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Interactions Part 2: 1840-50

The Macclesfield Canal Company - Interactions & Relationships - Part 2: 1840-50

Graham Cousins' paper, 'The Macclesfield Canal Company - Interactions & Relationships - Part 2: 1840-50' has been published by the Journal of the Railway & Canal Historical Society, No 215, November 2012, pp. 21-30, and we are very pleased to publish the full text in this section of the history pages.

© Copyright 2013 Graham Cousins and the Railway & Canal Historical Society.


Part 1 of this article discussed the interactions that the Macclesfield Canal Company had with other canal companies during the period 1826-39.  The article highlighted the close working relationship that the company had with the Peak Forest Canal Company, particularly with regard to freight rates and water supply. The Macclesfield's relationship with the Trent & Mersey Canal Company was also mentioned — this was less positive, the Trent & Mersey fearing loss of revenue due to Manchester traffic using the Macclesfield – Peak Forest – Ashton line of canals.

The activities of Edward Hall, agent to the Macclesfield company, were also considered in Part 1. He served as the Macclesfield's agent from 16 May 1826 to 19 September 1844. He resigned from his position with the Macclesfield Canal Company and was appointed Secretary to the proposed Churnet Valley Railway in summer 1844. The Churnet Valley Railway Company later joined with the Staffordshire Potteries Railway Company in April 1845, to form the North Staffordshire Railway Company. At this point Edward Hall joined the South Midland Railway Company as a director. He then became involved with a number of railway companies during the Railway Mania period.

The events of 1840 to 1850, relating to both the Macclesfield Canal Company and Edward Hall, are covered here.

Trade on the Canal

1840: further concerns over freight rates

On 8 June 1840 Edward Hall travelled to Manchester to attend a meeting of the committees of the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield companies. The meeting was held at the Ashton Canal office in Manchester. 

The meeting considered a letter that had been received from Mr Warner, the clerk to the Coventry Canal Company, requesting other canal companies to reduce the tonnage on packs of cotton, linen, woollen and silk goods to ½d per ton per mile — the Grand Junction Railway Company having latterly announced that it intended to carry at reduced rates between Manchester and London. The attendees at the meeting felt that it would, indeed, be worthwhile to have a reduction in the rate of tonnage on merchandise generally on the line of canals between Manchester and London. However, in the absence of information on what course of action other canal companies were intending to take, it was agreed that the matter be left to the sub-committees of the respective canals to take such measures as they thought fit. It was also thought appropriate to have an early meeting of the canal companies between Manchester and London, and if such a meeting was convened then the three companies would send delegations with full powers to act as required. It was agreed subsequently that Hall would accompany the two committee members appointed to attend the meeting.

At the Macclesfield committee's next meeting (and annual survey of the canal) on 22 June 1840 another letter from Mr Warner, of the Coventry Canal Company, was read, confirming that a meeting of delegates from the canals between London and Manchester would be held at the King's Head Inn, Coventry, on Tuesday  23rd June. Mr Beck, of the Coventry company, who acted as chairman at this meeting in Coventry, explained that its object was to consider the reductions made by the Grand Junction Railway Company in the freight carriage rates from Liverpool or Manchester to London, and the consequent effect on canal interests. He said that under the present circumstances carriers would not be able to exist on the canal network. Some reduction in the rates of tonnage must take place or the trade would leave the canals.

After much discussion Captain Hyde John Clarke RN, representing the Peak Forest Canal Company, proposed a resolution that a further reduction of 50% should be made on the tonnages of goods navigated from Manchester or Liverpool to London, and vice versa, as early as possible. He suggested that the delegates should recommend to their respective committees that this action be put into effect in such manner as may be most convenient to them. Captain Clarke's resolution was seconded by his colleague, Thomas Fleming. After further discussion, and because of the restrictions imposed on several of the companies by their Acts of Parliament, P P Bouverie (Grand Junction Canal) moved a second resolution, proposing that the delegates recommend to their respective committees that, as early as possible after 1 July following, a tonnage not exceeding ½d per ton per mile be charged on packs of cotton, linen, woollen and silk goods (i.e. cloth goods) carried by canal from Manchester or Liverpool to London and vice versa, and that the Oxford Canal Company, which was not represented at the meeting, be invited by letter to make a corresponding reduction on their portion of the line. The second resolution was carried unanimously, Captain Clarke having withdrawn his original resolution. Sir Francis Head, also from the Grand Junction Canal, suggested that if meetings of delegates from the various canals were held in Birmingham from time to time then greater unanimity would be produced and the canal interest strengthened.

