Canal history

Union Street pool, c 1952. ©The Waterways Trust Archive (Ellesmere Port) / The Waterways TrustUnion Street pool, c 1952. ©The Waterways Trust Archive (Ellesmere Port) / The Waterways Trust

The return of the Rochdale

By the 20th Century the tonnage carried by the Rochdale Canal was in sharp decline due to competition with other cheaper and faster methods of transport. The last working boat on the Rochdale Canal completed its route in 1952. The canal was closed except for a short stretch through Manchester.

The Rochdale Canal Society was established in 1974. The organisation was established to promote the restoration of the canal. In 1980s and 1990s small scale work began to re-open stretches of the canal in Calderdale.

Funding secured through the Millennium Commission enabled the completion of the canal restoration and almost 200 years after its official opening, the Rochdale Canal became navigable again in July 2002. In 1996, it was joined to the Calder and Hebble Navigation via Tuel Lock, now the deepest inland waterway lock in the UK at 19ft 8½inches. Opening Tuel Lane lock was, perhaps most importantly, the reconnection of the restored section of the Rochdale to the whole of the national network (albeit only to the East and for boats of less than 60’ in length}.

The Rochdale Canal now links fascinating historic towns, spectacular walking paths and cycle routes, welcoming pubs and unique shops, as well as providing a physical connection to the Upper Calder Valley’s industrial past.

The Rochdale Canal is also now a refuge for wildlife. This includes a multitude of birds, plants and fish, and rare and protected species such as the swan mussel and Luronium natans, a floating water plantain.