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Marple Locks
Peak Forest Canal, Marple, Stockport, Greater Manchester, UK
Marple Locks
associated engineer
Benjamin Outram
date  October 1795 - November 1804, 1811
era  Georgian  |  category  Locks  |  reference  SJ960894
ICE reference number  HEW 1800
photo  Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
As Benjamin Outram's Peak Forest Canal nears the village of Marple, east of Stockport, it climbs through a long spread-out flight of 16 locks, known as Marple Locks. This flight was completed at a later date than the canal, and a temporary tramway was installed to move cargo to and from the lower northern pound to the upper southern pound in the interim.
The locks are spread out over 1.67km, giving a gradient of 1 in 26. Their total capacity is 3.6 million litres of canla water. They vary in length from 23.62m (Locks 5, 9 and 14) to 23.16m (Lock 10) and in width from 2.51m (Lock 9) to 2.31m (Lock 13).
The overall rise through the flight is 63.83m just 25mm more than the design. Individual rises vary from 4.11m (Locks 8 and 14) to 3.84m (Lock 10). At the top of the flight, Lock 16 is 157.9m above Ordnance Datum.
The lower end of each lock has two timber mitre gates operated by long timber tillers. The centre of each lock has an iron access ladder on the west side. The upper ends of the locks have a single timber gate operated by another tiller on the towpath side.
Between Lock 1 and Lock 8 (at the A626) the towpath is on the east bank, then swaps to the west bank. The gate operating mechanism is on the side opposite the towpath. Each lock has a small masonry footbridge on its lower side constructed using single voussoir ring arches with central keystones, though the bridge at Lock 16 is wider than the others.
The nearby railway line passes under the canal in Marple Tunnel between Locks 4 and 5. A V-shaped channel between Locks 7 and 8 was constructed to measure water flow. Locks 13, 14, and 15 have additional water storage to compensate for losses during the operation of the locks.
Lock construction was beset by financial difficulties and although earthworks began on Locks 1 to 4 during October 1795, and later on Locks 13 to 16, work was suspended during October 1797. Limited works were restarted in 1801 or 1802, and Locks 13 to 16 opened on 13th October 1804. Lock 6 was the last to be completed in November 1804. The flight was opened throughout by 12th November 1805, though some associated construction continued until completion was agreed in June 1811. Richard Arkwright junior financed most of the project.
As mentioned, the canal was in use before the locks were built. From May 1978 to February 1807 the tramway, which was constructed during the period January to May 1798, operated 24 hours a day to move goods between the pounds.
Aqueduct House, on the eastern canal bank near Lock 1 was built in 1804 as a house for the wharfinger the person responsible for the operation and maintenance of the locks. It is now a private residence.
Marple Locks had fallen into disrepair by 1962 but they were rescued by the formation of the Peak Forest Canal Society in 1964. Along with the Inland Waterways Association, the society strove to keep the canal open. The locks were renovated and re-opened in May 1999 and the Marple Locks Heritage Society was established in December 2003.
Narrow boats using both pounds of the canal are restricted to 21.3m long, 2.1m beam and 900mm draught.
Research: PD
"A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Greater Manchester"
by Robina McNeil and Michael Nevell
Association for Industrial Archaeology, 2000
reference sources   BDCE1

Marple Locks