At the meeting of the Macclesfield's committee, held in the morning before the annual general meeting on 16 July 1840, the report from the delegates who had attended the meeting in Coventry was read and accepted. It was agreed that the reduction of tonnage rates highlighted in the report be recommended for acceptance at the annual general meeting later that day, as it appeared that the Coventry and the Grand Junction Canals had reduced the tonnage on packs of cloth goods to ½d in accordance with the resolution made in Coventry, though the Oxford's committee had declined to make any further reduction at the present time.

At the next meeting of the Macclesfield's committee on 27 August 1840 Edward Hall reported that the Trent & Mersey's agent had indicated that his committee were also in agreement, in principle, with the charge of a ½d per ton per mile on packs of cloth goods carried by canal between Manchester or Liverpool and London, but that the matter was to be considered further at their next general meeting. An application from the carriers Kenworthy & Company to reduce the rate of tonnage on wool passing on the Macclesfield Canal from London to Manchester or on to the Huddersfield Canal was also considered. It was agreed that if such a reduction were to be made on the other canals then wool would be charged at only a ½d per ton per mile from such time as the sub-committee decided.

At the committee meeting on 29 October it was decided unilaterally that, from 13 November, the tonnage rate on packs of cloth goods carried for the whole length of the Macclesfield Canal would indeed be ½d per ton per mile, and that the Ashton and Peak Forest companies be requested to make the same reduction.

1841: trading conditions worsen

At the first meeting of the Macclesfield's committee in 1841 (7 January), the topic of cloth goods came up again, and Edward Hall reported that James Meadows had informed him that they would be charged 1d per ton per mile on the Ashton Canal from Monday 9 November last, and ½d per ton per mile on the Peak Forest Canal, when passing to Wolverhampton and Birmingham and thence to Bristol. The question of the reduction of the tonnage rate on wool was mentioned, but it was considered that the reduction was not yet so general as to warrant the Macclesfield making this alteration yet.

During 1841 the trading situation on the canal network was becoming increasingly serious. On 18 May, having received letters on 14 May from the Grand Junction Canal calling a meeting to discuss the depressed state of the carrying trade, Hall and Thomas Watts travelled to London for a meeting at the Grand Junction's office. At the subsequent Macclesfield committee meeting and annual survey of the canal (24 June) their unrecorded proceedings were approved. On 15 July the committee turned its attention inwards and appointed five members as a sub-committee to investigate the various expense streams and operating costs within the company, with a view to effecting some savings in expenditure.

The annual general meeting of proprietors of the Macclesfield Canal Company for 1841 was held at the Macclesfield Arms Hotel on Thursday 15 July. The Manchester Guardian, dated 31 July, carried a report of the proceedings.  Stephen Heelis, Law Clerk to the company, read the following report:

The Committee regret that the continued state of depression in the general trade of the Kingdom, added to the low rates of pay charged per railway does not leave it in their power to make a favourable report of the trade per canal. There has again been a diminution in the amount of the annual receipts, though not so considerable as that reported last year.

The reduction in the rate of tonnage from 1d to a ½d per ton per mile upon packs of cotton, linen, woollen and silk goods carried between Manchester and London, as ordered last July, has been extended, in conformity with a similar measure on several other canals, to all such goods passing through the whole length of this canal.

On the 18th May last a meeting of deputations from various canals on the line of the route between London and Manchester, was held at the Grand Junction Canal Office, for the purpose of considering the necessity of giving immediate attention to the depressed state of the carrying trade: but nothing has, at present, resulted there-from.

The balance of the tonnage account on the 25th March, the day on which the accounts are brought, pursuant to the Act of Parliament, being £6,472 0s 10½d in favour of the Company, the Committee recommend a dividend of £1 10s per share be paid amongst the Proprietors.

The Committee recently inspected the canal and works when, at the recommendation of their Engineer, they ordered some piling to be done at the Dane Aqueduct, and also a footing of earthworks at the Middlewood Embankment: with these exceptions, they found the works in good order.

