when the Macclesfield
Canal was constructed between 1826 and its opening in 1831. The
Macclesfield was designed to provide a shorter route from Manchester
to the Potteries and all points south, shorter, that is, than
the Bridgewater, Trent & Mersey route. It may be shorter
in miles but when the larger number of locks is included there
is really little advantage over the Bridgewater, T&M route.
The Macclesfield Canal Company built a warehouse by the stop
lock narrows in order to encourage business.
We suspect that the stop lock may never have been used as such.
William Crosley, the canal engineer, reported
on 16th July 1829 that … [since] 17th of July last
 … the
water has continued upon the same level with the Peak
Forest Canal … , but see Narrows below. There is
good mooring between the first two bridges.
The huge Goyt Mill, adjacent to Eccles Bridge, no. 3, at Marple, was built as recently as 1905 by Jonathon Partington Ltd. of Middleton Junction as a cotton mill for the Goyt Spinning Company. It was located to benefit from the canal for the transport of the raw cotton and finished products as well as for the easy supply of coal from the Poynton coal field. The mill has found a new life as modern business units.
Windlehurst Hall near bridge 9 at High Lane, fell into dereliction and the site was redeveloped in 1996, retaining a likeness to the original building. A deer park has been established nearby (no public access). In many places along the canal small wharves were constructed to serve the local area. The remains of one of these can be seen a few yards north of Windlehurst Bridge which served the Windlehurst Mill, which was blown down in a gale in 1907.
Marple - junction of the Macclesfield Canal and
Forest Canal. The building on the west side is the Macclesfield
Canal Company's warehouse presently owned by CRT. The water point,
sanitary station and waste disposal point are at the wharf on the
west side between the boats. There is good overnight mooring against
the towing path.
Junction - The junction with the Upper Peak Forest Canal. The UPFC had already been in business for more than 30 years before the Macclesfield was built. The UPFC towing path is carried over the Macclesfield on the first of six delightful roving or change bridges.
Memorial sign post - See Ted Keaveney memorial page.
Narrows - The narrows was the usual requirement
for a newcomer, to protect the waters of the original waterway.
The gates were installed in the narrows and certainly in use for
some years. In 1836 drought conditions resulted in a request to
the Macclesfield Canal Co. to leave the gates open at Marple in
order that the Peak Forest could benefit from Macclesfield water.
However the request was turned down by the Macclesfield committee
and the manager was informed that the gate (singular)
could not be kept open. (See
the history page for more on this.)
The two canals have always been on about the same level rather
than the Macclesfield being a few inches higher (and deeper) than
the UPFC. Originally there were to
be five reservoirs to supply the Macclesfield. In the event only
two were built.
Company warehouse - The Macclesfield Canal Company provided a number of company wharves along the canal to stimulate traffic. Each was provided with moorings, a crane and a warehouse for storage of dry goods. The only surviving warehouses are those at Marple and High Lane. The wharf crane was removed many years ago but was not scrapped. [Present location to be added when I find it!]
Towing path - The towing path continues for the
full length of the canal. It is located on the west side of the
canal except where the canal passes through a company wharf at Marple, Macclesfield and Congleton.
There are good reasons for this arrangement. The west side of the
canal is generally the downhill side of the canal. That side required
building up with sufficient width to hold the water in; so providing
a ready made platform for the towing path. The company wharves
are generally on the west side, again because it was easier to
built them on the downhill side of the canal. The towing path was
put on the opposite side past the company wharves to avoid conflict
with the activity on the wharf, and to reduce the possibility of
pilferage from the wharf.
Change bridges - There are six of these stone change bridges along the canal in three pairs. At each location, Marple, Macclesfield and Congleton, their purpose is to keep the towing path away from the company's wharves. The change bridges are numbers 1 & 2, 29 & 43 and 76 & 77. 29 to 43 is a long stretch, from Kerridge to Gurnett. It is not clear why this should be so - it may well have something to do with a landowner refusing to allow the towing path on his side of the canal - such were the politics of canal construction! The bridges are all to the same basic ellegant design but handed as necessary. The essential objective of the design was to enable the towing horse to change from one side of the canal to the other without having to be unhitched from the boat and to avoid the tow line snagging - hence the smooth stonework.
Boat garage - The last boat garage on the main
line was between bridges 2 and 3 but, alas, has now been removed.
At one time there were many more, and the stumps of the timber
support poles can be seen in some places. All other boat garages
are located in the High
Next page - High Lane.