The Early Working Years
© Copyright 2002 Graham Cousins and the Railway & Canal Historical Society.
1845 - 1846
An advertisement of 1845 announced that the Ashton-under-Lyne, Marple & Macclesfield Swift Packet Boats met trains from Manchester at Dukinfield Station for Marple, Lyme Park and Macclesfield.33 Passengers in steerage class were charged one penny per mile whilst those in cabin class were charged three-halfpence per mile. Each passenger was allowed 60lb. of luggage free of charge, whilst parcels could be conveyed at ‘moderate rates’. It was specifically stated that passengers could not travel less than three miles on the Macclesfield Canal. The public were informed that ‘this line of conveyance is peculiarly adapted for pleasure parties, who may enjoy a delightful and healthy excursion on the Peak Forest Canal, and spend a day in the rural woods and pleasure grounds in the neighbourhood. The scenery is beautiful in the extreme, and cannot be equalled in any part of the country’. The mention of trains in the advertisement is significant, since railways were fast becoming a dominant force in the transport of materials and people around the country.
The Annual General Meeting of the Macclesfield Canal Company for 1845 discussed the arrangement which had been made between the Trent & Mersey Canal Co. and the promoters of the North Staffordshire Railway, whereby the railway company was to take over the canal company.34 It was felt that this would prejudice the operation of the Macclesfield Canal Company. To safeguard its interests it was agreed that a survey should be made of the land between the terminus of the Macclesfield branch of the Manchester & Birmingham Railway and the line of the proposed railways near Harecastle, and that the Macclesfield Canal Company should take measures for obtaining powers to build this part of the railway line between Manchester and the south of England.
1845 was obviously a time of concern over the viability and future of the Canal Company. In September of that year the following notice appeared in the Courier:35
We, the undersigned, being respectively Proprietors of ten or more shares in the Macclesfield Canal Navigation, do hereby give notice that a Special General Meeting of the Company of Proprietors of the said Canal Navigation, will be held at the Macclesfield Arms Hotel, in Macclesfield, in the county of Chester, on Monday 13 October next, at twelve o’clock at Noon, for the purpose of considering, and (if so resolved upon) adopting the powers and provisions of several acts made and passed in the last session of Parliament, the first of such Acts being entitled ‘An Act to enable Canal Companies, and the Commissions of Navigable Rivers, to vary their Tolls, Rates and Charges on different parts of their Navigation’; and the second of such Acts being entitled ‘An Act to enable Canal Companies to become Carriers of Goods upon their Canals'; and for the further purpose of considering, and (if so resolved upon) adopting terms proposed for an arrangement with the North Staffordshire Railway Co. with or without modification or alteration.
The notice was dated 26 September 1845 and was signed by the following shareholders - F. A. Philips, Thomas I. Watts, Thomas Norbury, John May and Thomas Bullock.
The Macclesfield Courier of 18 October 1845 carried the following report of this meeting:36
The meeting was numerously attended, there being more than forty proprietors present. F. A. Philips, Esq. was called to the chair, and, at his request, Mr Heelis, the Solicitor to the Company, read the advertisement stating the objects of the meeting, and the provisions of the two Acts of Parliament referred to in the notice - the first for enabling the Company to vary their tolls on different parts of the line, and the second, for giving powers to the Company to become carriers of goods on their own canal and on the canals with which it is connected. The Chairman moved two resolutions sanctioning the adoption of the powers contained in these acts by the Company, which were carried unanimously.
The Chairman said the next question for consideration of the meeting was the proposition which had been made by the North Staffordshire Railway Co. to lease the canal, arising from a resolution of the last General Meeting of the Canal Company which had, for its object, the protection of the canal against the various railways which were in contemplation. Mr Heelis said that shortly after the last General Meeting, he had put himself in communication with the North Staffordshire Railway Co., and explained what this Company proposed to do with respect to forming a railway to Harecastle; and he pointed out to them that in consequence of this Company (Macclesfield Canal Company) being in possession of the ground, Parliament would doubtless give them a preference, if they were prepared to afford the same facilities to the public as any other company. He ascertained that the North Staffordshire Railway Co. was open to terms, but the matter went no further at that time, and Mr Trapp was instructed to go on with preparing his plans and sections, so as to be ready to go to Parliament in the next session. On 24 September, a deputation from the North Staffordshire Railway Co. met a deputation from the Canal Company, when terms were suggested, but nothing definite was done, as the Chairman did not consider that the deputation was pledged to the terms then suggested unless they were sanctioned by a General Meeting of the Canal Company.