Charles Cholmondeley, Chairman

Two of the shareholders attending the meeting, R Gaunt and Thomas Wardle, then instigated very critical questioning regarding Edward Hall's remuneration from the company. This provoked intense debate. In answer to questioning Hall gave the following figures for his salary:

  • 1826 - 1831 £200
  • 1831 - 1836 £300
  • 1836 - 1839 £400
  • 1839 - £500

Wardle asked if the committee would explain the reason for the last two advances in Edward Hall's salary, to which Gilbert Winter, on behalf of the committee, replied that by 1835 there was a great demand for capable managers from the many railway companies and other public undertakings, and he had no doubt that Hall might have got a more lucrative situation elsewhere. The committee, taking into consideration his good work for the company, then agreed to advance his salary to £400 per annum. In 1838 Hall was a candidate for the situation of manager to the London & Birmingham Railway Company, the salary for which was more than £1,000 per annum. Winter added that he knew that Hall was second on the list of candidates, and had not Joseph Baxendale, of the firm of Pickford & Company, offered his services then Hall would have been offered the position. The Committee considered the situation again in 1839 and decided to advance his salary to £500. Winter then went on to say that much higher salaries, varying from £600 to £1,500 per annum, were paid by the London & Birmingham, Grand Junction and Manchester & Liverpool railway companies, and also by the Ashton and other canal companies. Under the circumstances he did not think that the £500 paid to Edward Hall was too much.

Mr Gaunt said that the salary of the agent to the Trent & Mersey Canal, which was more than three times the length and with forty times the traffic of the Macclesfield, was £400 per annum. Thomas Watts, for the committee, replied that he understood that Mr Moore's salary was considerably more.

Wardle then raised the example of the Huddersfield Canal for comparison. Its income for 1840 was £20,000. It was 20 miles in length, had 74 locks, six aqueducts, and eight reservoirs and the whole length was one of engineering difficulty. One person, Mr Raistrick, acted as both agent and engineer with a salary of £350. He continued that he was a strong advocate for having a responsible and respectable agent, together with paying a reasonable salary, but the circumstances of the Macclesfield Canal had to be considered. It was 26 miles long, had 11 locks and two reservoirs; the shares were now worth £25, being a depreciation of 75% and the income was only £11,000, without much prospect of improvement. The company also had a resident engineer, with a salary of £200 and a house to live in. In addition there were two clerks to help with the accounts. He felt that the company was not justified in paying the last two advances in the salary of the agent, and he thought that £300 would have been a very fair salary. He hoped that the committee would try to reduce expenses, as he considered the company could not afford to pay £700 per annum for an agent and an engineer. He then proposed that the meeting recommend to the committee a reduction in the salary of the agent. Mr Gaunt seconded the motion. Charles Cholmondeley, however, added his support to the satisfactory manner in which Edward Hall had represented the company and attended to its interests, and Wardle's motion was defeated by 13 votes to four — eight of which were from the committee.

The sub-committee investigating the operating costs within the company met on 10 August. Edward Hall began by reporting that Pickford & Company had withdrawn most of their trade from the Peak Forest–Macclesfield line of canals. He also read a letter from Kenworthy & Company concerning the rates of tonnage charged on the canals between London, Lancashire and Yorkshire, giving notice that unless a reduced rate was introduced before 7 September they would commence measures for winding up their company. A list of Macclesfield Canal employees, giving their duties and respective remuneration, was produced, and the current requirements of the company were considered. Given the present state and future prospects for the canal, it was resolved that the services of the resident engineer should be dispensed with at Christmas, and a number of other cost saving measures should also be adopted:

  • Hall was instructed to adopt measures to reduce the cost of the wharfage business at High Lane. It was felt that the business had contracted and needed to be conducted in a more economical way so that it cost about 5 to 6 shillings per week to operate
  • Samuel Morgan, one of the toll collectors at Hall Green, the assistant wharfinger at Macclesfield and the toll collector at Macclesfield were to be discharged from the company's service, giving each person one month's notice of termination
  • Five bank labourers, one reservoir tenter and two lock tenters were also to be discharged at the next monthly pay day (4 September)
  • It was agreed that the reasons for these measures were to be found simply in the present unfortunate state of trade on the canal, and that the dismissals did not reflect, in the slightest degree, on the character or conduct of any of the individuals concerned.

