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Ashton Canal
Ducie Street, Piccadilly, to Ashton under Lyne, Manchester, UK
Ashton Canal
associated engineer
Benjamin Outram
date  1791 - 1799
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Canal/Navigation works  |  reference  SJ850981
photo  ICE R&D Fund
Ashton Canal was constructed for the transport of coal from Ashton under Lyne now part of Greater Manchester and Oldham into the center of Manchester, where it terminated originally at what is now James Brindley Basin. Benjamin Outram designed the last half mile into the city, including the canal terminus and warehousing.
Working from the city end, the route of the canal today takes it from Jutland Street, east through Ancoats, Bradford, Openshaw, Fairfield and Audenshaw to Ashton under Lyne. There are junctions with the northern end of the Peak Forest Canal at Portland Basin, and with the western end of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Whitelands.
When Outram came to the project in 1797, most of the canal was already constructed. He was responsible for the last half mile, including the Store Street Aqueduct, the canal terminus in a basin south west of Ducie Street (now partly infilled) and the layout of canalside warehousing.
From its western end to Fairfield, the canal is 10.8km long and rises through 18 narrow locks. The stretch from Fairfield to Portland Basin is level and this section was completed in 1796. The connection with the Peak Forest Canal dates from 1800. In 1797, an 8km branch with eight locks was constructed from Daisy Nook (Fairfield) to Hollinwood, and a 1.6km mile private extension called the Werneth Canal ran from there to Old Lane. There is an eastern branch from Daisy Nook to Park Bridge.
A 6.4km long level branch runs via Openshaw, Gorton, Debdale Park and Reddish to Lancashire Hill, Stockport. This branch closed in 1951 and was infilled during the 1960s and 70s. The Hollinwood branch closed in sections and was fully closed by 1961. There are plans to restore and re-open these branches.
Canal traffic on along the various branches petered out in the 1930s and through traffic on the main canal ceased after World War II. Navigation became impossible 1958-61.
However, the main line of the Ashton Canal was restored in stages by volunteers between September 1968 and May 1974. In February 1983, the canal was reclassified as being of Cruising Waterway Standard. Its towpath now forms the Medlock Valley Way and the canal is part of the Cheshire Ring a circular canal route.
Survey for Outram: Thomas Brown
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

Ashton Canal