The propositions were to the effect that the Canal Company should take 2,000 shares in the North Staffordshire Railway Co., to be held until the Bill for the North Staffordshire Railway is passed; that the traffic of the Canal Company should be placed upon the same footing as that of the Trent & Mersey Canal Co.; that the bridges should be constructed of the full width for the purposes of the railway company. With regard to the traffic, Mr Heelis remarked, it was thought that the Trent & Mersey Canal Co. were charging partial tonnages, although they professed not to do, and were prohibited from so doing by their Act; and it was supposed that if they could induce the North Staffordshire Railway Co. not to charge them more than they charged others, they should gain an advantage, which would enable them to compete with other companies. The importance of this point would be seen when it was considered that the Trent & Mersey Canal Co. held one mile of the Macclesfield Canal, upon which they charged the maximum tonnage, while the Macclesfield Canal Company had reduced their tonnage to the extent in some cases of as much as one third. It was at first stated that there could be no objection to this; but when Mr Ricardo (Chairman of the North Staffordshire Railway Co.) met some gentlemen from the Canal Company on a second occasion, he thought that if the Canal Company had their traffic placed upon as good terms as any other company, and had the bonus given them over the mile, they ought to give the North Staffordshire Railway Co. some equivalent; and it was proposed that the North Staffordshire Railway Co. should be allowed the option at any time within five years from the passing of their Act, of leasing the canal in perpetuity at £2 10s per share, taking the debt at the amount at which it stood on 29 September as at £63,000. The debt in fact was now £61,000, but they proposed to take it at £63,000, and whatever amount might be paid off in the meantime, the North Staffordshire Railway Co. would reimburse the Company, besides the £2 10s per share.
Mr Gregg asked whether the Canal Company were to be fast to this bargain, and the North Staffordshire Railway Co. loose. Mr Heelis said the fact was so. He had told the deputation that these terms would not go down with the Canal Company. He had heard that morning that Mr Ricardo laid great stress upon this point. Mr Simpson asked whether there had been application for an arrangement with any other company. The Chairman said they had been sounded by other parties on the subject, but while negotiation was going on with the North Staffordshire Railway Co. they could not entertain any other proposition. He might state that the proposition now laid before the meeting had been debated by the Committee that morning, and they had resolved that it was such a one as they could not recommend to the adoption of the Proprietors. The prospects of the canal were improving. During the last three years they had paid off £10,000, and an additional sum of £3,000 would be paid at Christmas. Last year they would have been warranted in making a dividend of £2 per share if they had not paid off a sum of £5,000. Mr Williamson said he was of opinion that the offer of the North Staffordshire Railway Co. was a fair one. The 2,000 shares he considered to be equal to a bonus of £20,000. Mr Buckley said he could not see so much advantage in the offered shares as Mr Williamson did. The benefit to be derived was contingent on the passing of the Bill. If they took this offer there was nothing to prevent the company from raising their dues so as to make the canal worth nothing.
After some further conversation, the Chairman proposed two resolutions which had been prepared by Mr Heelis: the first rejecting the proposition of the North Staffordshire Railway Co., and the second that the Committee be empowered to enter into further negotiations with the North Staffordshire Railway Co. or any other company; and in the event of this not being successful, that then the plans and sections be lodged, so as to enable them to go to Parliament in the next session. Thanks were then voted to the Chairman, and the meeting separated.
At the end of the reporting in the Courier the following addendum was added:
We understand that an arrangement has since been made with the Manchester & Sheffield Railway Co., by which it is proposed that the company shall take a lease of the canal in perpetuity, at £2 l0s per share. The arrangement, of course, is subject to the approbation of the shareholders in both companies, and its adoption will be recommended by both committees at special meetings of their respective constituents.
A Special General Meeting of the Canal Company was called for Friday 12 June 1846 to consider the draft of a Parliamentary Bill which would enable the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway Co. to take over both the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals.37 The meeting was duly reported in the Macclesfield Courier of Saturday 13 June 1846.38
A meeting of the Macclesfield Canal Company was held yesterday at the Macclesfield Arms Hotel, for the purpose of giving their assent to the Bill now before Parliament for leasing the canal to the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway Co., according to the provisions of the new Act. The Chairman of the Company, F. A. Philips Esq., was in the chair. The business was opened by Mr Heelis reading the provisions of the Bill, which include those respecting the Peak Forest Canal as well as the Macclesfield Canal. The annual sum to be paid to the Peak Forest Canal Co. is £9,324; to the Macclesfield Canal Company £6,605, being at the rate of £2 10s per £100 share of the latter company; the annuities to be a charge on the railway and canal, and all the liabilities, including the debt, to be taken by the railway company. The Chairman stated that the railway company was pushing the Bill as speedily as could consistently be done with the circumstances; and there was a provision in the contract to make it binding even without an Act. They had had a General Meeting approving the Bill. He then moved a resolution on the part of this Company in approval of the Bill, which was seconded and carried unanimously. This terminated the business of the meeting, which did not occupy more than a quarter of an hour.
The Bill for the agreement between the Macclesfield Canal Company and the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway Co. passed the Committee stage in the House of Lords on 16 September 1846.39, 40 The debt owing by the Macclesfield Canal Company is given as £60,000 (that for the Peak Forest Canal Co. is given as £41,800). The Macclesfield Courier of 19 September carried a report of the adjourned Annual General Meeting of the Canal Company which had been held on the previous Wednesday - 16 September.41 The agreement entered into with the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway Co. for the sale and transfer of the canal was confirmed. From the funds in hand a dividend of £1 10s per share was declared. The first half year’s payment from the railway company of £1 5s per share (due on 29 September) was ordered to be paid to the shareholders. It was reported that a small balance remained in the hands of the Treasurer to meet contingencies or to be subsequently divided amongst the shareholders. The meeting unanimously resolved that a piece of ‘plate’ to the value of £100 should be presented to Edmund Buckley MP in recognition of his having brought about a successful conclusion to the negotiations between the two companies.