At the request of Stephen Heelis, the company's solicitor, Hall was ordered to summon the members of the committee to meet at Heelis' office in Princess Street, Manchester, at noon on Tuesday 17 August; Hall recorded in his journal that he travelled to Manchester on 16 August for the purpose of attending this meeting. Heelis began by saying that he had asked for the meeting to be called because of the action adopted by Thomas Wardle at the annual general meeting, and which he considered was likely to operate prejudicially and cause dissatisfaction in the minds of creditors. A letter from Charles Nicholls, the resident engineer, was read to the meeting in which he offered to superintend repairs to the canal, holding himself responsible as usual, at a salary of £100 per annum, with the company's house to live in, if he was allowed the privilege of doing any extra work that may fall his way in the locality of the canal. The members of the sub-committee present at the meeting stated that if this offer had been made to them previously they would have recommended acceptance, so Nicholls' proposal was accepted, with the understanding he must not be absent from the line of the canal unless Edward Hall had been previously informed of his intention. The latter offered in turn, if he was still employed by the company after Christmas, to accept a reduced salary of £400 per annum. It was also agreed that 'in order to meet the difficulty which may arise in the minds of some of the creditors the Committee will recommend to the next Annual Meeting the adoption of a sinking fund'. That evening Hall dined at the home of Thomas Fleming, one of the committee members, returning to Macclesfield the following day.

The committee returned to the subject a couple of years later, on 20 July 1843, deciding to reduce Edward Hall's salary further to £350 per annum and that of Charles Nicholls to £52 10s 0d per annum, to take place from 29 September following. At the next meeting of the committee on 19 September Hall signified his acceptance of the reduced salary. Charles Nicholls also accepted the decision; it was to be subject to the same conditions as agreed previously on 17 August 1841, except that if he wished to be absent from canal work for a period exceeding 48 hours he had to previously agree the matter with the sub-committee.

Hall was again in Manchester on 13 September 1841 to meet with delegates from various canal companies at the offices of Messrs Kenworthy's, the canal carriers, to discuss the state of trade on the canals. At the next meeting of the committee of the Macclesfield company on 23 September he stated that the reduction in the number of company employees, as ordered by the subcommittee on 10 August, had been carried into effect and the people discharged accordingly. He then reported on the meeting, held at Messrs Kenworthy's office in Manchester on 13 September, with a deputation from the Coventry Canal and others, to consider the present state of the carrying trade on the line of canals between Manchester and London. The general impression of the meeting seemed to be one in favour of a further reduction in the rates of tonnage on wool and other articles carried between London and Manchester or Yorkshire. The Cromford & High Peak Railway and the canals on that line of route had reduced their tonnage, and Hall produced a comparison of the rates as then charged — showing a difference of at least 7 shillings per ton against the line of the Macclesfield Canal. Copies of letters from the Grand Junction, the Oxford and the Huddersfield Canal companies to Messrs Kenworthy & Company were read to the meeting, together with correspondence between Edward Hall and Sir Francis Head (Grand Junction Canal) and also between Hall and Mr Moore (Trent & Mersey Canal). Hall stated that the Oxford Canal had finally agreed to reduce the tonnage on packs of cloth goods to ½d per ton per mile, that the Coventry company had also reduced on wool to ½d, and that the Grand Junction, the Coventry and others were disposed to make such further reductions as might induce the carriers to continue upon the canals.

After careful consideration the committee ordered that the rate of tonnage on wool, carried the whole length of the Macclesfield Canal, and on general merchandise carried between London and Manchester and Yorkshire, be reduced to ½d per ton per mile, provided that the other canals on these routes reduced the tonnage on these articles to the same extent. Hall was asked to try to arrange with the other companies that they all implemented the reduction at the same time. He further reported that the Trent & Mersey had reduced the rate of tonnage on flour to ¾d per ton per mile but, by a comparative statement which he produced, it appeared that the charges from Nottingham by the Cromford Canal and Cromford & High Peak Railway were still at least 2 shillings lower than those by the Macclesfield route, and that the trade in flour passing along the whole length of the Macclesfield Canal had, in fact, ceased because of the reduction in rates on the Cromford route. The committee ordered that the rate of tonnage on flour passing along the whole length of the Macclesfield Canal be forthwith reduced from 1d to ½d per ton per mile, and that Hall communicate with Moore on the subject to try, if possible, to induce the Trent & Mersey to make a further reduction on the tonnage on flour.

However, in December 1841, in what seems to be a strange development, the general committee of the Peak Forest company decided, even after representations from the Anderton Canal Carrying Company, that they would only reduce the tonnage on packs of cloth goods, and earthenware in crates, navigated the whole length of the Ashton Canal, the Peak Forest Canal and the Macclesfield Canal to 1d per ton per mile, and that the tonnage on other merchandise navigated a similar or shorter distance would remain unaltered.

Edward Hall thus had to report back to the Macclesfield Canal committee two days later, on 10 December 1841, that the Peak Forest, Ashton and Trent & Mersey companies had declined to make the hoped-for reductions of tonnage as regards packs of cloth goods and general merchandise. He also had to report that Messrs Kenworthy & Company had given up trading on that line of canals, and that there had been only a few boat loads of flour since the reduction of the tonnage on that article, but that the Trent & Mersey had declined to make any further reduction thereon. The subject of a reduction of tonnage on crates of pottery ware which had been proposed by the Peak Forest and Ashton companies was considered, but any decision was postponed until further information had been received.

On 20 January 1842 Pickford & Company applied to the Peak Forest Canal for a reduction in the carriage rates on merchandise carried from Liverpool to Macclesfield. However, the general committee resolved that the tonnage of all goods navigated along the Ashton and Peak Forest canals from Liverpool to Macclesfield and vice versa would remain at 1d per ton per mile.

At the meeting of the Macclesfield's committee on 25 February 1842 Edward Hall reported that the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal had a bill before Parliament empowering them to build an extension of their canal and also one to enable them to act as carriers, and that the Ellesmere & Chester Canal had a bill before Parliament for amending their Acts and enabling them also to act as carriers. It was agreed that the Macclesfield company had no cause or grounds to object to any of these bills. Correspondence between Hall and James Meadows on a proposal by the latter for a reduction of the tonnage on iron to ¾d per ton per mile was read, but after discussion it was resolved that, given the present state of their information, the committee could not agree to the proposition.

1844: railway influences increase

It was back to Manchester again for Edward Hall on 15 January 1844, from where he travelled to Wolverhampton with James Meadows. The next day they had 'canal business' and then travelled in Shipton's fly boat to Birmingham. They returned by rail to Wolverhampton and on to Stafford. The following day (17 January) they travelled to Norbury Junction on the Birmingham & Liverpool Canal in a steam tug, returning to Stafford and then home.

The purpose of their visit is revealed in the minutes of a committee meeting of the Peak Forest company for 22 January, in which James Meadows states that a reduction in the tonnage on iron 'was proposed on several of the canals on the southern line of Navigation'. Deputations from the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canal companies subsequently met at the Ashton Canal office in Manchester. The state of the iron trade was considered, given that it had been recognised that much of the iron originating from south Staffordshire was being carried on the Birmingham & Liverpool Canal. In order to compete it was agreed that a reduction of the tonnage on iron by 25% would be recommended by the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield companies, provided that the Staffordshire & Worcestershire and the Trent & Mersey companies would do likewise, it having been intimated that such would be the case.

At a February meeting of the Peak Forest general committee James Meadows brought forward various letters from a Mr Sparrow (possibly William Sparrow, the Wolverhampton iron master, whom James Meadows had met in March 1832) urging the companies whose canals formed the line into Staffordshire to reduce their tonnage on iron. It was agreed at the meeting that the Peak Forest company would indeed make the reduction of 25% on the present rate of tonnage, provided that the Ashton and Macclesfield companies made a similar one. The Macclesfield Canal committee, meeting on 20 March, agreed to comply — ordering that the rate be reduced to ¾d per ton per mile from 25 March.

At the committee meeting of the Macclesfield company held at the time of the annual survey on 3 July 1844, Edward Hall reported on correspondence and proceedings of a committee of deputations from various canal companies sitting in London to consider improvements in canal navigations, and on two bills which had been brought before Parliament — one to enable canal companies to vary their rates, tolls and charges on different parts of their navigations and the other to enable canal companies to become carriers. As it appeared that the latter had been withdrawn from the present session of Parliament no resolution was reached, and with respect to the former it appeared that attempts had already been made to modify its clauses. It was agreed to subscribe £5 to a fund for defraying the expenses of the deputations, and also £25 towards a fund for encouraging improvements in canal navigations. It was at this meeting that Stephen Heelis confirmed that Edward Hall 'had placed in his hands a letter tendering his resignation at such time as the Committee should think proper to accept it.' The committee agreed that consideration of this matter should be deferred to the next meeting.

The committee met again on 18 July 1844. Hall reported that he had attended a meeting of deputations from the various canal companies in London the previous day, and that it had come to a resolution that the bill enabling canal companies to vary their tonnages should be withdrawn from the present session of Parliament. The committee then considered his resignation, and agreed that to accept it as from 1 October.

A special meeting of the Macclesfield Canal committee was held on 14 August 1844 at the offices of Slater & Heelis in Manchester, to consider the appointment of a new agent to replace Edward Hall. Stephen Heelis listed 66 applications that he had received from parties offering themselves for the position. After an interview with Samuel Clement Trapp, one of the candidates, it was resolved to appoint him the new agent, at a salary of £250 per annum, to commence from 29 September, subject to confirmation at the next committee meeting, and to his procuring security from his father in the sum of £2,000. It was also agreed that Trapp would superintend the engineering aspects of the canal if required to do so by the committee. At the committee meeting held on 19 September the minutes of the special meeting held on 14 August were read, and the appointment of Trapp as the new agent was confirmed. Edward Hall recorded in his journal that 'he gave up the principal agency of the canal' on that day.

Continuing discussions on rates

The Macclesfield Canal committee met on 4 December 1844, when Samuel Trapp reported that he had received a letter and several statements from Mr Woodcock, of the Coventry Canal Company, on the subject of converting the line of canals between Manchester and London into a railway. As it appeared that the scheme was not feasible, it was ordered that Trapp would write back to Mr Woodcock informing him that, at that time, the committee could not see that it was in the interests of the Macclesfield company to entertain the project. It was also ordered that the Macclesfield Canal should cooperate with the other canal companies in reference to any proceedings in the next session of Parliament with respect to the Canal Carrying Bill.

The committee met again on 2 July 1845. It appeared that the Peak Forest company had increased the tonnage on limestone, which was liable to act prejudicially against the Macclesfield company. It was agreed that Francis A Philips and Richard Simpson be requested to try to resolve the situation.

At their next meeting on 17 July 1845 Philips reported that he, Simpson and Trapp had met with James Meadows on the subject of the tonnage on limestone, where it appeared there was indeed some differential tonnage on the Peak Forest Canal, which operated prejudicially against the Macclesfield. Trapp was instructed to confer with Meadows on this subject and report back at the next meeting. A positive outcome was reported to the meeting on 5 September, James Meadows having informed them that the problem had been corrected. The meeting also ordered that the Macclesfield company would charge only ¼d per ton per mile on packs of cloth goods, if the other canal companies on the line between Manchester and London would do the same.

Other issues during the period 1840 - 1850

The discussions that the Macclesfield Canal Company began in 1845 with the North Staffordshire Railway Company and then with the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway Company, leading to the takeover by that company in 1846, are considered in a previous  article.

Water supply

The years 1834-37 had seen water shortages on the Peak Forest Canal, which the Macclesfield company had helped to alleviate by supplying the former from their reservoirs at Bosley and the newly constructed Sutton. 

Water supply was briefly considered again at a meeting of the Macclesfield committee on 24 April 1840, when an application from the Peak Forest committee for the supply of a quantity of water was granted, so long as the sub-committee thought it prudent. However, it would appear that the opening of the Todd Brook (Peak Forest Canal) and Sutton reservoirs had successfully addressed the water supply problems for the two companies because no further issues were reported during the period under consideration. The general reduction in trade on the canals during this period would also have had an impact on the requirements for water supply.

Interestingly, at the committee meeting of the Macclesfield company held at the time of the annual survey in 1844 (3 July), an application from the Trent & Mersey company for a supply of water in case of need was discussed. It was ordered that Edward Hall be authorised to contract for the supply on the best terms he could get — at between three and five shillings per lock full!

Law enforcement

In 1840 an Act was passed in Parliament 'to provide for keeping the peace on canals and navigable  rivers. When the Macclesfield committee met on 29 October it directed that Charles Nicholls, the resident engineer, together with seven other company employees, be recommended to the local borough authorities by Edward Hall to serve as 'canal constables'. Under this arrangement Edward Hall was also given the power to dismiss any such constable from office if found guilty of misconduct. Hall recorded in his journal that during November 1840 he travelled to Stockport (2 November) and Congleton (21 November) to swear in such canal constables, and so at the first meeting of the Macclesfield's committee in 1841 (7 January) he was able to report that the persons recommended at the last meeting had duly been sworn in.

1842: problems with the Dane Aqueduct

At the committee meeting on 25 February 1842 Edward Hall and Charles Nicholls reported that a crack previously seen in the aqueduct over the river Dane at Bosley had latterly increased in size. On 16 April Hall met with the engineer George Watson Buck to inspect the Dane Aqueduct,  and that evening Buck and his wife dined at Hall's home. At the April committee meeting (27 April) Hall discussed the report and plans drawn up by Buck. Though it was apparent that the remedial works would be expensive, it was agreed that the repairs should be proceeded with, consulting with Thomas Brown and George Buck as required.

At the committee meeting and annual survey held on 14 July 1842, Hall reported that a contract had been agreed with Thomas Redman, for the sum of £290, to execute the stone work of the two buttresses recommended by Buck to be erected at the Dane Aqueduct. A report drawn up by Charles Nicholls covering the progress being made in preparing the foundations for the buttresses was also discussed — as also was another report by him relating to the poor state of repair of the side ponds at Bosley Locks. It appeared from his estimate that it would cost at least £234 to repair the side ponds comprehensively. Given the current state of trade on the canal, and the fact that the company was well supplied with water, it did not seem worthwhile to incur such expense at the time, so it was resolved to defer these repairs.

At the next committee meeting, held on 21 September 1842, Edward Hall reported on the progress of the work at the Dane Aqueduct, and provided plans and sections showing the state of the bearing piles and the depths that they had been driven into the ground. George Buck had accompanied him to the aqueduct on Monday 19 September, and had 'expressed himself fully satisfied with the proceedings'. At the committee meeting of 8 December Hall was able to report that work on the Dane Aqueduct had been completed.

Edward Hall - activities after leaving the Macclesfield Canal Company

Edward Hall had already been looking to the railway companies for his future employment, applying for a position with the Grand Junction Railway in 1838 and the London & Birmingham in 1839. On 11 August 1841 he travelled to Manchester, from where he sent his testimonials to the directors of the Manchester & Birmingham Railway Company seeking employment. That night he slept at the home of Stephen Heelis, the solicitor to the Macclesfield company. He returned to Manchester on 2 September for an 'audience' with the directors of the Manchester & Birmingham Railway. He was obviously unsuccessful with this application — nothing further is heard of it.

During May–June 1844 Hall recorded in his journal that he had been travelling extensively in the Cheshire–Staffordshire area 'developing his interests in railways'. On 15 May he travelled to Leek where he met George W Buck again, and the next day walked down the Churnet Valley to Uttoxeter. On 17 May he travelled with Buck to Derby and then back through Ashbourne and Leek to Macclesfield. On 1 June 1844 Hall recorded in his journal that he 'issued the first prospectus of (the) Churnet Valley Railway in which my name appeared as Secretary'.

The Staffordshire Potteries area was still without a railway at this time, although the surrounding towns of Stafford, Crewe, Derby and Macclesfield were all connected to the fledgling railway system. The Churnet Valley Railway Company was promoting a line from Macclesfield to Derby with a branch to Stoke-on-Trent, with Buck as one of the consulting engineers.  At the same time the Staffordshire Potteries Railway Company was promoting a route from Macclesfield to the Grand Junction Railway at Norton Bridge, plus a spur to Crewe.

Hall continued with his busy schedule of railway promotion during the summer of 1844 and, as discussed above, finally gave up 'the principal Agency of the canal' on 19 September. Later that month he was issuing railway 'scrip' in Manchester and Macclesfield, and meeting with the Churnet Valley Railway committee at the Queens Hotel in Birmingham on 9 October. On 12 October he 'received (a) present as a testimonial from the servants of Macclesfield Canal Company'.

After the Churnet Valley Railway and the Staffordshire Potteries Railway had applied for the necessary powers to build their lines, Parliament suggested a pause for a year 'to afford time for consideration and for maturing some more complete scheme for the accommodation of that important district'. The two companies then decided to join forces and make a new Parliamentary application. Within this scheme they also incorporated a further proposed line — the Trent Valley Railway. The new company was to be called the North Staffordshire or Churnet Valley & Trent Junction Railway. The company issued its prospectus on 30 April 1845 from its offices at 1 Old Palace Yard in Westminster, London.

Edward Hall's journal for the beginning of 1845 reveals the build up to this situation, with the Churnet Valley Railway bill being thrown out of Parliament on 22 April of that year. He resigned from the position of Secretary to the North Staffordshire Railway on 6 May, and joined the board of the South Midland Railway as a director on 23 May 1845, for reasons that are not made clear. He came to be involved with a number of railway proposals during what became known as the Railway Mania period. Searches of newspaper archives have revealed his name in association with the following:

Post Railway

Deputy Chairman Chepstow, Forest of Dean, and Gloucester Junction Railway. 
Director South Midland Railway. 
Provisional Committee Cambrian and Grand Junction Railway. 
Provisional Committee Macclesfield, Liverpool & Birkenhead Railway.
Director Northampton, Banbury & Cheltenham Railway. 
Provisional Committee South Union & Birmingham Junction. 
Provisional Committee York, Hull, and  Railway. 
Provisional Committee Direct London and Holyhead, and Port Dynllaen Railway. 
Provisional Committee Goole, Doncaster, Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne, and Manchester and Great Grimsby Junction Railway. 

Hall recorded in his journal that on 28 January 1846 money in the Chepstow Railway Company was frozen, the company being dissolved two days later. Litigation regarding the Chepstow Railway Company began in February 1847 — he later recorded in his journal (January 1850) that the litigation was still continuing. He also recorded that on 12 October 1846 the Cambrian Railway Company was dissolved. Litigation regarding it began on 18 August 1848, the associated debts being paid off by January 1850.

Final years

Edward Hall 'dined with Macclesfield Canal Committee' on 16 July 1846, and recorded that, in August 1847, it was decided that the house at West Bank, Macclesfield, had to be sold. The family left Macclesfield on 5 May 1848 and then rented a house in Westbourne Close, London before moving to St Malo, France. They moved via Paris, Heidelberg and Wiesbaden to Belgium. In November 1855 they moved to back England, finally settling in Clifton, Bristol. Sarah Hall died on 31 December 1867, aged 64 years; Edward outlived her by nearly seven years, dying on 14 December 1874, aged 81.


A personal comment on Edward Hall's role as Agent to the Macclesfield Canal Company

When the Macclesfield Canal Company was looking to appoint an agent in the early summer of 1826 Edward Hall's credentials would, no doubt, have appeared very impressive. He was from a well established Cheshire family — his father having been a former Mayor of Macclesfield. He had attained the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and had been Aide de Camp to the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV), and also to Grand Duke of Wurtemburg during the Russian campaigns. He had travelled widely in Europe.

In the summer of 1824 Edward Hall had written in his journal that he was 'spending his time in endeavouring to forward his interests either in the Navy or in some civil situation under Government'. He was an ideal candidate for the job, being able to bring a range of skills — organisational, managerial and diplomatic — to the role.

When the canal was opened the managing committee would have been looking to establish the company as a significant undertaking - and a person of Hall's background would have been very useful, given his many influential contacts.

His strengths lay in being a very effective manager and communicator, as illustrated by his strong personal and working relationships with James Meadows, the agent to the Peak Forest company, with Stephen Heelis, solicitor to the Macclesfield company, and with Edward Stanley, the first Chairman of the Macclesfield company.

His various increases in salary suggest that he was fulfilling a very worthwhile role for the company, and the support given to him during the Annual General Meeting of 1841 shows the high regard in which he was held by members of the managing committee.

Notes & references

A unique source of information used in the writing of this article was Edward Hall's personal journal: John Gardner, 'Edward Hall — Personal Journal', personal communication. Hall regularly recorded his activities in a notebook, often on a daily basis. This gave a further insight into the happenings of the time, in addition to the accepted use of canal company minutes and newspaper reports. The other main sources for the information presented here include the material collected for my two articles on the Macclesfield Canal, previously published by the Society: Graham Cousins, 'The Building of the Macclesfield Canal', Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society, Vol. 33 Pt. 2 No 173, July 1999, pp. 63-76, and Graham Cousins, 'The Macclesfield Canal – the early working years', Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society, Vol. 33 Pt. 8 No 179, July 2001, pp. 553-573. Extracts from the minutes of Peak Forest Canal Company meetings were kindly provided to me by the late Brian Lamb. He was a well known member of the R&CHS and had researched the history of the Peak Forest Canal Company for many years. Over a period of time we exchanged information and copies of company minutes for our 'respective canals'. I acknowledge the use of information provided by Brian in the writing of this article — however, I have not independently verified the information supplied against original documents.

This current article expands on some topics previously discussed in my article of 2001.